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Young farmers take the rural life online
As young people everywhere put their lives on display on networking websites, some Metchosin farmers are using social media to share the rural life with city dwellers.
Heather Ramsay, 28, was living in Vancouver before taking an apprentice at Uminami Farm, where she now spends long days working alone in the fields.
"It was a struggle to adjust to not seeing people," she said.
Already a casual blogger, Ramsay started posting entries about her time on the farm to keep her friends and family updated. And because the 15-year-old farm hasn't joined the online world with a website of its own, her blog also attracted attention from Uminami customers.
"People interested in local food want to know the story behind their vegetables," Ramsay said. "Knowing I have a wider readership gives me more incentive to write."
This season, her second with Uminami, Ramsay has chronicled the growth of her greens through a colder-than-usual spring and shared her experiments with watering techniques. Recently she wrote about planting seeds for a winter harvest in the hight of summer.
"It can be hard to find the time (to blog) when there's so much that needs to get done around the farm," Ramsay admitted.
But as any entrepreneur knows, holding a presence online is becoming an expected part of doing business.
Since taking charge of the Sea Bluff Farms, Adam Saab, 29, has pushed the 30-year-old farm into the digital age, opening a company Facebook, Twitter and BlogSpot account.
He's currently finalizing logos and design to launch the farm's first official website.
"People used to want to come out and see the farm, but now they can just look at photos online and see what we're doing," Saab said.
"It's a way to nurture relationships with clients, which any small business needs to do to stick in people's mind."
The farm blog centres around its Bluff Box program, which delivers seasonal vegetables to homes in Victoria each week. Saab posts weekly recipes using box ingredients, including suggestions from his subscribers.
"This is all on top of the regular farm work," Saab said. "It's usually after the sun goes down that I have time to post."
In the off season, Ramsay and Saab also moderate a Google group of about 30 local farmers, dubbed the Metchosin Farm Hub. They currently use it to organize and promote social events, such as potlucks and harvest celebrations for volunteer workers on all the area farms.
But they hope it could develop into a tool to stay connected with the neighbours year-round to ask advice or give warning or new pests that may be affecting crops.
"It can really become whatever people want it to be" Ramsay said. "We just started it as a way to feel less alone out here."
Farmers in or near Metchosin who want to join the group can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Rensay's blog at heatherxenia.wordpress.com or Saab's at bluffbox.blogspot.com.