Two farmers pour from white buckets into a big tub on Sandown farm.

Photo Credit: Sandown | Instagram

We Need Farmers, Farmers Need Land, and Land is Expensive

One farming community is helping people get into the business of farming

If you want to love real food, this is the place to go

Farmers have the most important job. But it’s a tough gig. Land prices are sky-high and rising. Imported food keeps prices incredibly low. Becoming a farmer in Canada is only getting harder.

But some folks just really want to farm.

So one organization is helping new farmers get into the industry. They’re also developing new growing methods to move farming into the future.

Stephanie Jacobs always wanted to be a farmer, but prices kept her dream out of reach.

Until now.

She’s rented a plot on an acreage for pennies compared to normal sale or leasing prices. And that land comes with training.

It’s location? An old racetrack.

The 83-acre farm in North Saanich is called Sandown, and it’s no ordinary farmland. Their managers and board are made up of farmers, chefs, business people, scientists, filmmakers, and educators. And they all love food.

Their focus is on regenerative farming, whether that’s for the land’s ecosystem, or teaching the next generation of farmers.

Everything they do focuses on making farming sustainable into the future.

Lindsey Boyle is a board member and co-founder at Sandown. “We asked ourselves: ‘How do we incubate new farmers and support them to learn?’” she told The Globe and Mail. “Not only on how to farm regeneratively—which is a climate solution and a way to grow better food—but how do we support farmers to learn in a way that’ll make them want to stick around?”

It turns out what new farmers need most is financial know-how.

First, Sandown gives folks an affordable plot to get started on. Then, they teach them how to make farming truly financially stable.

“We call it farmpreneur because we want to fix this narrative that farming is a ton of work and that you’re barely scraping by,” said Boyle. “We really have to make it so people are well set up and supported to successfully run a business, which in many cases is more than just selling the food you grow.”

In the farming industry, she says that often means having more than one job or project.

That sounds like a lot of us these days.

The technical lingo for this would be “multiple revenue streams.”

These revenue streams can be using your wedding venue, running classes on how to sustainably farm, or creating tourism experiences on your property.

They’re also experimenting with how traditional farming is done.

Matthew Kyriakides is the manager of land resources at Sandown and a PhD student at the University of Victoria.

Using 20 plots of degraded land, he’s testing out both traditional and regenerative farming practices. He wants to see if regenerative farming can bring the land back to health.

He also hopes these techniques will produce more food and more income.

“I’m hoping I can find a win-win with this,” said Kyriakides to The Globe and Mail. “I feel quite confident that a diversified system will be the way to go.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Sandown, you can take a virtual tour. If you’re down Island, you can visit them on the weekend of August 27th and 28th for their farm festival.

Through “agri-tourism,” they hope to share the joy of growing and eating your own food with many more people. They also want to teach you how to incorporate this into your life, farmer or not.

Sandown is a place to learn, and, as they put it, “a place to fall madly in love with our local food.”

If you’re ready to fall in love, check them out.