YA Business Mentorship Network – City Street Farm

Posted by Lydia Carpenter on November 14, 2023

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! 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.

Application intake for BC mentees is now  CLOSED.
Limited seats available for AB, MB and SK mentees – APPLY NOW!

Mentor applications (paid position) 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 more about one of the 2023 cohort and their experience of the year supported by 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: City Street Farm

We are Candace Benson (she/her) & Miranda Holt (she/her) of City Street farm located in Regina, SK on Treaty 4 territory, home of the Cree, Ojibwa, Salteaux, Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and homeland of the Métis Nation.

Our mentor is Allison Taylor, who is currently managing a community garden in Moose Jaw SK.

What were your goals for this season and what did you do to try to achieve them?

Our goals this season were to scale back the number of sales channels we had and focus on growing a smaller variety of things really well. To do this, we focused on a bouquet CSA, that we were doing for the first time, and we reduced our vegetable variety so that we could focus on wholesale orders for restaurants, bakeries, and pop-up events with whom we already had established relationships. Part of this goal was also to find a better work/life balance for ourselves.

Did you meet your goals / did it work out? What went well this season relating to your goals? What didn’t go as you expected and what did you do instead?

We did! We are really happy with how are sales went this year, in terms of feedback from our bouquet subscribers and wholesale customers, and we are ending the season with a lot more energy than the past two. So that’s great news.

In making those changes, we reduced the variety of items our houses got in their weekly harvest boxes (each home owner of the yards we farm on get a weekly box as part of our “rent” for the land). This created some disappointment as we had set the bar high in past years, and we are working that into our crop planning for next year.

What resources did you find most valuable to support your business during the season?

We really valued the early mentorship hours before everything really kicked into high gear. We had great discussions with Allison and it helped us have a clear and calm vision throughout the season.

What were your best sales channels/avenues?

We like restaurants and bakeries for the predictability of orders and doing a smaller number of large orders, and we also love going to the farmers market for only 3-5 weeks in tomato season to connect with our customers face to face and move a large volume of tomatoes along with a few other things.

We’ve found that different channels work for different products, and we are finding ways to make each of them work for us with each season.

Why do your customers buy from you (what is your unique value proposition in your market)? What was the best piece of feedback or praise you got from a customer?

Our customers are buying from us because they can really easily connect with our farms and what we’re doing to brighten our community by turning lawns into gardens. They like being able to buy flowers and veggies from a yard they walk by every week.

What was the most important thing you gained from the YA Business Mentorship Network Program experience?

Our mentor is great at building our confidence and providing reassurance that we’re doing good work. Being part of the program also helped us get organized at the start of the seasons and write out our goals in a way that we both were aligned with.

What specific business skills did the mentorship help you develop?

One of the main skills we developed through the BMN was goal setting that worked for both of us. We had clear goals written out at the start of the season and that helped us make decisions throughout the year.

How did Young Agrarians Farm Business Mentorship impact your business overall?

We came into this program at a time where we didn’t have a clear direction of what it would be even a year from now. Though we definitely scaled back our sales this year to move slowly and organically with the season and ourselves, we emerged with vigour. We are now looking forward to taking on the farm full time next summer and pushing it to new heights.

What were one or two big, hard lessons this season you would want to share with other farmers?

One of the main lessons we learned this year was how important it is to communicate our plans with our customers and our farm yards. We scaled back a fair bit this season, as we mentioned earlier, but we didn’t necessarily tell all of our farm yards that their weekly boxes would be changing and so their expectations didn’t always match with what we delivered. As a relatively new business that is always evolving, we don’t always remember that we need to keep customers aware of certain changes. But as it stands, the relationships with the Farm Yards is more of a partnership than customer based. Keeping them happy is integral to our business’ model and we wont take them for granted again.

What were one or two victories, small or large, that you had this season?

Being able to take time away from the farm was a big victory this season. We worked our plans into our sales for the season so our customers were not surprised and it went really smoothly. We will definitely keep this up next year!

What future plans and goals do you have for your farm and how will you achieve these?

Our future plans for the farm are always evolving, but one main goal that we will be planning for this winter is reintegrating our desire to give back to our community through our farm. As our farm has grown, we have run into different obstacles when trying to lean into the social enterprise aspect of our business and really stepped back from that work this season. While it was important to refine our growing and sales, we are now ready to find ways to turn our attention to how we can best serve our community through the work we do. We are also excited to explore seed sales in the fall/winter season!

What will you do differently next year?

Next year we are adapting our sales channels once again after having tested a variety of options over the last three season. We will add a veggie CSA next season, along with our bouquet CSA, as we found we were already doing most of the work associated with it. We are excited to work with other farmers next year to complete a more diverse diet CSA using farm fresh eggs, strawberries and honey!

Share a story of something interesting/ funny/weird that happened on your farm this season.

This season Miranda decided to plant one sneaky row of broom corn in the middle of a bed of potatoes. Candace had tried to veto any corn attempts this year… it shot up right away and by mid summer was as tall as a house! Not so sneaky.

What are you most looking forward to this winter?

Miranda: I’m looking forward to reading and researching this winter, and taking time away from the farm to focus on other things and come back refreshed next year.

Candace:  I’m looking forward to reading my books on biodynamic farming, spending time with family and getting into a rhythm with yoga and eating lots of nourishing soups made from summer bounty. I am also so excited to try our hand at seed sales, wreath sales, micro greens, and brooms!

Where can we find you online? (website, FB, IG etc)
Best way to follow us is:

instagram: @citystreetfarms

Facebook: City Street Farms | Regina SK

Website: citystreetfarms.ca