Farmer Friday: The farm behind YYC Growers’ operations

By | April 6, 2018

Grand Trunk Veggies is farmed by Kye Kocher and Laura-Leigh McKenzie. The farm is 5 years old, and is an urban farm based out of the West Hillhurst neighbourhood that formerly went by the name Grand Trunk. The farm focuses on salad greens, and even has dishes named after it at restaurant Last Best, a restaurant that truly understand supporting local farms.

The off season has always been a busy time for both us. Historically, I (kye here) has worked a variety of jobs to maintain off-season income from Sunnyside Natural Market  to running my own tutoring business, as well as, acting as President to YYC Growers. This season, however, our lives took a different turn after we made an offer to YYC Growers to work full-time on the business management side of the company.

YYC Growers has grown a lot in its 5 short years. Expanding from the initial 6, urban-farm only, members to 19 rural, urban and micro farms, and officially incorporating as a coop has allowed YYC Growers to sell a healthy volume of produce for its member farms, but as a largely volunteer driven company, handling operations became challenging as we’ve grow. Because YYC Growers is determined to confront two major issues in our food system: farmer empowerment and customer education, and create the best experience for both sides of this exchange, the volunteer managed business couldn’t operate at the level required. We took on the role of building better operations and securing sales outlets at the sake of our own farm. It was certainly a sacrifice, but it’s a wonderful sacrifice to be able to make.

Since our own farm had to be downsized considerably, this February, when we’d typically be ordering seeds and intensively mapping and spreadsheeting our planting plan for our 1/3 acre farm, we’ve instead been meeting with the farmers, accountants and coordinating seeds and starts from the other member farms of YYC Growers. It’s been a very different winter.

The work has proven exciting and rewarding though. Initially we were quite concerned that switching focus away from the farm would leave us feeling lost. But YYC Growers is such an amazing company, and the work the Coop is doing completely aligns with our own vision of a better world, with better food and better supported small-scale farmers. In addition, not having to juggle multiple jobs has allowed us more free time. This winter we managed to do what we love—ski—a lot more than any other season.

Because I wrote this, and Laura-Leigh is shy, I’m going to detail all the amazing things LL does that the world should know about:

Laura-Leigh is the detail focused, organized planner. Without her, YYC Growers would tear apart at the seams. Whether it’s making sure a customer is taken care of or writing a schedule for several months of Social Media content, or handling payments from our amazing customers, Laura-Leigh skillfully ensures things are well planned and smoothly executed. I couldn’t do this job without her. Her ability to stay focused on the details is critical to running smooth operations. So, thanks so much LL. You’re the best, and all the farmers know that you’re the main gear in this machine.

 

 

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