YA Business Mentorship Network – Between Two Farms / Six Ewes Yarn

Posted by Tori Ames on April 11, 2024

Young Agrarians is celebrating the tenth year of the Business Mentorship Network (BMN) program in BC and the second year of the program in the Prairies! If you are a new farmer or the next generation to take on your family farm and need support to figure out the business aspects of your farm consider applying for the 2024/2025 cohort. The BMN offers business mentorships to a diverse array of new and young farmers/ranchers/producers. Through one-on-one mentorship, peer networks and online workshops new farmers develop the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses.

Apply for the 2024/2025 program here – applications processed in October .

Check out the Business Mentorship Network page for more information!

Over the next few weeks we will introduce you to each of the new farmers in the 2024 cohort to hear about the arc of their farming journey, what their hopes are for the season ahead and what inspired them to reach out for business mentorship. To access more of these stories head over to our blog here.

Young Agrarians acknowledges funding support provided by the Government of Canada through Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan). In Alberta, the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Program in Regenerative Agriculture and Business Mentorship Network is funded in part by the Government of Alberta.

Meet a Mentee: Between Two Farms / Six Ewes Yarn

My name is Victoria Radauskas, and I use she/her/hers pronouns. My farm is Between Two Farms / Six Ewes Yarn. My mentor is Joey Fiola of Ferme Fiola Farms.

 Where do you farm?  

I am farming in conjunction with Ferme Fiola Farm and sharing land with them. We live and work in the ancestral and traditional territories of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Dakota, Dene, Métis, and Oji-Cree Nations, the homeland of the Metis nation, and Treaty 1 territory. This is now colonially known as Ste-Genevieve, MB.

 What inspired you to get into farming?

I was born and raised in southwestern Ontario, and both of my parents were raised on tobacco farms in Norfolk County. So while I was raised in the city, I grew up hearing stories of farm life and country living. Farming was never a real professional consideration until much later in my life, but like many others, the COVID-19 pandemic brought changes that had me reconsidering my goals and what I wanted out of a career. It was those reflections that brought me to farming.

Prior to the pandemic, I had been a knitter for many years, mainly making headbands and hats for friends and family over the holidays. Over the pandemic this hobby intensified, and I started looking into how and where our wool is made, and the different sheep breeds that produce our food and textiles. It was googling “sheep farm apprenticeship” and stumbling across the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Program that brought me to Manitoba.

How did you learn how to farm? 

The YA Apprenticeship Program was my first step in learning how to farm. This program immersed me in regenerative farming practices and connected me with a network of sheep, textile, and mixed livestock producers, many of which who are still involved in my life and my farming journey. My apprenticeship was with The Dog’s Run Farm (Clearwater, MB), and they taught me the basics of raising sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and laying hens, as well as regenerative practices such as rotational and planned grazing, low and no till gardening, and direct to consumer sales.

What informational resources do you use on a regular basis or have you used in the past to operate your farm business? 

My mentors (past and current) are the largest resource that I access for my farming and business knowledge. I also enjoy listening to different podcasts while I work, such as Flock Talk (Ontario Sheep Farmers), The Sheep Show podcast (Jill Noble), My Digital Farmer Podcast (Corinna Bench) 

What type of business structure is your farm? 

We are currently operating as a sole proprietorship.

How much land is under production on your farm and what do you produce? What kind of land agreement do you have? Are there special relationships that enabled this?

We share approximately 120 acres with Ferme Fiola Farm. I will be raising sheep for meat and fibre, as well as meat chickens and potentially a small egg layer flock. Ferme Fiola Farm also raises sheep, so this season we are running our flocks of sheep together in order to share the labour involved in rotational grazing. I first connected with Ferme Fiola Farm and the Fiola family through the YA Apprenticeship Program. After finishing my apprenticeship, I came to farm-sit/work with Ferme Fiola Farm and Long Way Homestead for a few months. At the end of my work with them, the Fiola family extended an offer to farm on their land in order to start my own small enterprise. After another season gaining experience in Farrellton, QB, I took them up on that offer and returned to Manitoba for the 2024 season.

Did you access any financing to buy land or start your farm business? Please share your start up / financing story…  

Currently I am using my own personal funds and savings to start up the farm. However, the fact that I am land sharing with an existing and operating farm who are willing to share their infrastructure and experience means that I am able to start up with much lower costs compared to other first generation farms. I am also starting at a very small scale to minimize start-up costs while I refine my goals and what I am hoping to achieve with my farm. 

What types of ecological farm practices and/or responses to climate change realities do you engage in?

We engage in rotational and planned grazing with the sheep flocks and the chickens. Using planned grazing allows us to manage the amount of grass the animals can access in a day, the stage of growth the grass is being grazed at, and spreads the manure out over a larger space. In a drought year, the increased soil fertility and ground cover helps the land hold on to the limited water that is available and still produce forage. In a wet year, the species diversity and soil structure helps the land absorb more water and make use of it without widespread flooding.

Why did you apply for business mentorship? What do you hope to work on this year in your mentorship?

I applied for the business mentorship because Joey and the Fiola family were already offering to act as mentors while I started my farm operation on their land. By applying for the BMN, YA is providing us with a framework for that mentorship, as well as additional resources for me to access as a start-up farmer. My goals for my mentorship this year are to have help problem-solving through the different challenges involved in starting a new enterprise, and collecting the financial data that will be needed to do an enterprise analysis at the end of the season.

What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer?

Currently, the number of decisions involved in a start-up and splitting my time between production and marketing planning is one of the larger business challenges I am facing. In the future, I foresee accessing affordable farmland as a barrier if I choose to expand or operate on my own land base.

What are your primary business goals for the season?

My primary business goals for this season are to have a successful first farming season raising animals, and doing the necessary marketing work involved in developing a customer base who is interested in purchasing my food and fibre.

What business tools could you not live without?

Google Drive/Onedrive, Excel/Google Sheets, Canva, social media for marketing.

How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? 

Website: http://betweentwofarms.square.site

Facebook: Between Two Farms / Six Ewes Yarn

Instagram: @betweentwofarms

Email: between.two.farms@gmail.com