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Young Agrarians begin mission to build network for new farmers in Kootenays

Bruce Edson
By Bruce Edson
March 18th, 2014

The Young Agrarians have come to the Kootenays, on a mission to build a collaborative network for new farmers. 

The group has two new regional coordinators, Nigel Francis and Laura Hannant, who helped organize a well-attended mixer on March 15th and 16th at the Crawford Bay School. 

Francis and Hannant both previously worked at the Kootenay Farm School at the College of the Rockies in Creston, before moving over to the Young Agrarians.

The group was formed in 2012, patterned around the US organization “The Greenhorns”, which has been in operation for a six years.

“Effectively we are building an online and offline network for new entrants into agriculture with a focus on certified or uncertified organics” says Vancouver based coordinator Laura Dent  “There’s a real need for people to collaborate and figure out how to do it together.”

Their offline programs involve events, which are farmer and volunteer driven farm tours and potlucks, as well as mixers like the one in Crawford Bay.

Their online presence involves a website with information, blogs, and events created by a volunteers in ‘hubs’ across the province and country.

Dent stresses the participatory, volunteer driven nature of the network. “The best thing for me is when I go to Facebook and there is brand new event and I had nothing to do with it.”

They will hold another mixer March 22 and 23 in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island that will pair up with John-Martin Fortier’s “Rockstar Farmer Tour”, which focuses on profitable small-lot farming. Fortier also held a workshop in Nelson on March 14th, as a part of the weekend event.

Dent says some of the biggest challenges for young farmers are learning how to farm, accessing land, and developing a business that can survive startup.

“For the next generation of farmers getting into agriculture, doing large scale farming is prohibitive.”

She says a lot of next generation farmers will be going into small scale organics, and have a closer relationship with their customers.

While there are a number of organizations around the province that are increasing customer to farmer volumes, Dent says her group is focused more on networking and helping their base access those organizations.

“It’s basically an engagement platform” she says,  “If you try to do one thing well you can have more success”

What’s the best thing the government could do to help the next generation of farmers?

“Dynamic funding programs, get in touch with the next generation,” says Dent “They are thinking about conventional and large production scale farming and they need to focus on the small scale farmer”

The website for the Young Agrarians is

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