Business Mentorship Network – From the Ground Up Schoolyard Farms

Posted by Kristen Nammour on April 11, 2018

Name: Elizabeth Laing, as the farm coordinator for Squamish Helping Hands Society – a multi-faceted and passionate organization that operates an emergency homeless shelter, community drop-in centre, transition house, a food rescue program, school lunch program, gardens, etc. etc. etc.

Where do you farm: From the Ground Up Schoolyard Farms, Squamish, BC

What do you farm: Vegetables, herbs and flowers

What type of business structure is your farm: Non-profit

What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this: We have a few boxes at our emergency shelter site, but most significantly we are partnering with 5 schools this year to grow veggies with the students for by-donation market stands for families in need.

Laing - Urban Garden Corn and Squash

What inspired you to get into farming: Sometimes I forget. But when I listen to what I want, there’s this full body yearning to be growing on land; to be caring and contributing to a community; to be providing a place for creativity, music, and art to grow; and really because I hate going to the grocery store to spend money on unaffordable shi**y food.

Why did you apply for business mentorship: I’m good at growing, but I find the business end of things a completely insurmountable hurdle. Ultimately, I would love for this program to be self-sufficient and sustainable – I want it to provide employment and be a reliable source of affordable food.

What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer: Accessing and affording land. Growing at the schoolyards is great, and beneficial for many reasons. But it also has huge challenges, namely growing efficiently in boxes at multiple sites without irrigation. It’s also tricky trying to the involve the community without one central food hub.

What is your primary business goal for the season: To go through the process of developing a business plan and determine whether a social enterprise model would work.

What business tools could you not live without: My mentor Lisa Giroday! 

If you had a farming robot what would it be: An articulate, passionate and concise writer of funding applications.

How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products: I’ll start posting on Instagram (squamishhelpinghands) and Facebook. 

Laing - Urban Garden Boxes

Funding for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network in 2018 has been provided by Vancity, the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia, and the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Thank you to our funders.