YA Business Mentorship Network – Ravenwood Farm Products

Posted by Melanie Buffel on March 15, 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!

Hello everybody, my name is Aline Steffens and I am part of the Business Mentorship Network program 2023 cohort. I am in a partnership agreement with Bill Smith from Ravenwood Farm – called Ravenwoodfarm Products LLP – and I am mentored by Louise and Jed at  Elderberry Grove down in Salmon Arm. They are such great people and I can call myself very lucky to get all the insights. Louise is a very helpful person and I already learned quite a bit during my participation within the program.

Where do you farm?

Ravenwood Farm is situated in the South Peace River area of northeast BC. To diversify our farm products, we have gardens and extensive plantings of berry bushes – mainly black currants – and fruit trees.

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

Inspired by recent extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change we are currently extending our water and soil management efforts using the five tenets of regenerative agriculture and the principles of permaculture.

What is your land tenure? 

My land tenure is a partnership agreement with Bill Smith from Ravenwood Farm whereby I have access to land and equipment as currently exist on his farm. It was just blind luck that a “workaway” experience turned into a longer-term relationship in agriculture.

What do you farm?

Ravenwood Farm’s primary enterprise is beef cattle, cow calf operation. I am involved in adding value to various farm products including honey and black currants.

What inspired you to get into farming?

As a 34 year old girl with German roots, interested in sales and marketing, I always had a big goal for my future. I wanted to bring joy and happiness to people by selling products which are essential to everybody. So which product is more essential than food? Additionally, I just love good food. I enjoy eating nourishing and healthy products which I “created” by myself. With every bite, you can taste the love and the effort of your hard work. I always wanted to be more independent and prove to myself, that even now in the 21st  century, people do not need to rely on grocery chains and the food commodity business.

What type of business structure is your farm?

As mentioned before, I have a partnership agreement with Bill Smith from Ravenwood Farm that involves adding value to farm products through sales and marketing. Additionally, I am responsible for the black currant enterprise on this farm.

How much land is under production on your farm?

The black currant operation currently is 1000 bushes and is scaling up to 10 acres.
Ravenwood Farm itself has 480 acres owned and crown leases of 4000 acres.

What are you producing?

Ravenwoodfarm Products LLP is ready to contribute to the local and provincial food system by producing the superfood black currant and offering homemade grown and processed products.

How did you learn how to farm?

I haven’t, but I am learning. Bill is still supervising me and I am still learning every single day. I am pretty fortunate to find this place and call it my new home.

Why did you apply for business mentorship?

I wanted to become a mentee to improve my skillset and also develop our little operation. I
want to gain knowledge about profitable farming and receive new input in regards to growing the black currant business. I still would like to learn more about permaculture practices and get insights into different farm operation

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

Since we are living in a remote rural area, our challenge is to locate customers at a distance. We want to build a network of wholesalers and retailers that serve our target demographic.

What is your primary business goal for the season?

My top business objectives are creating brand awareness, increase sales in multiple channels and create a network in the health food sector.

What business tools could you not live without?

Supportive tools for achieving my goals are definitely myEexcel spreadsheets. I love to track the data and to analyze the financial input. I am calculating my prices and my margins. I am managing my contacts and my orders. So I would never ever go without Excel. Thanks to Microsoft.

If you had a farming robot what would it be?

Why in heaven’s name would I like to have a robot?  I want to get my hands dirty and see the results! Machinery can definitely help with the process! So, if I earn enough money with the business, I would like to buy a harvester and a line cleaner. That would help us to process even more healthy food for our communities.

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

You can find out more about the farm and our practices via our website
http://www.ravenwoodfarm.ca or our social media presence on Facebook Ravenwoodfarm BC & on Instagram, Ravenwoodfarm_BC.

We are happy to share our knowledge and would welcome you on our farm.

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