Business Mentorship Network – Shirlene Cote

Posted by Kristen Nammour on April 17, 2015

Name? Shirlene Cote

Where do you farm? Earth Apple Farm, South Burnaby

What do you farm? Vegetables and some fruit.

What type of business structure is your farm? Sole-Proprietorship

What is your land tenure? 5 Year Lease

How did you seriously get into farming? I worked for social and environmental NGOs for many years with a focus on food security for much of it. I finally realized the most direct and positive impact I could have locally was to produce something that everyone requires to live and be healthy.  It was important to me to do this in such a way that had minimal impact on our environment. I started by growing potatoes organically, a staple food that grows well in this climate. This was the foundation that carried me to where I am today, growing over 40 different varieties of vegetables organically, feeding 45 families weekly (CSA), distributing at farmers markets and employing two awesome people that are also interested in farming.

Earth Apple Farm Shirlene Cote

Why did you apply for the YA Business Mentorship Network? I have become an excellent grower, but wanted to develop the skills necessary to operate a business sustainably.  My business plan is coming to a point where I feel confident in the future of my farm’s success.

What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer? Starting any business is a challenge, never mind a farm business.  Most small-scale farm businesses have historically been family run.  I am on my own and started with nothing but curiosity, passion and dedication.  I had zero skills, equipment, land, or generational knowledge.  The greatest challenge was believing I could overcome these obstacles and be successful.  I think I did it though 😉

Earth Apple Farm Top View

What are your business goals for the season? Since I am the sole-proprietor, my main goal is to take care of myself and make sure my health and well-being have priority.  I have run myself into the ground, which I don’t regret, because I had to work as hard as I did to get where I am, but the kind of hours I was putting in, the sacrifices I made and the conditions I was living in were not sustainable.  This farm relies on my well-being and I depend on the farm.

I am also further developing my business plan, exploring and making decisions on the future of my farm’s land tenure, and have financial goals of maintaining gross sales and decreasing my expenditures.

Shirlene weed wack

What business tools could you not live without?  Excel, my smart phone, pinpoint seeder and Jang seeder, hmmm, skill saw, hoes, definitely the drill, broad fork…..

If you had a farming super power what would it be? I would turn into a friendly version of the Incredible Hulk. I am only 100 lbs which can be a challenge when it comes to lifting. And he is green. I like green.

What is your favourite farm book? A volunteer lent me a book called Back to Basics, which was produced by Readers Digest.  It is really a book about all kinds of traditional skills, but I love it because it allowed me to dream and build for resilience on the farm.  There were no buildings, electricity or anything on this property that I started farming a few years ago and when I came to live as well as work on it–this book allowed me to dream and imagine what was possible. I flip through it frequently.

How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? Web:
Twitter: @earthapplefarm

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.