Back in 2016, Young Agrarians interviewed Scott and Emma just as they arrived to BC to start their new farm in Blewett after participating in the YA Business Mentorship Network. Fast forward three years and a couple of growing seasons and the dynamic duo from Bent Plow Farm have become integral members of the local farming community. Emma is one of four Directors at Large for the Kootenay Organic Growers Society and recently presented a farmer slideshow at a YA Community Potluck at Vallican Whole.
You can find more information about Bent Plow Farm on their website, the YA U-MAP, as well as the Central Kootenay Farm and Food Directory. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram @bentplowfarm. Read on to learn about how Scott and Emma have adjusted (re-adjusted in Emma’s case) to life in the Koots!
What brought you to the Kootenays to farm?
Emma grew up in Nelson, and after farming in the Ottawa Valley for a few years, we decided to look for a farm in the West Kootenays. Lo’ and behold, with a little bit of help and maybe a little bit of trespassing we found a beautiful spot in Blewett, just outside of Nelson, to start a new farm.
What do you enjoy about farming in this region?
We moved to the Kootenays to pursue farming, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t also drawn to the Kootenay lifestyle. We love how easy it is to find ourselves hiking, biking, skiing, or enjoying the rivers and lakes. We have also enjoyed how welcoming the local community has been during the past couple years of getting our farm off the ground.
What are the most common challenges you feel farmers face in this region?
Smoke and water. Coming from Eastern Ontario, a region that typically sees a lot of rainfall through the summer months, the dryness here can be downright frightening and we rely heavily on irrigation. We have access to gravity-fed creek water, but we count on the snowpack as much as anyone. As most people know, BC has had the two worst fire seasons on record, and farming in the smoke is tough. Is farming with respirators the future?
How have you seen the local farming community change or adapt to changing conditions since you started farming here?
We are only going into our second full farm season here, so we are still getting a sense of the farming environment in the Kootenays, but I think we are fortunate to have a very engaged community who are keen to make positive environmental changes in the area. The Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors, the Young Agrarians, and others have run workshops specific to climate adaptation (via cover crops planning or irrigation strategies).
What is your favourite thing to grow and why?
There is something deeply satisfying about growing carrots. The flavour profile can tell you a lot about the quality of the soil.
Are there any changes to your values, goals or lifestyle that have come with adding some farming to your life?
We feel like there is something inherently good about working outside and getting dirty. Farming is such a varied profession with so many different approaches to various problems. Emma’s approach to one problem might be vastly different than Scott’s approach. We will both eventually end up in the right place and it’s interesting and exciting to learn more about how others think, which allows you to open up new pathways of inquiry. It’s certainly not all glorious though.
We like to operate under the premise that the farm should work for us and not the other way around. We love growing great food for our community, but we also love avoiding burnout and enjoying all that this region has to offer. A farmer’s work could literally never be done. We hope that we can achieve a balance of work and play. It’s important mentally and physically.
What are you most excited about for the coming season?
2019 will be our second year in the Kootenays and fifth growing season, so we’re expanding our production and hiring our first employee! We’re excited for the new challenges that this will bring to how we farm.
What kind of opportunities exist for farmers who want to get into farming or innovate their farm business?
I think inevitably there are opportunities out there for farmers. It’s all about building relationships in the community and striving to bring something of value to your customers. We are still all such small players in a huge agricultural industrial complex. We need to work together to innovate to create spaces for new farmers as well as help established farmers become more successful.
Do you have off-farm income that helps you make your farm dream happen?
We both currently have off-farm income to supplement our farm income. Scott works as a bookstore manager at the local college and does freelance film work, and Emma is a part-time French Immersion teacher. The plan is grow the business such that both of us are able to work primarily on the farm, but we also enjoy our other vocations, so for now we’re okay with the balancing act. Flexibility is key!
Thanks for the update, Bent Plow Farm! We’re excited to see how year two unfolds for you!
This farmer profile is part of an ongoing series exploring farming in the Columbia Basin / Kootenays. There are some seriously inspiring humans growing amazing food – and many opportunities for new entrants with vision and drive! If you’re interested in farming the Columbia Basin, reach out to our Land Matcher in the region, Hailey, to explore land opportunities and other ways YA can support you in realizing your Basin farm dream!
Want to see your farm featured in our Farm the Basin profiles? Reach out to Hailey!