Photo by Damaris Riedinger
Elly of Late Bloomers Flower Farm is a participant in the B.C. Land Matching Program, which provides land matching and business support services to new farmers looking for land to farm, as well as landowners interested in finding someone to farm their land. Visit the B.C. Land Matching Program page to learn more about the program and to find a Young Agrarians Land Matcher in your region.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your farm.
I’m Elly Rakhmetouline, and I own and run Late Bloomers Flower Farm. The farm was started three years ago in Richmond, moved to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast in its second year, and is now in Burnaby (near Vancouver, BC) where I have a 4-6 year lease.
How did you decide you wanted to lease land and what was your dream property?
My dream property has always been either on one of the Gulf Islands or the Sunshine Coast, but while I made the leap over to the coast last year, I ended up losing that land because the property went up for sale. If you’re not buying land, it’s hard to have any certainty in how long you’ll have the land for, especially if you’re renting from home owners or folks looking to develop the land you’re on in the future. I decided to lease land three years ago because after years of looking for an urban site where I could make a small flower farm in the city, I simply couldn’t find anything that worked, so I decided to really scale up and go for it when we eventually found that first acre we were on in Richmond. I’ve had around the same amount of space ever since, about 3/4 acre.
Tell us a bit about the property you are farming now.
In Burnaby, we’re on Byrne Road on ALR land. Many in the urban farming community are familiar with this site as it used to be the old Urban Digs (now Blue Sky Ranch) spot for many years where they raised sustainable meat. They used to also share the property with Shirlene from Earth Apple Farm who is now out in Abbotsford and a part of the Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-op. The farm is now called Big Bend Apiary and Farms and the main lease is held by Riana Zietsman, a beekeeper who runs Neighbourly Bee. We also share the land with Butternut Buddha aka Joni Cooke, a veggie farmer. I farm 3/4 of an acre of cut flowers and also grow pie pumpkins and summer savory for The Pie Shoppe.
What was the landowner’s vision for their land and how are you helping them to achieve that?
When Riana of Neighbourly Bee took on the property over a year ago, she envisioned it becoming an agri-tourism spot where folks can come meet some cute bees, buy vegetables and flowers, and see the importance of land being kept in the ALR. Late Bloomers has transformed the front 1/4 acre of the property into a flower field bursting with colour, pollen for the bees, and a playground for the hundreds of different birds that come visit us. We have a farm stand that is open every Thursday and are slowly building up our client base as we’re surrounded by urban businesses and residences who drive by and are interested in what we’re up to.
What was your experience working with the Young Agrarians Land Matcher?
Working with the Land Matcher, Darcy, over the past few years has been so great! I’m so grateful to have gone through the experience of finding land and losing it several times over with someone who is so understanding and empathetic. It really helped soften the blow of having to re-start three years in a row to speak with someone who truly understands how frustrating it is. The Land Matchers care so much about their work, and Young Agrarians is so passionate about what they’re doing that, if it weren’t for them being as passionate as I am, I don’t think I would still be farming today. Thanks for being amazing and caring about farming and young, small scale farmers!
What was the most valuable thing about the B.C. Land Matching Program for you?
Honestly? Being able to sit and cry about losing land and being so frustrated in front of someone who truly gets it and understands how hard farming is, never mind starting from scratch three seasons in a row. I don’t have a lot of people in my life who truly understand, let along understand why I’m still doing it, so having a dedicated Land Matcher in my life through all of this was so comforting.
Did you learn any lessons the hard way in your first season on the farm and what were they?
How much time do you have? Business partnerships are hard and not for everyone, direct seeding cut flowers is really hard, you need a propagation house, you need a cooler, build larger paths between your rows, stake things early, using landscape fabric that lasts for many many years will save you millions of hours of weeding labour and sanity, you can’t start a farm on very little money and expect to make any money because you simply won’t have the tools to succeed. To list a few!
What excites you most about the future of your farm?
While I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve always sold at the same spots and have steadily been building up/maintaining an awesome client base of folks who are excited about what we do and are waiting for us to appear in the shops every spring. I’m thrilled to be able to stay where I am for the next few years and be able to offer flowers sooner in the spring! It gives me hope that I’ll actually start to see some profits after all these years! I’m also excited to see the Big Bend Apiary and Farm become a place for the community to come and visit!
What else would you like to share about your experience/farm/etc?
We’ve got a very overgrown 1/2 acre of land that we’d love to see used by the right person. If you’re looking for land and are willing to put some serious elbow grease, time and patience into a half acre of really delicious soil, let us know!
Find Late Bloomers Flower Farm:
Elly found land through the B.C. Land Matching Program in early 2019. We’re so excited to see how her second season goes on this farm and what insights she has next!
Do you have land you’d like to lease to a farmer? Are you a farmer looking for land to lease? Learn more about the B.C. land Matching program here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The B.C. Land Matching Program is funded in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley by the Province of British Columbia, with support from the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Metro Vancouver and Vancity.