Mike Kozlowski feels ready to put the knowledge he learned during his self-propelled Steel Pony Farm Tour last spring to use.
The 27-year-old Red Deer resident has spent the winter working on a business plan, crop planning, and preparing materials and contracts to start up his first farming operation on two acres of land near Fort Normandeau.
It’s a career path that the city-raised, business school graduate never anticipated.
“I was ready to, I don’t know, go work in downtown Calgary for some big company,” Kozlowski said with a laugh.
Now he is eager to sell his fresh produce this year at the Wednesday night Downtown Market as well as through a Community Supported Agriculture program.
He was inspired to learn more about food production after a trip to Africa in 2005 in which a Kenyan family was shocked to learn he didn’t have a farm of his own.
The conversation inspired him to spend the last four summers travelling to small-scale farms across the country, including the 15 in Alberta that he cycled to last year between April and July.
Red Deerians’ apparent hunger for more local food has Kozlowski believing now is an ideal time to start his farming career.
“People around here are talking about local food and they’re excited about healthy produce,” he said.
“I think part of it is confidence in my own skills, but another part of it is confidence that the community is really here to support this idea and other projects like this.”
Kozlowski will harvest 16 weeks worth of produce between late June and October, if the weather co-operates.
People can expect a few different crops — such as arugula, bok choy and summer turnips — but he promised a lot of more common vegetables as well.
He’s already seeded leeks, onions, tomatoes and thyme in a greenhouse, in addition to the garlic he planted in the fall.
Kozlowski will rely on his trusty “arsenal” of bikes and a trailer to transport the food to the Wednesday night market in an effort to further commit to sustainable living.
“A part of this whole movement is not just about local food and farming and that kind of thing. It’s about trying to find the way to rethink all of our consumptive habits.”
He also has eight spots remaining in the 30 spaces he set aside for his Community Supported Agriculture program.
Those who purchase shares in the program will receive a weekly box of fresh produce.
“I’m just really excited about continuing to raise the profile of local food,” Kozlowski said.
“I’m really hoping that I can invite other young people onto this farm to see what I’m doing, and to start that learning process so that maybe they can start their own operations in years to come.”
To learn more about the Steel Pony Farm Community Supported Agriculture program, visit www.steelponytour.ca.
Those interested in purchasing Community Supported Agriculture shares can do so by emailing Kozlowski at email@example.com.