YA Business Mentorship Network – Gathered Farm and Florals

Posted by Melanie Buffel on March 27, 2023

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.

YA business mentorships have helped over a 100+ farmers to generate more revenues, grow more food and put more land into production. Immediate results have led to on average of 64% more farm revenue, a 72% increase in food produced, and a 48% increase in land under production. We are thrilled to bring the stories of these farmers to you for inspiration!

Applications open for Mentees across Western Canada in October 2023.

Mentor applications are accepted year round.

Check out the program page on our website for more information!


We are Mackenzie Alsager and Alexander McNaughton and our business is Gathered Farm and Florals. We are mentored by Gemma McNeil of Zaklan Heritage Farm.

Where do you farm? 

We farm in the Regional District of Qathet, the unceded territory of the Tla’amin Nation.

What do you farm?

We operate a market garden with a focus on planting as many species as possible for a future food forest for our community.

What inspired you to get into farming?

It started as a hobby, both Alex and I grew up on hobby farms (his veggies, mine animals) and we met at a farmers market so you could say farming was in our destiny. We had planned on only farming for our family and selling our excess but the pandemic hit our family hard and over night we lost 80% of our income and I was pregnant so we did what we had to do and we ordered more seeds, and advertised a CSA and got as many plants in the ground as possible. Now 3 years later what inspires us to continue farming hasn’t changed much. We continue to see the value of producing the best possible food for our family and community but also a way of stewarding the land in a positive and regenerative way and doing our small part for the environment by sequestering one carbon molecule at a time.

How did you learn how to farm?

Largely self taught through seed company resources, absorbing all the free content on social media, learning resources online, books and a lot of trial and error.

What type of business structure is your farm?

We are a sole proprietorship.

How much land is under production on your farm and what are you producing?

We have 3/4 of an acre under production. We grow a lot of salad greens for our community and have a large greenhouse that produces tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the summer and more salad in the winter. We are building a diverse food forest on the farm as well which includes: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, tayberries, gooseberries, josta berries, loganberry, boysenberry, seabuckthorn, currants, rhubarb, asparagus, perennial herbs, apple, pear, plum, fig, walnut, chestnut, hazelnut, and cherry.  I’m sure there are some others that I am forgetting!

We also grow cut flowers and produce a variety of value added foods such as pesto, compound herb butters, dried teas, confit garlic, preserves, fruit and herb cordials and fruit leathers. 

What is your land tenure and what types of ecological farm practices and/or responses to climate change realities do you engage in?

We own the land. Every year we transition into a more regenerative type of farming. We are transitioning to biodynamic farming, so no-till, no chemicals, applying biodynamic preparations. I believe that we need to close the loops as much as possible to be able to sustain what we are doing and building healthy, living soil that doesn’t require inputs year after year is a big part of what we are trying to achieve.

Why did you apply for business mentorship?

Sara Dent (co-founder and director of Young Agrarians) has been pushing me to do it for years and I finally felt like I had the time. In hindsight I wish I had done it 4 years ago when she first suggested it, I believe we would have saved ourselves a lot of money and stress if I knew then what I know now.

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

Impossible margins, we live in a very small community with very high living wages, 20-50% price increases on most items so we end up spending a lot more to farm here than if we were farming in the lower mainland but land cost is impossible in the lower mainland so you win some you lose some.

What is your primary business goal for the season?

This season we are determined to track our data better! 

What business tools could you not live without?

Instagram

If you had a farming robot what would it be?

We could use a weeder or slug killer – could it do both?

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

Website – gatheredfarm.com

FB  and Insta – gatheredfarm

This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Endswell Foundation and Columbia Basin Trust.