YA Business Mentorship Network – Mosaic Farms

Posted by Tori Ames on April 16, 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 Business Mentorship Network is funded in part by the Government of Alberta.

Meet a Mentee: Mosaic Farms

We are Sheldon and Kim Burton of Mosaic Farms and our mentor is Mike Kozlowski who owns Steel Pony Farm.

Where do you farm? 

We farm in between Crossfield and Acme, Alberta – in Mountain View County, Treaty 7 Area.

What inspired you to get into farming?

Both of us had inspiration from family members. Kim had grandparents who had an acreage and had a large garden which gave her a passion for learning to grow her own food and canning all the produce at harvest. I also had a love for flowers and creating a beautiful landscape. As we began growing and producing, my desire to learn and grow more significantly increased. I wanted to begin living on what we produced and find more natural and healthy ways to provide for our family and community. In this practice we are trying to foster back a healthy ecosystem and balance to the land we own.

Sheldon: As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be on a farm. When my father hastily changed careers and had no retirement options, I decided to purchase a property and get it into production to employ him so he could work comfortably and still earn a retirement wage with flexibility as he gets older. Before we were able to bring the farm up to a level where we could bring him on, his health deteriorated and we found we were working it on our own. This is when we decided to pivot what we were trying to produce and grow to match the demand of what people were looking for. The name Mosaic farms was selected as it directly tied to the variety of things we have been producing over the years.

How did you learn how to farm? 

The hard way. We taught ourselves and did research, trial and error happened a lot, but we always had a drive to learn and improve on what we were growing.

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

Sheldon’s education in mechanics, pumps, hydraulic theory and horticulture helped with the startup of irrigation and growing. The mentorship of a friend  taught us pasture management, and livestock. While we were able to apply the information we knew to the business from operating a tree service business. Reading business books and listening to podcasts, and lots of google (credible sources like educational extensions, and research papers).

What type of business structure is Mosaic Farms? 

Mosaic Farms is a corporation.

How much land is under production on your farm and what do you produce?

We own 6.3 acres, producing on 3.5 acres.

We produce seasonal fruits and vegetables, bedding plants, flowers, hanging baskets, lamb, eggs, and some small quantities of trees and perennials.

What kind of land agreement do you have? Are there special relationships that enabled this?

We own our own land

Mentor Mike Kozlowski of Steel Pony Farm
Did you access any financing to buy land or start your farm business? Please share your start up / financing story… 

I purchased a starter home in Airdrie when I was younger and used the appreciated capital from the sale of that home to purchase a small piece of land with an old house. The 6.3 acre property we purchased was not the perfect option but it was the only option we had at the time for the distance from family, work and price. I then used my full time employment in addition with an arborist side business and worked every single day I had off through 3 years until we had kids. We used this cash flow to cover the repair costs of the old house, and pay for the small 1000 square foot greenhouse in which we started building our business with no clear direction. We did use a line of credit to help cover some of the incidentals but for the most part we kept the bank out of the business.

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

We grow without the use of pesticide or chemicals, all of our IPM practices are approved by Health Canada as organic. However, we are not certified organic.

Our main controls are diatomaceous earth, peroxide, BTK (Biological), select flowers and herbs to attract beneficial insects and more pollinators. We use sheep to control weed growth in any area along fence lines and outside the garden until the season ends when they are turned out to clean everything up.

A large focus of our farm over the past 2 seasons has been rainwater collection and water retention measures in our soil. We have tripled our rainwater collections and holding capacity as well as employed ground covers mulching practices, with drip irrigation and watering schedules to limit loss due to evaporation. Water conservation is going to be critical for us.

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

We wanted knowledge from an experienced farmer in our industry to answer some of the questions and problems we have come up against with no clear direction to turn. We were looking for insight into how we could expand and how we can make it efficient without having to use trial and error. The growth of our farm is exponentially faster when we are able to allocate our time and limited capital efficiently.

We have been working on crop planning, seeding intervals, handling efficiencies post harvest and packaging. We have also been working on marketing, and employee management systems, and book keeping.

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

Our greatest business challenges are allocation of capital for tools and buildings, being able to prioritize what is the most critical area to invest in our farm to be able to have healthy growth and not burn us out.

What are your primary business goals for the season?
  • Expansion of our customers
  • Providing customers more flexibility
  • Completing the cold frame
  • Building a cooler
  • Building a harvest shed
  • Water retention
What business tools could you not live without?

We could not live without a greenhouse, tractor, hoes, or rototiller.

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

Website: www.mosaicfarmsltd.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mosaicfarms

Instagram: @mosaicfarms