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Farmer case studies are a terrific means of learning how other people deal with the challenges common to many new farmers. We’ve listed several collections of farmer case studies – some collected in Southern Ontario by FarmStart, others profiling US farmers, collected by organizations in the United States.
The Face of New Farmers
FarmStart’s Start-Up Farms program supports new farm enterprises by offering access to land, equipment, and infrastructure at reasonable rates, and by providing participants with mentorship and training in business planning, technical skills, and ecological farming methods.
The following profiles introduce nine of our participants, a group of new farmers whose diverse entrepreneurial strategies contain the seeds for a more just and sustainable regional food supply.
(Please click on each participants name to download the full profile)
Bob Baloch (2010 Season) – A New Canadian, born in Pakistan, Bob has been farming at McVean Farm since 2009. Bob has increased the size of his operation from one acre to four and grows 30 different crops. He markets all of his vegetables through the business he & his wife established, called “The Fresh Veggies”.
Luis Canora (2010 Season) – Before moving to Canada, Luis was involved in hobby beekeeping when he wasn’t teaching math, business management and statistics courses as a university professor in the Philippines. After connecting with FarmStart and acquiring land at the McVean Incubator Farm, Luis has moved ahead with turning his favourite pastime into a full-time career by mapping out a trajectory to successfully build up his commercial beekeeping operation called ‘Canora Honey Farm’.
Daniel Hoffmann (2010 Season) – With a background in social work, Daniel Hoffmann recognizes the therapeutic value that is found in farming. By linking to FarmStart and McVean Incubator Farm five years ago, Daniel combined his passions for community development with organic farming and established a dynamic business called ‘The Cutting Veg’.
Hanna Jacobs & Eric Rosenkrantz (2010 Season) – After working in restaurants as a chef for ten years, Hanna Jacobs decided that she wanted to leave kitchens and engage with food at the root level. She founded Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. in 2006. Business partner Eric Rosenkrantz joined Matchbox a few years later with a personal desire to help alleviate social and environmental injustices. In 2008, Hanna and Eric moved Matchbox to McVean Incubator Farm, where they have spent the last three farming seasons expanding their business.
Joyce & Stanley Ramnarine (2010 Season) – Originally from Guyana, Joyce and her partner Stanley came to Canada with an excitement for agriculture, but like so many others, had not been able to access land. Last fall, Joyce stumbled upon an event in the local newspaper which led to Stanley and her becoming ‘test croppers’ at McVean Incubator Farm.
Margaret Zondo & Rodney Garnes (2010 Season) – A history in sharing food and nourishing others has stirred up a great motivation for Margaret and Rodney to impact the personal health of those they sell their produce to. With the desire to share healthy food and healing nutrients, Southern Horizons grow over 26 different kinds of vegetables including ethno-cultural crops more common to the regions where Margaret and Rodney grew up.
Matt Reeves – A young grower with a background in biodynamics and horticultural therapy, Matt has a strong belief in the healing power of sustainable vegetable production for marginalized people.
Simon Jacques - A young farmer and organic inspector, Simon is a pioneer in organic coloured bean production in Ontario.
Tarrah Young – FarmStart’s first graduate, Tarrah is drawing from skills honed in the New Farms Incubator Farm Program to develop an organic vegetable, pork and turkey operation on land she recently purchased close to Hanover, Ontario.
FarmStart’s Sowing Seeds, Reaping Profit is a series of seven case studies featuring innovative Ontario farmers with non-traditional backgrounds. It shares practical production tips, innovative marketing approaches and creative ways to successfully negotiate the myriad challenges that new farmers face in their start-up years and beyond.
Achim Mohssen-beyk, Reachview Farm – As President of Quinte Organic Farmers Co-op, Achim Mohssen-Beyk fronts a movement to revitalize agriculture in Prince Edward County.
Caitlin Hall, Reroot Organic CSA – A young farmer with a non-farm background, Caitlin Hall is using her experience as a CRAFT intern to run a successful new organic CSA.
Elisabeth Bzikot, Best Baa Farm and Ewenity Dairy Co-op – UK-born Elisabeth Bzikot is a pioneer among sheep dairy farmers in Ontario. As Chair of Ewenity Dairy Co-op, she markets sheep cheeses and yogurts at venues throughout the Golden Horseshoe and beyond.
Linda Crago, Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm – A second-career farmer with a passion for unusual heirloom vegetables, Linda Crago runs a successful small farm enterprise on just 2.5 acres.
Linda Laepple, Laepple Organic Farm – Linda Laepple’s agricultural roots extend through countless generations of Bavarian farmers. Today, she and her family pursue that tradition at their Waterloo Region organic farm.
Shin Kang, Skyview Farms – Originally from South Korea, Shin Kang has farmed in Ontario for over thirty years. At Skyland Farms, Shin grows vegetables for direct sale to Toronto’s Korean community.
Ute Zell, Smiling Goat Farm – Having immigrated from Germany in the 1990s, Ute Zell has some important lessons to share on the subject of farming in a new country.
Katherine Griffin, Mount Horeb, WI Wisconsin Rural Development Center
1991 / 37 pp / $5.00 / Available for purchase from the New England Small Farm Institute Bookstore
Inspiring case studies featuring families and individuals succeeding in non-traditional farming. Provides ideas and insights into the challenges farmers face and the resourcefulness they bring to bear in realizing their goals and dreams.
Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
2005 / 200 pages / $16.95 US / Free PDF
Hailing from small vegetable farms, cattle ranches and grain farms covering thousands of acres, the producers in The New American Farmer, 2nd edition have embraced new approaches to agriculture. They are renewing profits, enhancing environmental stewardship and improving the lives of their families as well as their communities. The second edition builds on SAN’s popular first book. The authors have updated many of the profiles originally researched and written in 2000 and added 14 new profiles to represent every state and two U.S. territories. The book now features more than 60 successful farmers and ranchers.
The New Farm
The New Farm has set a goal of gathering together 1000 or more stories about organic, regenerative agriculture that illustrate holistic, values-based ways to farm satisfyingly and successfully. Stories are sorted by region.