Bountiful Bay Farm & Nursery is an up and coming farm located in Sooke, BC. Once a week, farm owners Ashley Currie and her partner, Aidan, watched a pre-recorded video with their morning coffee while taking detailed notes from farm experts. These videos were part of the Young Agrarians (YA) Business Bootcamp, a five-week long online course that helps new farmers build their business plans. Ashley spoke with the YA team to talk about her personal experience with the Bootcamp.
Ashley’s love for growing things began in university when she started growing plants from seed in her windowsill. She was amazed by the development of plants and their ability to uptake soil nutrients. After that, she knew that she needed to continue growing things! Ashley and Aidan took up an opportunity to use the big garden space at Aidan’s parent’s land after moving to Sooke six years ago. Three-and-a-half years later, they took this passion one step further and started selling at the local farmer’s market. They quickly watched the demand for their florals grow while selling out each week. This brought in enough income to make up for their expenses and invest in growing the nursery. At the time, they weren’t paying themselves, but the Business Bootcamp helped them realize the potential of expanding the business to a full-time job.
Ashley and Aidan knew what they were good at – growing things. But without any experience or education in business, structuring the business was a big obstacle for the pair. They were overwhelmed with what they didn’t know. Luckily, the Business Bootcamp was just the thing to give them the extra push to take their business to the next level.
The Business Bootcamp is structured so that each week, participants watch a pre-recorded video (between 5 and 25 minutes long), focused on the topic of the week. Participants are given assignments based on the video to work on, applying these lessons to their business. They then meet with the rest of the class virtually, to share their learnings from the week. Ashley explains that the questions “really made them talk it out”, leading to clearer priorities and increased communication between her and Aidan. For Ashley and Aidan, the format worked well with them as it gave them the flexibility to follow along the lessons on their own time and allowed them to stay on the farm while participating in the program.
Ashley also shared with us a couple of her favourite topics during the Bootcamp:
- Visioning Session: For Ashley, this topic was extremely valuable as it taught her and Aidan to think of the business as a partnership, rather than as individuals. Most importantly, it showed them how their ideas worked and how they could meet in the middle. One question that stood out was one that asked, “how did [this nursery] fit in as a job?”.
- Operations Session: This topic led Ashley to follow local flower growers nearby. As a new farmer, it helped her learn from people in the area on a real-time basis. By following these farmers on Instagram, she could see what other farmers were growing during different times of the year and compare it with her own progress.
Overall, Ashley shares that she is feeling a lot more confident and organized after taking the Bootcamp. She’s currently working on building their farm’s brand and social media presence and has recently purchased business cards and a banner for their market stand. “Small steps” in the right direction, is how Ashley explains it. They’re also building a record keeping system, which will track the amount of flowers/trims from each plant. In the future, this will help them with planning the amount they should purchase and the amount they can expect to make.
The nursery may still be a bit “rustic” but Ashley already has over 300 varieties that she can individually identify on her ½ acre plot. She is also actively engaged in the local farming community! “Ten years ago, the Sooke Region Food Community Health Initiative created a guide, ‘So you want to farm in Sooke?’. This guide has a list of suppliers and resources in our region, which was really helpful when we were starting out.” Now, Ashley is on the board and working to update this guide.
Ashley and Aidan’s goals include things like building a walk-in cooler, increasing the amount of perennials, and making their business more profitable. But what stands above all is their humble end goal. “We would like to contribute to the property so we can continue to stay with Aidan’s parents on the property. Eventually, we want to start a family on this property. We would like it so that [Aidan’s parents] can retire, and our family can live on the farm with them”. It seems like this love for plants is going full circle.
Photos courtesy of Ashley Currie.
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