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Young and Experienced Agrarians
Jim Dauster (left) and Douglas Bullock (right) take part in Young Agrarians where new farmers and experienced farmers can connect and share knowledge.
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Armstrong Land Link
Young Agrarians land link event in Armstrong brought in experienced farmers as mentors.
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Mentorship is important for farmers who are already on the land and in production.
They may not seem related, but through potlucks and rock stars, knowledge and land is being shared across the country, thanks to the Young Agrarians.
Sara Dent, the BC Coordinator for the Young Agrarians is pretty busy these days. She’s making sure young farmers and experienced farmers connect to ensure the continuation of profitable farming in communities across BC.
Land Link Workshops and Potlucks
It’s just like it sounds. People with land link up with people who want to farm the land and after all is said and done, everyone sits around and enjoys a potluck dinner.
While it all sounds very light-hearted, land linking is very serious business. Most of the land linking workshops happen in the southern half of BC, from the Kootenays to Vancouver Island.
“Southern BC has some of the most expensive land in Canada,” explained Dent. “For a new farmer, it’s hard to get started as the land base is very expensive. If you don’t have equity at start up you won’t be able to purchase the land base. In farming you need tenure to have a financially viable business. A lot of farmers don’t end up breaking even until much later.”
It’s no secret that the large population of baby boomers is looking to retire, if they haven’t already done so. Many of them are delaying retirement because of a solid interest in food security for their community, their province and their country.
“Food is such a big thing,” said Dent, “and we have a lot of landowners that contact us and want a farmer for their land. Their land may be viable, or not. We don’t know what arrangement they are looking for from a new farmer. They come to us and say they are open to anything; but the reality is they need to be very clear on what they want in order to create a proper business arrangement.”
The Land Link workshops were created to join people with land and those who want to farm that land. As a non-profit society, the Young Agrarians are hoping to create a space for landowners to meet land seekers and for people to talk about the nuts and bolts and some of the legalities that would involve.
Then there is the workshop itself. “We always start off with a networking session. We frame it as a game. Everyone sits in a circle and has one or two sentences to tell other people where they are at. The land owners tell the prospective farmers where they are, what they want done with their land base and what type of arrangement they are looking for at the end of the day. The new farmers tell who they are and what they are looking for.”
After everyone is somewhat acquainted they start with the “So You Want to Farm” section of the workshop. This includes getting down to the legalities involved and talks about what full proprietorship, partnership, corporation, co-op etc., entail. Dent pointed out that new farmers don’t have to be young; they can be of any age.
“We give farmers real examples of best practices for succession models as well,” said Dent. “Then we do a section on leases and licenses and farmland tax status. One of the incentives for an owner to have their land farmed is that they can apply for BC Farm Tax status after the first year of leasing out. We get into some of the nuances around land and zoning and leases and licenses. At the end of the day we do some small group activities where people talk about obstacles that could occur, like communication breakdowns between owners and new farmers. The biggest challenge is learning how you are going to work with people and systems that are already in place on the farm.”
At the end of the day, all participants get involved in the communications portion of the workshop. “This ensures all participants have a good shot of keeping their new relationships. It’s important that they know how to communicate and have skills around problem solving.”
At the end of the day, new and seasoned, young and old, all get together for a potluck dinner and some unstructured networking. Land Linking Workshops and Potlucks were held in Kelowna and Victoria in January. February and March workshops will be held in Vallican, Invermere, Langley, and Kamloops.
Rock Star Farm Tours
When Sara Dent went to farm school in 2008, she and her fellow students joked about how farmers were the rock stars of the future. The Young Agrarians thought it would be great if farmers were rock stars now. Instead of waiting for that to happen, they made it happen and created the Rock Star Farmer Tour, which focuses on profitable models.
“In 2014 we were able to get Jean-Martin Fortier who speaks on six-figure farming for small plots. We wanted to continue that this year and we are working with Frederic Theriault, another Quebec farmer, who co-authored the Canadian Organic Growers book Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers,” explained Dent.
This workshop provides a structure for determining how to operate a profitable, diversified farm. It hones in on the core issues of farm success: which crops to grow, when to plant them, and in what quantities. Then it provides a logical, linear process for completing it all on time.
The workshop material is based on the book Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers. Participants will be supplied with all the charts and necessary information to apply skills learned during workshop on their farm. The workshop will include several hands-on exercises for attendees to familiarize themselves with the calculations and techniques.
“Although he is focused on vegetable farming, other types of producers who are looking for financial planning tools that will help them map out their season will benefit,” said Dent. ■
For more information on land linking and profitable farm models go the Young Agrarians website at youngagrarians.org/events.