A recent survey done by the University of Manitoba shows that 55% of new farmers in Atlantic Canada are women! We spoke to 3 young female farmers to learn more about what it’s like to pursue a career in farming here in Nova Scotia. Courtney, Jocelyn and Susan each shared their unique farming story, tips for other new, young farmers, and the shifting perception on food.

Jocelyn Durston, Seven Acres Farm:
Jocelyn and her partner Chris own Seven Acres Farm in Canning, NS. Find them at the Tantallon Village Farmers’ Market & Wolfville Farmers’ Market.

Jocelyn - 7 Acres FarmQ: What is your favorite spring crop to grow?

JD: Our favourite annual crop is tomatoes. More specifically, it’s fancy, weird, delicious, heirloom tomatoes! Last season we grew almost 40 different varieties – selling seedlings early in the year for home gardeners to enjoy and then bringing a bountiful variety of our farm-grown tomatoes to market later in the season.

Q: In what ways do you see your farm business contributing to the local food movement in NS?

JD: We’re just entering our second season here as a farm in Nova Scotia, and although we’ll always be a small farm, we have plans to noticeably increase our productivity compared to last year. As we improve our skills and our tools, we hope to be able to have enough product to sell that we can increase our presence at more farmers’ markets, so in that way, we see our farm as being a small but valuable contributor to NS-produced food.

Q: How do you see farmers’ markets playing a role in rising the next generation of farmers?

JD: As new farmers, farmers’ markets play a crucial role for business exposure, as well as for exploring market trends and observing customer needs and spending habits. Nova Scotia has so many farmers’ markets, that new farmers have a great variety of venues and locations to choose from and to experiment with, which is important when trying to start a new business. Farmers’ markets offer a low-cost, low-pressure venue to build relationships with customers and explore market potential. I love farmers’ markets and likely wouldn’t be where I am as a self-employed farmer without them.

Q: What would you say to someone who thinks local food is ‘too expensive’?

JD: I think that we need to re-shape the conversation around food costs. We require food to survive, and we require healthy food to survive well, so the conversation should really be the quality of our food, not the cost of it. If someone thinks that local food is ‘too expensive’, I would encourage them to take an honest look at all the costs involved in the ‘cheaper’ food they can find elsewhere. How many miles did that food travel to get here? How many chemicals had to be used to preserve it and what did those chemicals do to the environment it was grown in and what did they do to the health value of that food?

When you buy from a farmers’ market, you are buying produce that has travelled a very short difference, has been harvested within the last few days (or maybe even that morning!), and, best of all, you can meet the farmer who grew the food and ask them about their growing practices so that you can feel comfortable about the unseen costs associated with your food purchase.

Courtney Webster, Olde Furrow Farm:
Courtney and her husband Adam own Olde Furrow Farm in Port Williams, NS. Find them at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market.

Courtney - Old Furrow Farm
Q: Tell us a bit about your farming ‘story’, such as how and why you started farming.

CW: I met my now husband via the internet in 2005. In 2010 he came to Florida where I lived and grew up. After 3 months we arrived back in Nova Scotia to take care of his grandmother who was recently diagnosed with dementia – she lived on a farm, which she managed to keep as a only mother of five! After about 6 months, a room opened up for her in a Wolfville care home. My husband’s parents purchased the farm and asked us if we’d be interested in farming and we said YES! Farming was a way for us to feel more human and gain self-value.

Q: How old were you when you owned your first farm or established your first farm business? 

CW: We were 21 and 22 when we first started farming Olde Furrow Farm as a family. About two years it transitioned to just Adam and I running all the farm operations and this year the farm will officially be in our names. For us this was a great transition – we had time to learn new things at a steady pace. For us the growing part is easy, the paper work not so much.

Q: What advice do you have for new or young farmers in Nova Scotia?

CW: Be organized. Be efficient. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and think because it will save you time in the long run since you won’t have to double back to correct a mistake. Have a notebook and make notes about EVERYTHING and look back at it every year! It will help you remember things that worked and didn’t work – you won’t remember it all. Also, when you’re steady – experiment. You will be amazed at the things that work for your farm and not for others. Find out for yourself what works!

Susan teBogt, Wild Pasture Farm:
Susan and her partner Fabian run Wild Pasture Farm in Lower Onslow, NS. Find them at the Truro Farmers’ Market.

Susan - Wild Pasture FarmQ: Tell us a bit about your farming ‘story’, such as how and why you started farming.

ST: I grew up on a poultry and dairy farm and knew that farming was always for me.

Q: How old were you when you owned your first farm or established your first farm business?

ST: I started my business when I was 18 on my family’s farm and then moved to my fiance’s family’s farm when I was 21. We do our own thing and then will be taking over the property in a few years.

Q: How do you see farmers’ markets playing a role in rising the next generation of farmers?

ST: Selling direct [to customers] at a farmers’ market is one of the best things a young farmer can do.

Q: What advice do you have for new or young farmers in Nova Scotia?

ST: Get lots of mentors and network! Also intern if you didn’t grow up on a farm or you want to farm something else.

Looking for a bit of inspiration? Take 5 minutes of your day to watch this visually striking short film: Why North America’s Youth Must Rescue Farming

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“We’re not really used to hard work. A lot of people – we didn’t grow up on farms, we didn’t grow up with farming families, and so we didn’t grow up necessarily getting up at 6 am and working everyday. If we go back a few generations, we begin to realize its in all of us, it’s in all our roots.”

Watch HERE

Did You Know?
The New Glasgow Farmers’ Market is an incubator for small homegrown business. To encourage young vendors, the market offers a $15 under 15 program that allows youth to come to market with items that they have made, baked or grown themselves at a special rate. For more information, click HERE.


Written by: Aldara Mackay, Strategic Projects Coordinator