A Farm Of Her Own

Lydia Ryall calls her own shots on her farm.

CSA
CSA

A Farm Of Her Own

Lydia Ryall calls her own shots on her farm.

By admin

Very few people are adventuresome enough to start a farm from scratch when they are only 23. Lydia Ryall could have taken over her parents’ 18-acre greenhouse operation, but she wanted to start a farm of her own. So in 2009 after getting a degree in agriculture and a brief career as a civil servant with Alberta Agriculture, Ryall returned to British Columbia to farm. She rented 50 acres of land from her family on Westham Island, near Ladner, and launched Cropthorne Farm.

“Farming is a conservative business so it’s still not common for a young woman to be running a farm,” Ryall says. “My personality though doesn’t allow me take a back seat.”

Ryall grows a wide variety of vegetables and cut flowers that are sold directly to consumers through CSA baskets, a farm store, and farmers markets. Her business was so successful that she was earned the Outstanding Young Farmer award in 2014 for the British Columbia/Yukon region.

She built her operation around the huge demand for local, organic food and in-season vegetables in the lower mainland region. Her farm produces 150 CSA boxes weekly. Customers who pick up their boxes at the Cropthorne farm stand also have access to free “U-pick” flowers and pumpkins in the fall. Some of the crop is sold to area specialty stores, and she has plans to start selling winter squash and beets wholesale in the future.

Safe start. “Having my parents nearby made it very safe to try to start my business”, says Ryall. “I paid rent for the land right from the beginning. But I could borrow equipment and mom and dad have been willing to step in and help out, especially after they sold their greenhouse operation. Mom does the payroll, the books, and coordinates with the couriers.”

“Running a farm can be very stressful,” Ryall says. “When I first started out I was running around barefoot and trying to save every seed possible. I realized that wasn’t going to work. It’s a business! The families who work here rely on me for their jobs. I have to take it seriously.”

Ryall values her agriculture degree but wishes that she also had taken some business courses in college. Running a farm requires planning and strategic thinking; human resource issues can keep her up at night.

“The agriculture component is not easy, but you can learn a lot of it hands-on,” Ryall says. “Learning how to motivate employees, how to manage cash flow, are much more challenging for me than figuring out how much N, P, and K the field needs.”

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