A young Langley farmer joked about being dressed up as she received a chamber of commerce Business Excellence award.
“I can’t believe I made it up here in high heels, I’ve been wearing gum boots for the last three years,” said Kendall Ballantine.
Ballantine, owner of Central Park Farms, accepted the Under-40 businessperson of the year award at Cascades Casino late last week.
“A big thank-you to our community, who is the only reason that I’m able to do this,” she said.
“Supporting small-scale agriculture is such an important thing in our community.”
Ballantine who grew up in Brookswood, started her career in the corporate world, never imagining that farming would become such a huge part of her identity.
After meeting her partner, Jay, who was once a commercial farmer, Ballantine’s interest in where her groceries came from took root and began to grow.
“I started to learn a lot more about farming and the type of meat I was supporting.
“I was going to boutique grocery stores and buying the very expensive meat, and unfortunately for me, Jay knew exactly which farms that meat was coming from and was able to clarify that it wasn’t what I was thinking.”
She said she was under the false assumption that buying more expensive chicken would mean those chickens had access to the outdoors.
With the realization that the food industry is not always what one imagines, Ballantine decided to provide for herself.
“I convinced Jay to let me start raising meat myself.”
On a piece of defunct farmland that Jay owned, Ballantine set to work raising her first coop of chickens.
“He set me with 500 birds to start. I think he was pretty confident if I did that many, I’d never do it again.”
With fresh chicken on hand, Ballantine said her business ‘snowballed’ thanks to word-of-mouth. Eventually she quit her corporate job and committed to farming full-time.
“We went from just chicken, to pasture-raised pork and grass-fed beef.”
The farm didn’t thrive overnight. Ballantine said there were many hurdles she didn’t expect including high land value, the cost of producing food, government policies and the process of selling to consumers.
“I never fully understood it until I was submerged in it.”
Central Park Farms is primarily run by Ballantine and her mother. Her partner, Jay, and his two children also help out.
“It’s definitely the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it’s definitely the most fulfilling,” said Ballantine.
As demand increased, Ballantine purchased 160 acres of land in Rock Creek that will become a beef operation in the spring.
Central Park Farms will remain at the Langley location.
Ballantine said despite the hard work, many positive changes have come from leaving her corporate job for life on the farm.
“I just love interacting with our community.
“I love seeing all the other farmers and everyone working together. I think the biggest shift is on supporting small local business.
“Everyone’s in a good mood when they are coming to a farmers’ market to shop.”
For up and coming young farmers, Ballantine recommends seeking out resources and help from the local farming community.
“Get in there and join as many farm groups, like Young Agrarians and B.C. Young Farmers, (as possible).”
More information about Central Park Farms and where to find their products can be found online: www.centralparkfarms.com