Business Mentorship – Lessons Learned: Duck Creek Farm

Posted by Kristen Nammour on December 12, 2016

1. Name, Farm, Location?
Emma Holmes, Duck Creek Farm, Salt Spring Island. I stepped in as farm manager for my friend Eland Brontstein, who took a year to farm in Australia and be with his lovely fiancé.

2. What were your goals for this season and how did you work to achieve those?
Explore farming as a career option, get experience in all of the skills related to farming (marketing, finances, flame weeding, etc.), and create a positive intern experience

3. Did you meet your goals / Did it work out?
I learnt a lot! It allowed me to try on the market gardener hat to see if it is what I wanted before investing in farm equipment and starting my own thing. Ultimately, I realized market gardening is not for me.

Hats off to all of the farmers out there. Your work ethic, perseverance, creativity, capability, and skill set in so many diverse areas is incredible.

4. What were your most profitable avenues of sales? 
The Salt Spring Farmer’s Markets were the most profitable avenue. Air BnB, a small CSA, and restaurant/retail sales were other revenue channels.

Our most profitable crops were garlic, greens, and cucumbers.

Duck Creek Organic Farm Fields on Salt Spring Island

5. What is your unique value proposition in your market? Why buy from you?
Duck Creek Farm has been part of the Salt Spring Farmer’s Market since the 90’s and is well known and loved on the island.

6. How did the mentorship impact your business?
DeLisa helped me a lot, both from a business perspective and supporting me through the ups and downs of a growing season. She asked great questions and generously shared her wisdom.

There were so many #farmfails. Insects, disease, irrigation challenges. I found it super disheartening at times, and it was nice to have a supportive mentor guide me through what may be causing the issues. She also shared her own #farmfails and helped me to see that crop loss is part of the job.

7. What business skills have you gained through the mentorship? 
I really appreciated the farm financial webinars.

8. What was the most important information you gained from your mentor?
It’s so hard to choose what was most important. Delisa is a talented farmer with a wealth of acquired wisdom. She really encouraged me to narrow my goals down at the beginning of the season and get specific as possible, and then guided me through the farm planning and early farm season.

There is just so much to know as a farmer and I haven’t market gardened since 2008 when I did a 4-month internship. I really appreciated how she offered advice and a broad range of soil, weed, pest, planning, marketing, financial, and intern program topics.

smiling new farmer emma holmes and mentor, delisa lewis, apart of young agrarians business mentorship network

9. Overall, how are you feeling about your farm business this season?
Haha, I’m grateful Eland is coming back to take over the farm for 2017 🙂

10. Did you learn any lessons the hard way?
Farmer burnout is real. Make sure you take down time.

11. Do you have any big plans for future growth?
Well, I’m getting out of the market gardening game but I am looking forward to having a home garden. So my big plans are to go small, small, small. My take away is I want to support farmers as much as possible. Farmers are badass.

2015-16 Funding for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network Pilot is provided in part by Salt Spring Coffee, Vancity, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through programs delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.