Young Agrarians is celebrating the ninth year of the Business Mentorship Network (BMN) program in BC and the expansion of the program across the Prairies! The BMN offers business mentorships to a diverse array of new and young farmers. Through one-on-one mentorship, peer networks and online workshops young farmers develop the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses.
Applications open for Mentees across Western Canada in October 2023. Mentor applications are accepted year-round. Check out the Business Mentorship Network page for more information!
Want to learn more about our Mentees (or Mentors)? Below you’ll find a Q&A where you can learn all about their farm and why they joined the Business Mentorship Network. If you’d like to read about the experiences of other Mentees/Mentors, head to our blog here.
Meet a Mentee: Blooms on 7 Flower Farm
Where do you farm?
Blooms on 7 Flower Farm is just outside of ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan), which lies within Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. If you’re coming to the farm from east Edmonton, we’re south of Sherwood Park, off Anthony Henday Drive and Highway 21.
What do you farm?
We grow over 250 varieties of cut flowers – these are annuals, perennials, and shrubs. A popular misconception is that we (and flower farmers in general) just maintain a “field of wildflowers” but this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Our crops are strategically chosen for our climate and growing season as well as the needs of our end consumer. While people may love the look of a ‘wildflower’ bouquet, the reality is that many wildflowers would last no longer than a day in your vase. Our flower varieties have been specifically cultivated for things like long vase life, sleek stems, and big showy heads.
What inspired you to get into farming?
We’re a little embarrassed to admit that we truly didn’t know that a career in Flower Farming in a Zone 3 climate was even a possibility. We imagined that cut flowers were something that could only be grown in hot climates in places like South America or California – not in fickle and frigid Alberta, Canada! It wasn’t until Brianna came across the Instagram page of a farmer in Washington state that we really started to see the possibilities in floriculture and began to understand the importance of locally grown flowers. So, our inspiration came from wanting to be a part of the change that the floral industry so desperately needs: local over imported and sustainable over environmentally detrimental.
How did you learn how to farm?
Brianna took an online flower farmer training course offered by Floret that gave her the knowledge to get started. But arguably we haven’t ‘learned to farm’! It’s a constantly evolving process for us, one that changes based on what and how we’re growing, set up against the environment in which we’re growing. In year one we dealt with a major drought. In year two we dealt with flood conditions. What will year three bring?
What type of business structure is your farm?
We are currently a sole proprietorship under Brianna and are looking to become a partnership this year as our business grows and evolves.
How much land is under production on your farm?
We’re set on 7 acres but currently have 1/2 acre for crop production as well as workshop and greenhouse space. Additionally, the alpacas live on approximately 4 acres.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that enabled this?
We own the land. In 2021 Brianna (and husband Tim) bought the property with our mum. After growing up on a farm an hour outside of Edmonton, we had all started to talk about getting back into the ‘country’ and Brianna knew that she wanted to raise her family in a way that was similar to how we grew up.
What types of ecological farm practices and/or responses to climate change realities do you engage in?
The biggest effects from climate change have been intense heat waves with little to no relief from precipitation. To mitigate these effects, we plant half of our field directly into landscape fabric which acts like a mulch, helping to maintain moisture levels within the soil. We also use drip line rather than overhead irrigation to mitigate water loss due to evaporation. This season we will be trialing cover crops in half of our field and companion planting between our cash crops to reduce erosion and maintain moisture within the soils. We will also be trialing pulse watering methods in some of our beds in an effort to better manage our water consumption. It’s a big year!
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
Brianna had a great experience in the YA Business Bootcamp and we felt like the Mentorship program would allow us to keep the momentum going through the remainder of 2023. We’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve looked at each other and said: “Ugh! One of us really needs to go to business school to do this!” The combination of the Business Bootcamp and this Mentorship is really helping to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and the agriculture specific information is truly priceless.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer?
Not having enough time in the day! Finding a balance between work life and home life during the busy growing season seems like something we will constantly have to manage as owners of a very seasonal business. Brianna has a busy young family and Ashley has a full time off farm job so sometimes it feels like having a day in between Saturday and Sunday would be the best solution.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
This year we’ve got a set sales target in mind. Beyond the finances, we’re really working on streamlining some of our practices and ensuring that all our staff and volunteers are clear on our mission, vision and goals.
What business tools could you not live without?
We really love using Canva for all of our marketing and wedding design needs. It’s super easy to use and we’re always pleased with the outcome.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
Ashley’s would be more of a florist robot that can prepare all of the chicken wire mechanics for our big floral installations and event centrepieces – it’s so pokey!
Brianna’s would be an automatic weeder that just runs 24/7…no matter how efficient this robot is we have no doubt there’d still be weeds emerging somewhere.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
Find us online at www.bloomson7.ca