Name, current job title, company, website — if you have more than one job, you can put down all of them
- Katie Robinson
- Farmer at Rise Over Run Farm
- Casual Dietitian at Ridge Meadows Hospital
- Cohort year: Richmond Farm School 2012
Why did you decide to enroll in Farm School?
I had been looking to fill a gap in my work and interests when I came across an article in Edible Vancouver about Richmond Farm School. I signed up learn and see where that took me. At that point, I really had no intentions of starting to farm.
What background (education, training or experience) did you have before entering farm school?
At that time, I had an undergraduate degree and a few years working as Registered Dietitian. I had very little gardening experience - I had just started a small veggie garden in our back yard the summer before!
How many years of the Incubator Program did you do? What type of operation was/is it?
Myself and two other grads rented land in the incubator program for 3 years and started Three Feet Below. It was primarily a canning CSA and we sold our goods at farmer’s markets. We grew a mix of vegetables, as well as strawberries and rhubarb which we made into many different products. From jam to salsa to ferments, we made a lot! Once we left the incubator program each of us started new ventures but we passed on the Three Feet Below business to the 2015 grads who have turned it into a co-operative still based at the Richmond Incubator farm.
What were/are the most valuable aspects of doing an incubator plot?
The resources we had access to on the incubator plot were so valuable. From tools to teacher/mentors to other new farmers to good farm land (that needed little prep work and had access to irrigation) made all the other challenges of starting farming way more manageable!
What are some of the most valuable lessons learned from practical, on-farm training through the farm school?
The farm school courses were a great introduction to so much valuable information and truly the most fun learning environment, but I’d say the majority of the skills and lessons learned happened in the 3 years when we ran a business on the incubator plot. Here, we had to figure out a lot of stuff. We looked back at our notes, and asked lots of questions. We felt so thankful to have access to our teachers and resources from farm school days. .
How has Farm School helped you obtain/excel in your current career path?
It gave me the confidence and resources to pursue farming. It connected me with like minded folk who were such a great support and also pushed me. My Three Feet Below farm partners, Ashala and Esther, played a huge role. For me, working with others, especially in those early days was crucial. Ultimately, farm school allowed me to keep working and also pursue an interest that then lead to a change in career path.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your current position/career path?
Life/work balance is definitely the most challenging. As it is with any new small business, there is so much work involved especially in the first few years to set up the business and farm operation. When Josh, my husband, and I aren’t working our off-farm jobs, we are working on the farm. We don’t have a lot of time for much else which is a sacrifice. But luckily this is also one of the most rewarding parts because we get to work on it together and see the ‘fruits of our labour’ over the years to come.
What was your favourite course and why?
Market Crop and Business planning. I found these courses had the most practical skills needed to start farming. In my year, each course was taught by a farmer (Kareno Hawbolt of Sweet Digz and Chris Bodnar of Close to Home Organics) and they each added so much value and mentorship.
What is one advice you would give to prospective students?
Sign up for farm school! Even if you aren’t sure where it will take you, you’ll learn a ton and have the best time. It’s one of the best decision I ever made.
What does farming mean to you?
To me, farming means so many things…. understanding and working within the parameters of the seasons, a commitment to lifelong learning & hard work, eating & appreciating the best food!