Enderberry Farm Ripens with Help from Self-Employment Program

Brittany Bennett reaches down to pluck a juicy, red berry from a leafy green patch and looks beyond to the rows of late-season strawberries that will remain ripe until mid-July. The distinctive plateau of the Enderby Cliffs, formed by lava flows in the early-Cenozoic period, provides a breathtaking backdrop.

“We should have raspberries coming up soon as well as blackberries,” says Bennett. “Last year was our very first berry season. We expanded some more this year by planting more strawberries, table grapes, and this year we will also have haskaps.”

Between looking after her two-year-old child, Bennett can be found running the tractor, mulching soil, harvesting, and managing the farm-gate stand at Enderberry Farm, a certified organic farm she operates with her husband, Gavin Wright, and land share partners Emily Jubenvill and Owen Madden.

Bennett and Wright decided to get into the fruit business around the time her maternity benefits were about to end in early 2018. While she knew about horticulture and food technology, she didn’t know anything about operating a business. That’s when she decided to visit the WorkBC Centre in Enderby, where Case Manager Anita Suess recommended that Bennett enroll in the Self-Employment Program delivered by WorkBC Vernon.

“I am not an entrepreneur by any means, and I struggled with the marketing side of operating a business. The Self-Employment Program was great for that. Through workshops and doing up a business plan, it helped us get started and know what resources are out there,” says Bennett. “As Farmers, we are normally isolated, but when you are at a round table with other business owners, and in conversations about social media and marketing, it’s very valuable. We wouldn’t have been able to get as far as we have without the program.”

A Fruitful Journey

Originally from Hinton, AB, Bennett used to work as a heavy equipment operator for a coal mine before she moved to BC. She studied horticulture at Kwantlen University in Langley and later became an ISA certified arborist.

“I had health issues, which made me attuned to our food systems and how disconnected we are to our food,” she explains on her decision to change directions regarding her career.

Bennett met Wright, Jubenvill and Madden while working for the non-profit Edible Garden Project in North Vancouver.

“We did a couple of hiking trips together, and we realized we were ready to get out of the city. We were all looking for the same outcome, so we started searching for land. Gavin and I were interested in planting perennial fruit, as he had done some market gardening in the past,” says Bennett, adding a friend recommended a property, located on Springbend Road in between Enderby and Grindrod, after seeing it on a real estate listing.

“When we saw it, we knew this is it,” says Bennett.

Sharing the Land

Part of the growing trend of cooperative farming, Bennett and Wright, who is also an organic farm inspector, operate the berry side of Enderberry Farms, while Jubenvill and Madden operate the veggie side as a separate business.

“They started their business three years ago, while we started ours a year ago,” explains Bennett, adding that a duplex on the property allows the couples to have separate living quarters.

“We share all the infrastructure, including our tractor and the spring well water that we use for drinking and irrigating our crops.”

“There’s an added value of having land partners in that we can also cooperate on things such as sales,” adds Bennett. “With a baby, it hasn’t been realistic for me to get to the market. We sell our partners’ veggies at our farm-gate stand, while they take our fruit to the market in Revelstoke. It allows us to reach more marketing avenues.”

Watching Their Garden Grow

While their fruit business is starting to bloom, Bennett and Wright have a dream of selling and supplying tree fruits also to local cideries and distilleries.

“We planted 100 fruit trees in the fall of 2017 and every spring and fall we keep adding more, including apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries. We hope to see fruit in the next two-to-six years,” says Bennett.

Besides their farm-gate stand, which is open for veggie and berry sales Fridays from 2-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, Enderberry Farm also offers U-Pick strawberries by appointment. The farm will also be part of the Shuswap Food Action Society’s Open Farm Day on July 13, 2019. Tours of participating farms will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Self-Employment Program provides guidance and support through workshops and one-to-one coaching to those who want to start their own business or want to purchase an existing business. Contact WorkBC Vernon at 250-545 2215 ext. 233 for more information.