Dan Barber was on stage and started telling a story about foie gras. Normally geese are force fed corn but at this farm that Dan had visited in Spain the experience was completely different. He told a beautiful story about how the geese were given all the food they wanted which fattened their livers and the farmer even planted a special plant that when the geese ate the seeds of the plant it would turn their livers “highlighter yellow”, a mark of exceptional foie gras. I was so engaged with the video and I had so many questions. It was the first time I had ever heard of an alternative form of agriculture then what I had grown up with. An alternative form of agriculture that treats the animals and the ecosystem of the farm better then conventional methods that result in a superior product. Why is this the exception and not the standard?
It was around 5 years ago when I first watched that video, I’ve replayed it around 100 times since. After seeing that video I thought to myself, “I CAN do that.” I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I didn’t know where to start, I didn’t have any resources but I was under the delusion that for some reason I would be able to make that happen for myself. I’ve had to do a lot of work mostly by myself learning about our food system, analyzing challenges most farmers face, learning about land design and different production systems. It’s been a long time getting here but I finally feel ready to start.
My name is Scott “Beetle” Hebert and I’m from Chilliwack, BC. I live on a 5 acre property with my parents, they live in the big house out front and I’m in the sweet double wide trailer in the back. We have always rented out our land out back to a farmer down the road. I feel like access to land is a big limiting factor for a lot of people and I was already interested in starting a farm so I felt like a hypocrite not moving forward on it.
Last year I finally found the production system that would allow me to get started. When I found out about www.profitableurbanfarming.com I saw it as the way that I could start my farm. I really wanted to start a farm but I have no interest in being broke so when I found out about this production system I was very excited about the potential it held. I have to remove some of the urban context and adapt it to my situation but I’m going to try and make it work for me. I am going to specialize in quick growing high value crops (lettuce mixes, baby root veggies and microgreens). I would like to use this system to establish myself and grow a business over the next 2-3 years. After that I will either pivot and expand to something more like what Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife are doing in Quebec or I will try to hit a “sweet spot” of time-invested:profit with the intensive vegetable production and add another different enterprise onto my farm.
As a young entrepreneur the deck is already stacked against me. The chances you’ll fail at your first business is really high. To add insult to injury most small farms aren’t making money. I have so many challenges to overcome it’s really hard to anticipate them all. If I felt like I had one biggest challenge I would work relentlessly to find a solution but the thing that scares me the most are the unseen challenges that I will face. Because the deck is stacked so hard against me I knew I needed to put together a team to help me when problems do arise.
When I first saw the YA Business Mentorship I knew I had to be a part of it. To have access to an amazing resource, to mentors and to a peer group really improves the chances that you’ll come out of the year with your head above water. I was so happy to be accepted and I was matched up with a kind and intelligent mentor named Lissa Goldstien who works at SoleFood Street Farms in Vancouver. They grow a lot of the same crops that I will be growing at Soul Foods and having a great resource like Lissa to ask questions to when I need help lessens the overwhelming feelings that I am constantly bombarded with.
I really don’t feel like I have one certain skill that I am bringing to this that will make me successful. I feel that I have a diverse skill set and it’s all coming together to help me start this business. If I had to pick one thing that will make me successful it would be my willingness to do the things that other people don’t want to. Most farms suck at social media so I make an effort with my accounts. Most farmers don’t want to go in and get rejected by chefs or deal with them so I try to go and see a couple new ones every month. Most people don’t want to grow only a couple of things that sell well they want to grow for some different reasons and that’s cool if it’s working for them but I feel that starting like this is my best chance for being successful in the long run.
My goal for this season is to learn. I have read and researched a lot from books like The Urban Farmer, The Market Gardner and The New Organic Grower but now it’s time to take the ideas from these books and execute on them. Also I’d like to make enough money that I can do this full time next year. I still have a full time job but they let me take one day off so I can work on my farm. It’s going to be a busy year with a lot of obstacles but I’m looking forward to smashing through all of them.
I’ve also been using Snapchat mostly for silly little videos that progress through my days working on the farm, feel free to add me @flavourfulfarms
Links to the books I mentioned:
Link to Dan Barbers TED talk that started this whole adventure for me:
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.