YA Business Mentorship Network – Northern Light Acres

Posted by Tori Ames on June 08, 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.

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.

Pictured above: Olivia Blum of Northern Light Acres with her mentor, Jordan Allen of ClaireLee Ranch

Meet a Mentee: Northern Light Acres

Olivia & Steve Blum (Non official farm name is “Northern Light Acres”)

My mentor is Jordan Allen of  ClaireLee Ranch

Where do you farm?

We farm 12 miles NW of Olds. Alberta in an area known as Eagle Hill.

What do you farm?

On our farm we raise sheep, laying hens (occasionally we have also raised meat chickens or turkeys), cows and CKC registered Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs. We also have a large garden and make some income off selling things like raspberry stalks and garden produce.

What inspired you to get into farming? 

Our interest in farming came from Olivia’s love of living off the land and making the land productive and getting away from town. We don’t really have a lot of land for livestock production but are using every part of what we do have.

Olivia Blum in a red sweater and Carhartt coveralls shearing a sheep outside on a blue tarp

How did you learn how to farm?

As far as learning how to farm it has been a lot of trial and error. Olivia had some exposure to farming as a kid as here and there parents would own some cows or pigs or chickens. They moved around a lot.  Also, her cousins lived on a hog and cattle farm so spent some time there. As adults most of our learning has been through 4H and talking to other farmers or using the internet.

What type of business structure is your farm? 

We are not an official business yet.

How much land is under production on your farm? 

We own 6.25 acres but about 5 is being used for grazing or gardening.

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

We don’t use any pesticides on our garden and try to encourage pollinators by planting a lot of flowers. We use our sheep and cattle manure to enrich our garden soil

Why did you apply for business mentorship? 

We applied for young Agrarians as we have become a lot bigger with our sheep and are not just a hobby any more, trying to learn all the things about how to be a business and what legal stuff needs doing and how to be profitable.

A young boy standing behind a large pile of sheared sheep's wool

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

Biggest challenge as new farmers is finding any profit with the massive expenses of land prices and equipment purchases and feed costs also juggling farming with 2 full time jobs that seem to go to pay for it all as it of course is not yet paying for itself.

What is your primary business goal for the season?

Our primary goal this year is to actually become a proper business and set up accounting software to track costs.

What business tools could you not live without? 

Business tools? Not really using any yet other than an envelope of receipts. trying to put them in an excel sheet that I don’t understand so lots to learn here.

If you had a farming robot what would it be? 

If I had a farming robot it would be self capable the book keeping and of pounding posts on the smallest corner and also picking weeds and mowing the grass….maybe also our off farm jobs for us so we could just do farming instead  of us needing to leave to work.

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

We have a private facebook group called “Northern Light Acres”

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1660373967563771/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/northernlightacres/?hl=en

A fluffy, white lamb standing on top of a relaxed, brown cow