A partnership between Tessa Stiven, Robin Sturley, Kelly Grainger, and Joan Kallis, Sweet Roots Farmers' Co-op is a new initiative in the Cowichan Region. Focusing on winter crops, the team of four local farmers has decided to pool their resources to market their produce collectively.
Finding inspiration in the work of successful enterprises, such as Saanich Organics, Robin and Tessa decided that a co-op model might suit their farm business needs and eventually sought partners.
Tessa, who is both a part time farmer and part time outdoor educator, sees this model as a way to help facilitate both her passions. In focusing on winter crops, she frees up some of her summer months (and not to mention a few of her weekends) to dedicate time to sharing her passion for the outdoors with school groups. Working collectively for this group means that the growers alternate which weeks they host the market stall, with two of the four members attending each market. Alleviating some of the administrative time required to host a market stall, this means more time can be freed up for farm activities.
Additionally, this model allows these farmers to address some of the risks of producing winter crops. As individual farmers, it can be difficult during the winter season to have a diversity of crops at a farm market booth, particularly if you’re just entering the farm business. Tessa shares that “You want to build your farm brand, and in doing so you want a robust market booth. Yet, due to frost or heavy winds and rains, the winter can be risky time of year to commit to market.”
In addressing this concern, the co-operative model provides these growers with a bit of insurance that between their four farms, they will be able to pool enough diverse crops, so that their market booth is always full. Featuring a bounty of root vegetables, onions, leeks, squashes, and leafy greens, the Sweet Roots Farmers’ Co-op might be onto something good!
To find out more about the fabulous four behind the Sweet Roots Farmers' Co-op, or to purchase some of their fabulous produce, stop by the Duncan Farmers' Market where you will find their stall until Christmas time.
Tessa Stiven & Robin Sturley
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