Case Study – Three Sisters Farm

As one of my UBC Farm Practicum assignments, I took a look at the Three Sisters Farm, in Gibsons, BC, on the Sunshine Coast, which I had the opportunity to visit in April of 2013. I chose this farm because of the scale, the mixed animals and vegetables, and the different marketing methods. For another overview of the farm, see the great blog post from the Compost Diaries. All pictures are credited to Jenn Upham.

Farm Basicspic ppt

Three Sisters Farm is a 3 acre farm, cared for by UBC Practicum alumni Katy, her partner David, and her mother, Joan. Approximately half an acre is under mixed vegetable cultivation, and they had 3 goats and 70 laying hens when I visited in April, one of the goats being a week-old adorable kid named Clarence.

At Three Sisters, they focus on what they love, and clearing the land is powered by humans, goats and chickens. Due to the remote nature of the Sunshine Coast, they are able to have an on-farm slaughtering license, which reduces costs, and they never have enough eggs to meet the local demand.

Marketing and Sales

Three Sisters Farm has 3 main outlets for their products – a farm stand, farmers’ markets, and the Gibsons Farm Collective. Of these three, the collective interested me the most, as this is not one of the more common ways that small scale farmers are marketing their products, and it works very well for them. The collective is made up of three farms in Gibsons, and they sell through an online system, putting up a list of available products each week, and taking orders from customers by a specified day. The collective runs 10 months of the year, and is the biggest sales outlet for Three Sisters farm. In fact, the bed and breakfast that we stayed at in Gibsons ordered their eggs and vegetables from the collective.

The Nitty GrittyIMG_3244

The soil on the farm is glacial till, recent forest cover, with lots of coarse organic material, large clay deposits and uneven soil – some gravely, some clay. The farm uses some organic-approved soil inputs to balance soil acidity and fertility, and is increasing the use of their own compost for soil improvement. The rocky, acidic soil in this area is definitely a challenge, along with the challenges posed by a forest-covered piece of land, and planting in newly cleared soil. But after four seasons, the farm is well established within the community, and they are finding the right balance of crops that works well for their soil, climate and passion. Future plans include a fruit orchard.

Advice for a Future Farmer

In putting together this case study, Katy had some great advice for me:

  • Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to spend most of my days doing?’  Then try growing those.  Learn from farms that grow them well.
  • Try growing the things you want to grow in many different ways and in different locations on your farm.
  • Look at what there is a demand for in your area. If it matches what you want to grow, try to meet it.
  • Work very, very hard and don’t feel bad about it.  Pour all your energy into your farm dream.  Eventually after all that hard work, it will start to give back and it will make you happy.
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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by The Editors of Garden Variety on January 26, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Sounds like an intriguing place!

    Reply

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