Name? Robin Sturley
Where do you farm? Merville, Comox Valley, BC
What do you farm? One acre of organic vegetables
What type of business structure is your farm? I run a sole proprietorship, Green Arrow Farm, which is a member of the Merville Organics Growers Co-op (registered co-op in BC).
What is your land tenure? I am leasing one acre of land on a farm that is also a member of Merville Organics. We are currently discussing the terms of the lease. By leasing on my co-worker’s farm it allows us to stay in tune with each other’s farming operations, as well as provide one another with support, like jumping in to help on big harvest days, etc. We get other benefits too, like sharing the cost of Organic Certification, and having a super knowledgeable farm sitter available!
How did you seriously get into farming? During the course of my first apprenticeship I ‘fell in love’ with the life of a market farmer. It was an intense couple of years, and life changing in many ways (I met my partner there and adopted our cat – we’re all still together!). Something about the physical nature of the work, the quality of relationships you develop when you are working so hard as a team every day, discovering what fresh food really means, sleeping like a log and challenging myself every day, all these things contributed to my obsession with farming. I like to think it is (mostly) a healthy obsession!
Why did you apply for the YA Business Mentorship Network? Because if I have learned one thing about farming in the last few years, it is that you cannot do it on your own. You need help! Whether that is a farming partner, interns, mentors, teachers, angel investors, or kind neighbours lending you tools and letting you know the best place to get hay/manure/fall leaves/seaweed/pullets/you name it locally, you will need a wide support network to make it work.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer? Running a farm business is like an insane juggling act. You need to learn to prioritise, or you’ll lose it! There are just too many things going on to give each one equal attention at all times. Knowing what is worth spending time on, and when, is the most valuable information and the biggest challenge.
What are your business goals for the season? My business goal for this season is to create a realistic crop plan and stick to it. My goal for my first year as part of a growers co-op is to support my co-workers as best I can and follow through on my commitments to the co-op, eg. providing vegetables for our CSA, two weekly markets, and local and regional restaurants, and helping to develop our marketing plan and internal systems.
What business tools could you not live without? My computer, eg. daily access to email and excel spreadsheets. My smart phone, for snapping photos out in the field on a daily basis.
If you had a farming super power what would it be? The ability to turn weeds into earthworms!
What is your favourite farm book? At the moment I’m reading ‘Teaming with Microbes’ by Jeff Lowenfels, so I’m excited about that.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? Check out ‘Merville Organics’ on FB, or on our website www.mervilleorganics.ca.
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.