In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.
After completing an Environmental Studies degree at UNBC, Cameron spent two years in local government and economic development before committing to a career in agriculture. Cameron has worked with farms, social enterprises and urban agriculture consulting firms in BC and his home province of Ontario.
Last winter, Cam returned to the Northwest to start his own business, Farmer Cam’s Foods, producing fresh vegetables for farmers markets and wholesale customers in the region.
In 2019 Cam participated as a contestant in the ThriveNorth Business Challenge where he received the title of Best New Business in the 18-28 age group. With an entrepreneurial attitude and unbridled stoke, Cam looks forward to growing his business.
Read on to learn more about Cam and how he got started!
It was a pretty exhilarating process, going from the semi-finals to the two days of practicing and pitching with the other entrepreneurs, and culminating in the final event. My favourite part was the public presentations because I got to share my vision and pitch my new business to people from my own community, who are now customers of the farm.
I felt good – nervous and excited, but also confident that my business pitch was a strong contender in the competition. It feels great to have won, and to celebrate that with supporters in the community that buy from me at the market or come to the farm.
Winning this type of competition reinforces the viability of my business plan, and bolsters my confidence and dedication going forward.
Farmer Cam’s Foods is a vegetable production business on rented land at Hidden Acres Farm and Treehouse Resort. I grow flavourful and nutritious microgreens year-round, and 30 different vegetables, herbs, and flowers from early spring until the following winter. Products include lettuce and salad mix, greens like kale and bok choi, root crops including carrots and radishes, and fruiting crops such as tomatoes and peppers.
I sell at the Skeena Valley Farmers Market every Saturday from May to October, and have started offering Tuesday night farmstand sales with a pre-order option. Wholesale orders from food box programs and local chefs have also been growing in recent weeks.
With Farmer Cam’s Foods, I hope to feed my community with delicious and nutritious foods, and demonstrate that running a profitable, ecological, locally-focused farm is possible.
I’ve always been drawn to the independence and creativity that entrepreneurship offers. After helping my older brother start his company and comparing the business models of the farms I had worked at or heard about, I was confident that I could manage my own operation.
My farm landlords had considered hiring me as their farm manager but decided they would prefer having me as an independent enterprise through a License Agreement on their property (with plenty of support along the way). I took the leap and returned to Terrace last winter to plan and prepare for the season, and registered the business in March 2019.
It takes a lot of courage and commitment to start your own business, but it gives you an opportunity to participate in the economy on your own terms. Entrepreneurs have the exciting and rewarding challenge of providing goods and services that align with their values, while balancing supply, demand, and profitability.
The lifestyle and recreation opportunities in Northern B.C. originally drew me here, and I’ve come to love the communities and individuals that inhabit this landscape. Terrace is the perfect confluence of recreational, agricultural, and musical opportunities for me, and I look forward to growing in this community.
Prioritizing the to-do list and maintaining routines are consistent challenges, and can have major impacts on the farm’s productivity. Buying supplies, planting the first seeds, transplanting those crops, and finally harvesting and selling have all been memorable milestones. Completing infrastructure projects like constructing a high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) have also been major accomplishments!
Do your research and decide what product and market you think you can make money from. Then, make some small sales to test that strategy and create some cash flow. Be flexible and pivot towards profitable products or services when you see trends from these exploratory ventures.
ThriveNorth has really helped me with refining my business plan, and developing the pitch helped me focus on the things that were truly important to me and my business. I enjoyed meeting the other finalists and discussing the realities, similarities, and differences of running a diverse range of businesses in Northern B.C.
The prize money from the Business Challenge will allow me to invest in tools and equipment that will reduce the labour hours required for common tasks such as weeding and harvesting, and enable me to operate more efficiently and profitable, in addition to providing a safety net for inevitable unexpected expenses. I am also building a walk-in cooler in my wash station to store fresh produce before delivery.
As new infrastructure is added to the farm, operations will become more efficient and streamlined, in the hopes that I will be able to further expand my business.