Blewett farm grows food access

Faced with the challenge of retaining staff for seasonal work, Bent Plow Farm was in search of a solution. The Trust subsidized their intern Sarah’s salary and now she has a permanent role as Lead Farm Hand.

4 minute read

Intern flourishes under local farm mentorship

Food access is front of mind in the Columbia Basin for many, who prioritize supporting local growers and eating fresh produce. Emma Sowiak and Scott Humphries of Bent Plow Farm in Blewett, BC, just west of Nelson, have been reaping what they sow since their first harvest season in 2018. They provide their community with a diverse range of organic goods, from leafy greens to an assortment of root vegetables, legumes and everything in between.

The couple harvested and sold 40,000 pounds of food in 2022 between their popular Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes and weekly table at Nelson’s Cottonwood Farmers Market from May to October. As a small-scale organic farm with a holistic approach, they prioritize building and feeding their soil, encouraging a diversity of wildlife and pollinators, minimizing their carbon footprint and preserving the local watershed.

Faced with the challenge of retaining staff for seasonal work, a common issue in agriculture, Sowiak and Humphries were searching for a solution. That’s where the Food Producer And Processor Career Internship Program came in; this funding from Columbia Basin Trust subsidizes up to 70% of an intern’s salary, specifically for seasonal or year-round career-focused positions that lead to permanent employment. It provided them the opportunity to hire Sarah Hudson as their Lead Farm Hand intern in March 2022. Sowiak and Humphries worked closely with Hudson in an eight-month mentorship, training her on a wide array of tasks.

“We have a seasonal business with the constant unknown of yearly staffing, so the internship grant allowed us to focus on finding someone who would be open to staying with us long term,” explains Sowiak. “Because Sarah was so keen to learn and really engaged with all the tasks, we were able to spend the time going through all our farm procedures from greenhouse management, bed prep, seeding, through to post-harvest handling and set her up to take the lead.”

Sarah Hudson’s first job in agriculture was on a Vancouver Island farm, where she fell in love with the work. She applied for the internship at Bent Plow Farm to further develop her skills and work toward the lifestyle she’s been cultivating since her childhood in the United Kingdom. There, her parents instilled their interests in food security, self-sustainability and community building.

“I was very willing to learn and work hard,” says Hudson. “I honestly loved the whole experience — Emma and Scott are very welcoming and generous with their time and we had a lot of fun too. They were looking for someone who wants to take on farming as a career and that’s where I’m headed. I eventually want to get a piece of land to start my own business supporting local food sustainability.”

Because they worked so well together, Sowiak and Humphries offered Hudson a permanent seasonal role. Ahead of their sixth growing season in 2023, they plan to focus on building up and improving the quality of the soil on their rocky, but flat and sunny, two-acre plot. They will experiment with innovative approaches like adding solar power to their garden and continuing to expand their business and bounty to feed Basin residents. “Farming is so rewarding — once you get the dirt under your fingernails, it’s really hard to stop,” adds Sowiak. “We feel really privileged to be able to provide food to our community, especially in our area, which is not self-sustaining in terms of food production. This internship program helped build and strengthen our business in a meaningful way and I feel really grateful that we’re able to improve food access in the region.”

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