In 2013, Foster Richardson, Natasha Tymo, Jay Baker-French and Kelsey Knoll decided to take what they’d learned through their studies – Applied Biology and, in Richardson’s case, Global Resource Systems – and apply them to their own farm.
“We all knew we wanted to be farming, and having that common educational background meant we were on the same page in a lot of ways,” said Richardson, who credits the skills they developed through LFS courses in soil science and small business management in agri-food industries for helping them become better farmers.
The first challenge the group faced was finding affordable farm land. So when Edgar Smith, co-owner of Beaver Meadow Farms in Courtenay, BC offered to lease them three acres of his land to grow organic crops, the group jumped at the chance.
And they haven’t looked back. These days, the four of them live together in a house on the farm, about a km from their field, and they eat what they grow – which is everything from vegetables and cereal grains to black beans and quinoa. They also sell their produce at farmers markets around the Comox Valley, as well as to restaurants, and through weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes.
After just one year of business, the group – known as The Birds and the Beans – won the 2013 Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Business of the Year award. The recognition means a lot, as they see it as affirmation that they’re on the right track.
“This whole experience has been a good test to see if this truly is the life we want to live,” Richardson said. “We haven’t had to sink much capital into our farm, it’s just been an investment of our time, but it’s been worth it. We’re learning so much.”