The Cowichan Valley is a renowned food producing area. There are several challenges facing the agriculture sector including loss of agricultural knowledge and aging farmers. Historically, children of farmers were the ones to take over the operation, but in recent years, those children are choosing different careers away from the family farm. Recruiting new farmers is a challenge as they face barriers related to cost of land, lack of knowledge and farm business development support.
Spearheaded by the Cowichan Green Community Society, the Cowichan Agricultural Seed Hub supports the development of new farmers through a seed producing social enterprise. This enterprise serves as a training ground to transfer technical knowledge as well as help develop other aspects of farm business such as marketing and sales. The Incubator Seed farm develops new “seed farmers”, but the experience growing a wide range of crops needed for seed production also prepares these participants for other farm business opportunities. The project also enables participants to incubate their farm business concept, with access to land, equipment and startup resources to eventually launch their own farm business. Participants will be cycled through the program, with the expectation that they will have the required skills to launch their own farm business on completion.
Launched in 2016, the first cohort of participants graduated in early 2017. The newly created seed producing social enterprise has already won acclaim from the Social Enterprise Community, winning one of three prizes at the 2016 Social Enterprise Gala.