How To Start Farming In Saskatchewan

Posted by Lourdes Still on January 29, 2024

A starter kit for those wondering how to start farming in Saskatchewan. Young Agrarians (YA) is a farmer to farmer educational resource network for new and young ecological, organic and regenerative farmers in Canada. Read more about us here.

Young Agrarians recognizes the unresolved Indigenous land title and rights in the diverse territories in what is today called Canada. As we live and work in the context of and in response to a colonial system of laws and policies, it is important to acknowledge the historical and ongoing impact of agriculture and land enclosure on Indigenous lands and food systems. In this context, we acknowledge our collective responsibility to bring forward the voices of Indigenous Peoples and their experiences with colonization so that we can work towards reconciliation that places ecology, land stewardship, and Indigenous land title and rights at the forefront.

As you are getting started, we invite you to learn about the historical and ongoing impact of agriculture and land enclosure on Indigenous lands and food systems. Here are some places to start:

 

Farm: Upland Organics


STEP 1: FARMING STARTS WITH A (DAY)DREAM

Do you care about the environment and want to better the planet? Maybe you envision yourself selling fruits and veggies at your local farmer’s market? What about offering ethically-raised meat options in your community? Did you grow up in a farming community and want to get into farming yourself? Are you a foodie with a love for quality, local food? Or are you tired of your office job and want to spend more time outdoors? Regardless, you’re here. Let’s help you explore a career in regenerative farming.

It started with a daydream and now it’s time to go one step further – how do you turn that daydream into a reality? Our suggestion: homework. The realm of farming is vast and it requires research coupled with trial and error to figure out what fits for you.

 

Farm: Wakamow Food Farm

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What do you want to farm?
  • Are you an animal person, a grain person, a vegetable person, a cut-flower person? Or have an affinity for something else?
  • Do you like interacting with customers?
  • Is your focus feeding your local community, families, or selling at grocery stores or restaurants?
  • Do you like food-processing/value-added products?
  • Do you have the discipline for dairy? The might for fieldwork? The patience for regulatory labyrinths? The stamina for farmers markets?

You might not immediately have the answers to these questions but what follows will hopefully help you to figure some of them out.

The realm of farming is very vast and it requires research coupled with trial and error to figure out what fits with you.

A great place to start is to find farms that inspire you. The Young Agrarians U-MAP is a great resource for finding farms nearby. If possible, try to arrange a farm visit with the farms you’re interested in to get a better understanding of their day-to-day life. Chat up the vendors at your local farmers’ market. Take on the opportunity to start making some farmer friends and begin honing in on what it is you love most about farming.

Still interested? Continue on!

 

City Street Farms


STEP 2: GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

The only real way to learn about farming in Saskatchewan is to get your hands dirty. REAL dirty! Learning from others who are more experienced is invaluable. We recommend volunteering for a farm, working seasonal farming jobs, or interning/apprenticing at a farm.

Some farms have structured educational programs while other farms may be more informal. Either way, you’ll likely be fully immersed in day-to-day activities and be building your skills as you go. Seasonal work is also a great option. A summer job on a farm might be a great fit or helping out a farm through calving or harvest. Check out the YA Apprenticeship Program, our Job Board, and the Young Agrarians Saskatchewan Facebook group. Usually opportunities for experience start being listed in January/February. Whatever route you pursue, gaining exposure to farming is key to knowing whether farming is for you in the long term. Learn more about the YA Apprenticeship Program by linking the logo below:

There is so much learning that happens when you’re fully immersed in a farming operation. Whether it is a good or bad experience, it will contribute to your skills and knowledge and will inform how you choose to approach farming in the future. Maybe you like your tools organized a certain way, or like particular systems to feed animals, prefer to work markets or sell through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Acquiring experience on a few different farms can help you understand whether you want to start a farm business, work on a farm, take over a farm, or anything in-between.

Learning from others who are more experienced is invaluable.

 

Diamond F Farms

Not quite ready or able to commit to learning on a farm full time? Here are a couple of places to start:

Community Gardens

Community Gardens are a great way to get first-hand experience with growing plants and connecting with your community. There are various types of community gardens including:

  • Individual Plot Gardens where the space is divided into different sections and each individual is given a section to grow whichever crops they choose. Great for experienced individuals or people who want more autonomy with their plot.
  • Group Gardens are one large garden that is shared amongst the group. These are great for small groups and are excellent for building community.
  • Mixed Plot Gardens are a combination of the two above.
  • School Gardens help children and youth learn about growing fruit and vegetables while integrating them with coursework.
Community Gardens in Saskatoon:
Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to start and many farmers appreciate an extra set of hands, even if you only have time in the evenings or weekends. As a bonus, a lot of volunteer-led farms allow volunteers to take home some produce. One well-known organization that posts farm volunteer opportunities is WWOOF which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, where “in return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.”

Photo credit: KATERYNYCH FAMILY FARM

Volunteer Opportunities on Our Radar:

STEP 3: LEARN, RE-LEARN, AND GROW YOUR FARMING NETWORK!

If you’ve reached this stage, you’ve gained some hands-on farming experience and have narrowed down some options of what you want to do. But as you have most likely experienced by now, farming is a continuous learning process. There are so many approaches to farming and every decision is context-specific – it’s important to figure out which practices you want to take on in alignment with your personal values and time.

 

Young Agrarians Prairies Mixer, December 2023

There are several educational programs available in Saskatchewan that offer further learning in farming and horticulture.

Education:

Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Master Naturalist program
The Saskatchewan Master Naturalist Program aims to establish a network of dependable and highly skilled “citizen scientists” who can contribute to local conservation initiatives. Simultaneously, the program offers educational opportunities for individuals passionate about nature.

Saskatoon Horticultural Society
Master Gardener Scholarship
The Saskatoon Horticultural Society (SHS) is accepting applications from prospective Master Gardeners seeking scholarship support to undertake the University of Saskatchewan Master Gardener program. These scholarships will be granted on an annual basis. Successful applicants will receive funds as reimbursements covering the initial registration fee and the expenses for each of the 7 core workshops, following the successful completion of the exam. The maximum reimbursement amount is $600.

Regina Horticultural Society
GRIN Grant – Growing Roots in the Neighbourhood
The GRIN Grant initiative, initiated in March 2014, aims to bolster community growth projects in Regina. This annual funding program provides grants of up to $1,000, awarded to one or more approved project applicants.

University of Saskatchewan Master Gardener Certification
Master Gardener Certificate
All Master Gardener classes are accessible to the public. Feel free to enroll in one or two as a trial, or join the certification program and complete the required courses for certification. Our program advocates for sustainable, pesticide-free, and local gardening practices. Master Gardeners are frequently prominent in their communities and are commonly sought out by friends and neighbors for reliable gardening guidance.

Prairie Horticulture Certificate
The Prairie Horticulture Certificate (PHC) equips individuals with fundamental skills necessary for a career in the horticulture industry. It facilitates career advancement, entrepreneurship, community volunteering, and the expansion of gardening hobbies. The PHC, a distance certificate program tailored to the horticulture industry, stands as the first home study initiative exclusively designed for the Prairie Provinces. This program caters to both professionals employed in the horticulture field and gardening enthusiasts.

It’s important to figure out which practices you want to take on in alignment with your personal values and time.
GROW YOUR NETWORK

To be a successful farmer, having a strong network is vital to your success and this is a never-ending process. It can be helpful to build your community before you build a farm. Having a strong network is beneficial to your career as a farmer because it can help with:

  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Intergenerational learning
  • Accessing land
  • Obtaining equipment or help
Check out the following organizations to grow your network:

Farm: Lark Farm

How do you grow your network? It started with Step 1 when we spoke about talking to farmers in your area. Join local online or in-person communities where you can find others who share the same interests as you. Find a farm friend (or many farm friends)! Be a regular at the farmers’ market. Ask your questions to those in the Young Agrarians Saskatchewan Facebook group. Attend networking events and go to on-farm visits. Hint hint: Follow Young Agrarians on social media, join the Young Agrarian newsletter, and check our website frequently for upcoming learning and networking opportunities!

It’s the same concept as all your other interests. If you like reading you will probably go to the library lots and potentially join a book club. And if you want to get into farming you will start to visit more farms and join a farm club (yes, that’s a thing!). Reach out to people and keep trying. You might be surprised at what knowledge others want to offer!

Events can be opportunities to meet like-minded folks:

STEP 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…IT DOESN’T STOP HERE

Farming isn’t going to happen overnight and it takes a lot of commitment. This is where your networks come in handy. Ask your peers for help when you need it and reciprocate the favour. If you feel a bit lost, go back a couple steps and learn through experience at other farms and/or further education.

Farm: Sundog Vegetables

Thanks for reading our guide on “How to Start Farming in Saskatchewan”. When you’re ready for the next steps, take a look into other YA resources including the:

  • How to Start Farming: And Introductory Course for the Farm Curious – This online course will give you the space to explore farming fundamentals, connect with the farming community, and learn about ways to get more involved in farming.
  • Business Bootcamp for New Farmers  – This online, community-based program will give you the space and skills to write a stellar business plan for the farm of your dreams.
  • Finding Farmland on the Prairies Webinar Series 2024 This new webinar series, How to Find Farmland on the Prairies.  It’s a three-part series that will feature prairie farmers and their stories of success, challenges and inspiration in pursuing their farming dreams.
  • On-Farm Climate Action Fund – The federal government has created the OFCAF program to help farmers tackle climate change. This is a great opportunity for new farmers to access funding for infrastructure, consultation and management practices.

You’ve got this and remember that we are all in it together!


Do you know of any other resources that might benefit readers of this “How to Start Farming in Saskatchewan” guide? Email Lourdes prairiesnetwork@youngagrarians.org.