Business Mentorship Network – Toadstools & Handtools Farm

Posted by Kristen Nammour on April 27, 2018

Michael-Anthony and Jessica farm in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island and operate Toadstools and Handtools Farm. We grow a variety of organically certified vegetables, herbs, and gourmet mushrooms. We are in our second season on newly rented land with an edited lease agreement that we pulled from the Young Agrarians website. Our passion is restorative agriculture. We aim to produce a nutrient dense vegetarian diet using low-impact hand tools, although Michael-Anthony would love to have a front-loader to move compost, and with carbon-sequestering farming practices, such as true no-till farming. We have incorporated fungi into the design of the farm to capitalize on its natural niche as a nutrient cycler and decomposer as well as a rich source of protein.

Toadstools - Blue oyster mushrooms

Michael-Anthony adopted farming as a means to combat climate change, improve food security, and support localized economies. Jess caught the farming bug during her pursuit of a healthy holistic diet and lifestyle, and wants to mend our growing disconnect from agriculture and the food practices that impact our lives and environment. With a few years of experience under our belts, we established our farm business in 2017 and it has been a trial by fire ever since.

Our goal for the 2018 season is for both of us to farm full-time without off-farm income. We applied to the YA business mentorship program for help growing our farm and coming to terms with the fact that we need to think more business oriented if we are going to make this our vocation. We were paired with Chris Bodnar from Close to Home Organic in Abbotsford. After 12 years of farming and lecturing several time on bookkeeping at Young Agrarian events, he provides us with lots of business insight, sage advice, and words of encouragement.

Toadstools - new field

The greatest business challenge we face as young farmers is land security and deciding how much money we should invest into critical infrastructure on rented land. We are both first-generation farmers that have chosen this as our first career. That means we do not have access to land through any existing relationships and we do not have a nice nest-egg with which to purchase land. Searching for good land to rent can be frustrating and watching the sky-rocketing prices for ALR land is disheartening. We often wonder if we will ever be able to afford a farm of our own or find a lasting land tenure agreement.

Our primary business goal for the season is to increase production by at least 30%, increase on-farm efficiency, and maximize return on the investments we have already made. Some business tools that we could not live without are Microsoft Excel, Instagram, so that we glean inspiration and tricks from other farms, and our whiteboard!

You can learn more about our farm and join in our hectic lives by following us on Facebook and Instagram, @toadstoolsandhandtools, or visiting our website

Toadstools - Mushrooms and Radish

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.