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.
Hi! My name is Courtney Hutton, and my farm is called Peas and Love Produce. My Mentor is Arzeena Hamir of Amara Farm.
Where do you farm?
I am very grateful to be leasing land at the wonderful Kloverdalen Farm on the unceded traditional territory of the K’omox First Nation in what is known today as Courtenay, BC.
What inspired you to get into farming?
My family is full of incredible gardeners, and spending time in my own garden has always brought me so much joy. I’ve dreamed of a small-scale farming lifestyle, but I didn’t know that it could be a reality until recently, when I reunited with a couple of friends who had been living abroad. They were operating their own successful farm business, and they showed me that it was totally possible to do it without owning farm land, or being born into a family farm.
How did you learn how to farm?
These same friends of mine also told me about the North Island College course called Sustainable Farming in 2021, so I signed up and jumped in. It was a hands-on program in which theory and practice were taught between two main farms, with plenty of field trips to different farms throughout the year, and some farm business and bookkeeping courses included as well.
What type of business structure is your farm?
Peas and Love Produce is a general partnership between myself and my fiancé, Yurii. Yurii has other employment as well, but he is willing to help on the farm when he can, and his moral support and belief in my dream is invaluable. He’s an incredible partner on and off the farm.
How much land is under production on your farm and what are you producing?
I’ll have nearly one acre of land in production this year, that includes a 1680 sq ft greenhouse and about eighty 100′ beds. I’m trying my hand at market gardening so I’m growing a wide variety of vegetables, melons, berries, herbs and a few flowers as well. I’ll be producing a vast array of vegetables, with some fun and interesting varieties mixed in to entice customers to my market booth. I have dedicated a lot of space to different salad mixes and baby greens, so I hope to have a variety on offer throughout the year. There will also be strawberries, raspberries and melons for the fruit lovers, and herbs, pickling cukes, and field tomatoes for the canning enthusiasts.
What types of ecological farm practices and/or responses to climate change realities do you engage in?
Kira, the owner of Kloverdalen Farm, had already been stewarding her land with the utmost respect for soil structure and integrity. One of the best things about my opportunity to lease this land from Kira is that I know that not only have care and attention been worked into her land, but also that her no-till practices have built up a huge amount of organic matter in her soil. Healthy soils high in organic matter can better capture and retain water in extreme weather events like floods and droughts and prevent wind, water, and soil erosion in the long term. I will continue to follow ecological farm practices at Kloverdalen by growing diverse crops, avoiding chemical pesticides, encouraging biodiversity, and carrying on with the no-till work that’s been done.
What is your land tenure?
I’d love to give special thanks to the BCLMP and the Young Agrarians for facilitating the lease I have at Kloverdalen Farm. My land matcher, Kiyomi, was so helpful and thorough, she really gave me peace of mind throughout the entire process, it really is such a fabulous program.
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
I knew going into this year with a new lease at a new farm that I would have a lot on my plate. Working efficiently would be my key to success, not only in the field, but also behind the scenes.
I applied for the business mentorship in hopes that I could have access to information regarding farm systems that I will need to employ in my near future, like hiring employees and efficiently increasing productivity, and also to have a bit of guidance to avoid making too many costly mistakes while farming. Having access to an experienced mentor is an incredible resource, especially because I’m mostly farming on my own, and there is a lot to learn.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer?
The greatest challenge I’ve found in farming so far has been budgeting for an employee. Because I am a new farmer, and because of the unpredictable nature of farming, I can’t be sure that I’ll be able to afford to pay an employee’s wages.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
This year my business goal is to increase my efficiency. I’m improving my record keeping systems, setting up more points of access for tools on the farm, and planning for more crop rotations on a smaller footprint.
What business tools could you not live without?
I could not live without spreadsheets. Planning, record keeping, and bookkeeping are so important for a farm business, and as much as I love Post-It notes, I’ve come to love digital records even more. Another business tool I would not give up is my Square point-of-sale system. I’m all for keeping cash alive, but my market sales would really suffer without the ability to accept cards for payment.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
Ooh, that’s a fun question to dream up answers for… maybe a Big Green Saladbot, with a hopper on one end to put the various greens in, then the robot would mix, wash, spin, weigh, bag, and label the salad for market. Talk about a time-saver!
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
You can find me on Instagram: Peasandloveproduce
Facebook: Peas and Love Produce
Website coming soon!
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Endswell Foundation and Columbia Basin Trust.