Organic farmer John Young is enjoying the chance to fulfill his longtime dream of growing organic produce, without risking capital in a new plot of land.
Earlier this year, Morrison’s Farm owner Don Morrison announced he was retiring, and looking for, as Young put it, “the right person to lease the farm; someone who would grow food as he has been growing food, someone he could mentor.”
Since taking on that role (under a three-year lease), Young said he has enjoyed the balance of managing the farm’s operations while learning from Morrison’s expertise.
“I’m finding the personal stake of being my own boss while also having a mentor is a wonderful combination,” he explained. “I’ve always been happiest when I’m covered in good organic dirt.”
Young said it is an unusual situation. While many people lease farmland, it is relatively uncommon for tenants to work with a mentor. However, having a teacher on site can be tremendously helpful in a line of work in which experience is worth its weight in gold.
“He can be my brain when I need him to be; it’s a great transmission of knowledge and wisdom to have a farm keep going, rather than disappearing,” said Young. “A good farmer is basically a genius. They’re climate scientists, soil scientists and animal husbandry experts. They keep a lot of balls in the air to make a good farm possible.”
The Wildwood farm, located at the end of Sutherland Avenue, comprises just over an acre of land. The plot includes 3,500 square feet of greenhouse space and produces mainly organic vegetables according to biodynamic principles.
“Anything and everything you would see in any good produce section; quite a full array that follows the seasons,” said Young. Although Young said he has always had an interest in growing food, his professional background was primarily in politics and advocacy. After moving to Powell River in 2015, the farmer said he long hoped to carve out a living in organic farming.
However, he said economic and logistical obstacles made such a career move almost impossible.
“It’s been a dream for a long time,” he added. “The challenge is how do you get in if you don’t have the capital to come up with land and everything needed to support even a small-scale enterprise.”
Once Morrison’s Farm opened up for lease, Young saw an opportunity to pursue his passion without taking on the sizable risks involved with starting up a new farm from scratch.
“To be able to walk into an operation that’s fully established with its brain still there, without having to buy the land, buy the equipment, build the shed, build the greenhouses, I have far less risk than I would,” said Young.
Morrison said Young is adjusting well to the ins and outs of the farm, which is much larger than the projects Young had previously worked on.
“He’s getting a good grounding of a bigger system,” said Morrison. “He’s a smart guy and a hard worker, so I think he’ll let it evolve with him. He’ll make it his own.”
As well as relishing the chance to spend his days covered in organic dirt, Young said he is delighted to have forged a close working bond with his mentor.
“That relationship is a rare one in life,” said Young, “and I feel very fortunate to have found one.”