Hi my name is Emma and together with my partner Scott, we operate Bent Plow Farm.
Where do you farm?
We were farming in Eastern Ontario for the past three years, but now we find ourselves on new land in Nelson BC.
What do you farm?
We have been farming vegetables on a one acre piece for CSA, retail, and farmers’ markets.
What type of business structure is your farm?
I am the sole-proprietor of our business, but we operate much like a partnership.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
We have a land tenure agreement with my parents.
How did you seriously get into farming?
Scott completed his masters’ thesis as a documentary film on Farm Succession on his own family’s 5th generation piece of farmland in the Ottawa Valley and it not only deepened his relationship to the land and his desire to farm, it sort of tipped the scales after his first farm internship. Meanwhile, we were living in Toronto at the time with city jobs and I became involved with an urban farm incubator. It allowed me to hone my skills while collaborating with other young farmers. After that, we began to make serious plans about moving to the Ottawa Valley and starting a farm.
Why did you apply for the YA Business Mentorship Network?
Scott and I have found ourselves on a new piece of land this year in a new market, so while we may feel like we’re in the third year of our business, we’re actually starting from scratch in a lot of ways. We might not be growing vegetables this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re not working on our farm business. We have infrastructure to put in place, a field to cover crop, community relationships to build, and a new business plan to develop. We thought the YA Business Mentorship program would be a great way to get an outside perspective on our vision and operation.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
At the beginning of our farming career, we made the tough decision to delay our start by a season so that we could start with a bit more capital, but even with the extra funds, larger-scale infrastructure projects eluded us. The first season we grew without irrigation and only a hand pumped well. Last season we upgraded to a water pump run by an diesel generator. For the scale and climate we were in desperate need of proper cold storage. But without a house or suitable outbuildings or electricity, it posed a serious challenge to our business. So far as farmers, we’ve been able to find access to land, but turning that land into a farm has been our greatest challenge.
What are your business goals for the season?
2017 will be a building year for us so that we can launch in 2018 with the proper supports. We want to also want to begin our organic certification process.
What business tools could you not live without?
Scott loves making excel spreadsheets and we rely on them extensively when we head into the growing season, even if we sometimes have to improvise due to weather and losses. I however, could not live without my notebook and my pen if I can find it.
If you had a farming super power what would it be?
If I had a farming super power it would be the ability to harvest 100 bunches of kale in the blink of an eye and Scott’s power would be to sell all of those bunches!
What is your favourite farm book?
We love checking books out through the COG library; a favourite has been The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman. Our copy of The Market Gardener is covered in dirty fingerprints and Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook is one we always return to.
If you want to see more of our farm you can find us online @bentplowfarm on instagram and facebook and at www.bentplowfarm.ca
2015, 2016, & 2017 Funding for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network Pilot is provided in part by Vancity, Salt Spring Coffee, Rotary Hastings Sunrise, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through programs delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.