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2011: New Farm Lease in the Okanagan

March 9, 2011

So.  This blog was born out of a decision by four friends–two couples–to do a bike trip together to, among other things, test out the compatibility of said couples before they started a farm together, which they were thinking about doing.

We weren’t compatible.

At least, not in the context of a bike trip, which probably would have meant the same for a farm partnership.  So, mission accomplished: better to have discovered that on a bike trip than a year into a shared farm ownership.  And the four of us are still friends.  And we got to see some awesome farms in the process.  And my buttocks were sublime by the end of 3500 km of pedaling.  So no regrets.

Why bring this up?  This blog is about to change gears, so to speak, and I think it’s important to explain why, and why we’ve decided to keep blogging at all.  Which is this: both couples are going to stick with farming, and both want to use this blog to explore issues relevant to new farmers.  Each of us will blog a bit about our respective farm businesses, and we’ll also share any decent information we encounter as we plod along.

So now that you’re up to speed:

Vanessa and Jordan’s post-bike trip move: BC’s Okanagan Valley

Back in 2009 (pre-bike trip), Vanessa, Virginie, Alex and I wrote an open letter about our interest in finding long-term farming opportunities that we sent out via a number of channels–a couple of list serves, friends; we even took out an ad in Small Farm Canada magazine that we paid for by providing haying labour to its editor.   Here’s the letter:

To Whom It May Concern, 

We are two couples in our mid- to late twenties who, each having spent two to four years apprenticing on and managing various organic farms, are now seeking a long-term farming opportunity together.  Having recognized that outright purchase of a piece of farmland may be unfeasible, we are exploring various models, including but not limited to outright purchase, long-term leasing, transitional ownership, and cooperative farming.

Our ideal farm is between five and one hundred acres, and within 90 minutes drive of a large urban centre.  It features at least one large farmhouse, a sturdy barn, and room/zoning for further building construction.  While collectively we have interests in orchard production, livestock, grain and dairy, we intend for our primary source of income to be derived from berries and vegetables.  We will consider farmland in any part of Canada, but we have a preference for British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

We also have a preference for complete autonomy over all farming activities, but as this is unexplored territory for us we are open to other arrangements.

We look forward to speaking with anyone who is aware of an opportunity that might fit within these parameters.

All inquiries can be forwarded to seeking.farmland@gmail.com.  Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Vanessa Samur, Jordan Marr, Virginie Lavallee-Picard, and Alex Fletcher.

We got about forty responses, ranging from “good for you” to “You can buy my land for $500 000”.  The biggest lesson learned:  all the responses represented a sort of ‘put your money where your mouth is’ challenge, and it turned out we weren’t ready to do so.  So we more or less passed up the opportunities that came from writing the letter, and did the bike trip instead.

And yet.  I’m writing this post from the cabin on the farm on which Vaness and I now reside.  It’s an awesome setup that I’m about to describe, and it came as a result of the letter.  Our landlords contacted us after they read it in 2009.  We met them back then, told them the timing wasn’t right, but said we might be in touch if we ever came back their way looking for land.  In the end that’s just what happened.

So here’s our setup:

Our landlord and lady have 25 acres in Peachland, BC.  They have operated a certified organic veggie garden for over 20 years, wholesaling most of their produce through local grocery stores.  In recent years, they’ve rented a fully-serviced cabin out real cheap to a couple who are willing to provide paid general farm labour throughout the year.  Last year’s tenants started their own market garden in addition to helping the owners with theirs.  We’ve inherited that garden and the cabin.  Thus, for really reasonable rent:

  • we live in a great cabin on a beautiful farm property with views of the lake
  • we have access to 1/3 acre of garden space for our market garden
  • we will be able to count on 30 hours/week as farm labourers
  • the owners are willing to share all of their tools and equipment, making our the initial investment in our own business much lower to start

West facing view of our new digs, January 2011

For anyone else trying to figure out a way to get started, this type of setup would probably be pretty easy to find.  Most farmers have a hard time finding knowledgeable, reliable labour, and often have extra land lying around.

And so begins our land leasing experiment.  The lease is only one year so that both parties can get to know each other; if all goes well, there will be opportunities for us to figure out something more long term in the future.

It begins!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 4:47 pm

    Great news guys – I was one of the interns at Juniper Farm when you came by last year. Hope it works out really well for you – I’m trying to work out something for myself and what you’re doing/getting/have signed up for sounds pretty perfect!

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