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'We garden so you don't have to.' Family turns passion into business

This summer Trinda and Adam Jocelyn started turning their gardens into a commercial operation, which they named Blue Arrow Acres.

ESTEVAN — Trinda and Adam Jocelyn have been gardening for most of their family life, but recently they decided it was time to take their passion to the next level.

This summer they started turning their gardens into a commercial operation. They named it Blue Arrow Acres, and the first fresh vegetables out of their garden were already available for sale this summer and fall.

"As our kids got older, we kept expanding our gardens. And people just kept saying, 'Why do you keep making your garden bigger?'" shared Trinda in the interview with the Mercury. "Then in 2020, the pandemic hit, and seeing all the shortages and food issues, it just seemed like something that was needed. And we've gotten lots of feedback from people that they were really interested in having food straight from the dirt to their table. So it just grew from there."

Blue Arrow Acres is located on 20 acres north of Estevan. The family moved to the acreage in the late 2000s. There they raised their three kids and multiple fur babies while homesteading and learning the ropes of acreage life. Gardening has been a part of both their lives in some way or another for many years.

The history of Blue Arrow Acres started with a single garden in the Jocelyns’ yard, put in when they first moved. A few years later they added a second garden and a third and a fourth, with plans to add at least a couple more and a greenhouse soon.

For the last couple of years, they were just giving the food they grow to people around them. And this summer it was the time to share the results of their passion for gardening even further.

"It was more of an experiment this year," Trinda said. "In August we decided let's just give it a shot and see what sells and what doesn't. We still shared some and we put some away for ourselves for the winter as well. But as we got going and selling, we just had so much good feedback from people. They're excited that there's local people providing food."

Trinda was introduced to gardening as a girl, helping her mom pull weeds and witnessing food being preserved. Adam grew up watching and occasionally helping his grandma and grandpa who were and are avid gardeners. They had a greenhouse out by Boundary Dam that focused on tomato and cucumber production. That greenhouse was later moved and became the Shand Greenhouse, Trinda said.

The Jocelyns have had a wealth of knowledge to draw on from those who have come before them on this journey, but they still wanted to further their expertise. Trinda signed up for and participated in the Market Garden Masterclass with Jean-Martin Fortier, who works in Quebec and is sharing his knowledge with market gardeners.

"He teaches a lot of the basic techniques. A lot of stuff I already knew, other stuff was like 'Oh, that makes sense.' It just helped with the ability to be productive and profitable and also provide the food," Trinda said.

A lot of what she has learned has been incorporated into how the farm is run. They opted for insect netting rather than spraying, optimizing through crop succession and rotation planning and managing weed control through natural practices that do not depend on spray or chemicals.

"Our goal is to provide delicious and nutritious, ripe and ready food, straight from our dirt to your plate," Trinda wrote.

This summer they grew most vegetables suitable for the southeast Saskatchewan climate, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, squash, onions and much more. Next year they plan to expand their offering even further.

Blue Arrow Acres is a low-till market garden. The Jocelyns spend time nurturing their gardens and developing a living soil, which is why they have chosen the low-till route. They put care into the soil so that it is able to share its abundance in the form of delicious and nutritious locally-grown food.

"There are lots of techniques that you can use to help prevent weeds before they start, like covering your garden for a few weeks before you plant. Weeds start to germinate and then they die off … There are lots of techniques to handle weeds," Trinda shared.

While they are not certified organic, they do base their farm on organic practices. They don't spray or use harmful chemicals. When it comes to fertilizers they look to nature for help, using compost and manure as the primary source of plant nutrition.

Adam and Trinda both have full-time jobs, and Blue Arrow Acres is their small side business. They are doing all the work in their gardens themselves. Trinda said that while it's a lot, for them it's like a retreat.

"We get off work and we'll go into the garden. That's our quiet time and place where we get to hang out and be together. This is something we love to do. It doesn't really feel like work," Trinda said.

"We garden so you don't have to."

Down the road, they hope to grow their market garden to a scale where they'd be able to offer employment opportunities, potentially to summer students or other people. But for now, they just hope to use their passion for gardening to provide local people, who don't love working with the dirt as much as they do, with tasty and fresh produce.

They plan to distribute their vegetables through the Estevan Farmers’ Market and Downtown Business Association Night Market next summer. Eventually, they also hope to have the product available for subscription and regular delivery on specific days.

"We're pretty excited about the whole thing, excited to be able to do it and to be able to share it with people around. We're looking forward to getting out there and getting to know people and bringing our passion to anyone who wants it," Trinda said.

More information about the business, their operation and product can be found on Blue Arrow Acres’ Facebook page.