The Business of Urban Farming: Lessons I Learned from my Dad

by: Sara on 12/09/2015

It is the 9th Day of our 12 Days of #giving and today's post is an excerpt from the highly anticipated, just released book, T he Urban Farmer, Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land by Curtis Stone. Curtis is the owner/operator of Green Acres a commercial urban farm based in Kelowna, BC. Farming less than half an acre on a collection of urban plots, Green City Acres grows vegetables for farmers markets, restaurants and retail outlets. The Urban Farmer and all other books on our website are 50% until December 12th, just enter the code Save50 at the checkout. And don't forget your free chapter download, Crops Better Suited for the City, from The Urban Farmer, which you can find at the end of the blog. 

When I was growing up, I would spend the weekends with my dad who, when I was very young, worked as a traveling salesman. He took my little brother and me on the road for his weekend trips around southern BC. He’d take us into stores with him and introduce us to his customers, and we’d watch him make deals and shoot the breeze with people from all walks of life. I remember always being fascinated by all the different and sometimes eccentric characters we met. Later on into my teens, my dad bought a small fish and chips restaurant, and a year or so later expanded in into a couple of nearby towns. My first job was at 14, working for my dad in his restaurants. I would work at the three different locations as a dishwasher, and he’d take me wherever he went. At a very young age, I got a sense of what it was like to be an entrepreneur, and for this I’m ever grateful to my dad for teaching some fundamental things to me.

Today, I count myself lucky to have been brought up around all that. My dad didn’t have much; when he was running the restaurant, he had far more debt than was manageable. I learned through watching him that if your expenses outweigh your income, you’re in danger.

In my dad’s later years, he pursued a dream he had had since he was really young. He became a barber and opened his own tiny shop. He worked for himself all the way until he retired. He didn’t make tons of money doing this, but he was happy. He felt a sense of purpose with it. I have always admired him for doing exactly the opposite of what society tells us to do: you must grow and expand constantly! He found happiness by doing the opposite.

I see so many farmers struggle because they fail to see their farms as businesses. Often they carry so much ideology with them going in that they think there is only one way to do something, not recognizing that there are some ideas that are universal to all businesses, small farms included. All my life, my father hammered some basic principles about running a business into my head, and these have helped me beyond measure. I still hold these as critical to running a business or a farm:

1. If your expenses outweigh your income, you need to change something.

2. When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. A handshake is a done deal.

3. A deal is not a deal unless both parties are absolutely happy with it.

4. If you make a mistake with a customer, you make it right by making it better than right.

Please enjoy this free Chapter download, Crops Better Suited for the City, from The Urban Farmer.



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