Kelowna-based urban farmer blueprints his path to success

Behind tidy rows of bagged veggies and herbs, Kelowna’s Curtis Stone looks like any number of the vendors at the farmers’ market ...

Situated behind tidy rows of bagged veggies and herbs, Curtis Stone looks like any number of the vendors at the Kelowna Farmers’ Market—a source for healthy local food, at a reasonable price.

What his inauspicious Saturday digs don’t indicate, however, is that he’s a man whose time has come.

Stone has been singing the praises of urban farming practices he uses to make a living for years.

He’s been a fixture with local news organizations looking for an angle on a worldwide phenomenon and a guest speaker on the topic at forums across the globe.

Now he’s adding author to his list of accomplishments, with a book set to be released next month.

“I’ve written a technical manual intended to be a blueprint for what I do on my farm because there’s a lot of interest around the world,” he said Saturday, as people milled around his stall at the farmers’ market.

“People look at my farm, because it’s profitable for its size, and think, ‘I want to do that.’”

With 1/3 of an acre, Stone takes in $70,000-plus in seasonal returns.

“That’s unheard of in farming, and that’s really what the book is about—production and business methods of urban farming,” he said.

His particular method to urban farming takes a leap from the Spin Farming method he once was an instructor of, going into deeper detail about how to set up irrigation systems, turn over land and find a steady supply of customers.

It’s a message he believes many will want to hear not only because of its financial returns, but also because of the precarious place western civilization has found itself in.

“There has never been a time in history that we know of, where there have been fewer farmers in the world,” he said.

“Fewer than two per cent of people know how to farm, and the average age of a farmer is 60 years old…Farmers are dying and there are no people to replace them.”

The replacement issue comes down to the fact that becoming a farmer is increasingly expensive.

The challenge for new farmers, he explained, is surmounting financial hurdles. Land, especially in B.C., costs a mint and supplies required to farm are also cost-prohibitive.

“So I have shown people that you don’t need to buy land…get that whole thing out of your head, that’s the first barrier we get past,” he said. “Then we look at scaling down the farm and concentrating on profitable crops and crops that grow quickly using small-scale infrastructure.”

With that method, a person can start a farm on $5,000 and turn it into a growing business every year.

It’s a method that would look different in each area it’s applied.

For Stone, the restaurant industry is where he finds the most steady source of income, but in other cities there are other methods.

“It’s not saying there’s a specific blueprint, it’s showing examples of direct consumer revenues because that’s where the farmers get the most returns,” he said.

The book, which took Stone 18 months to write, was published by New Society Publishers and will launch at an event at the Black Box theatre, behind Kelowna’s Community Theatre, on Nov. 6. The event is free, features several speakers, and starts at 7 p.m.

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