British Columbia

B.C. boasts the highest proportion of female farmers in Canada, according to 2016 agriculture census

Young, urban female farmers may be the wave of the future, as more women are farming in B.C. than six years ago.

The overall number of B.C. farmers is down since 2011 but the number of women who farm is up

Elana Evans (left) and Maddy Clerk (right) operate City Beet Farm in Vancouver. (City Beet Farm)

A spot of sunshine at the end of a rainy week means a busy Friday afternoon for Elana Evans and Maddy Clerk who own and operate City Beet Farm in Vancouver. 

Evans is transplanting red cabbage and broccolini, with hopes of getting some Swiss chard ready for the ground, before the day runs out or the rain comes back. 

Evans and Clerk are among a group of women who have put B.C. at the top of the list when it comes to the proportion of female farm operators in the country.

"It's awesome to see. I think we can do a lot," said Evans with her phone on speaker while she kept on working.

Seedlings ready to be planted for 2017 growing season. (City Beet Farm )

B.C. farmers 

British Columbia had the highest proportion of female farm operators (37.5 per cent) in Canada in 2016, according to the latest Census of Agriculture released earlier this week. 

The number is up from 36.5 per cent in 2011.

Nationally, women accounted for 28.7 per cent of all farm operators in 2016.

"One of the big barriers for women farmers is simply land access and the affordability of land in the province right now," said Evans.

Evans, 25, and Clerk, 23, own no land.  

Urban farming and women 

City Beet Farm is a commitment between the two farmers and a community of homeowners.

The pair grow a wide diversity of vegetables and flowers on 16 properties in the city. 

Homeowners receive a weekly box of vegetables in exchange for the use of their land.

Lettuce heads growing on the front lawn of one of 16 homes where City Beet Farm trades vegetables for use of the land. (City Beet Farm)

The rest of the vegetables are sold through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which means members pay for their vegetables in advance of the season. 

"I would say the majority of smaller scale, organic farmers around this area are women," said Evans. 

"It's actually amazing to me." 

Good support 

Farming, traditionally, may be a man's world, but Evans says urban farming doesn't come with old boys' club challenges and barriers for women.  

"At least not in my experience. Perhaps, maybe in larger scale agriculture you might see that," she said. 

Evans and Clerk are best friends who met while tree planting. 

They bought City Beet Farm in 2016 from two other women who founded the company four years earlier. 

"They're now mentoring us, while looking to buy land rurally and start their own farm outside of an urban context," said Evans. 

There were 26,430 farmers in B.C. in 2016, according to the census, down 11.7 per cent from 2011.

Evans says that makes the news about female farmers "really inspiring."

"I think it's terrific," she said. 

Maddy Clerk and Elana Evans build a small greenhouse for starting their seeds. (City Beet Farm)


Belle Puri


Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields. Belle contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where she investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.