Brianne Fester gets a lot of satisfaction seeing the green shoots of vegetables and flowers rising from the soil of the approximately two-acre plot she farms with her friend Mitch Ward.
They call their farm Radical Bloom and harvested their first crops last year.
Rather than owning the land their plot is on, Fester and Ward lease the property from the owner, who lives on site, just steps from the edge of the tilled soil. Leasing land in this way isn’t a common arrangement in the Shuswap, but Fester said there are benefits for everyone involved.
As the property Fester and Ward farm is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the owner can claim farm use and enjoy the tax benefits that come with the budding agricultural operation on their land.
Fester said there is lots of land for anyone who wants to get into a lease agreement; she added that small-plot farmers in the Okanagan and Shuswap are fortunate both because the area has a long growing season and the community really wants to support local food.
To help get their farm off the ground, Fester and Ward employed a concept called community supported agriculture. Under the community supported agriculture model, customers pre-pay for produce before the growing season and then collect it periodically. Fester and Ward offered their customers a weekly vegetable box for up to 10 weeks.
“It helps the farmer because it means you have some income at the beginning of the season before you have anything ready to sell,” Fester said.
Fester said it is great for creating relationships between people who are interested in buying local food and the farmers who grow it. Community supported agriculture is not a new idea but Fester said it has gained momentum with the push to re-localize food production.
Along with vegetables, Radical Bloom offered a weekly or biweekly flower bouquet subscription.
The bouquet subscription will be returning this year but the vegetable boxes will not as Fester and Ward focus on sales from the farm stand at the front of the property, and the new farmer’s market which will be running on Saturdays in the Ross Street Plaza beginning in late June.
Farm gate sales received a lot of interest on the well-travelled 30th Street NE. Fester said many people in the neighbourhood were keen to purchase local produce. Fester said she hopes to begin selling DIY buckets of flowers for weddings and other events, allowing event organizers to create their own arrangements for bouquets and centrepieces.