Liz: A Paragon for Risk, Growth, and Sustainability
Meet Elisabeth Chernichenko, better known as Liz, a modern day badass. I had the pleasure of interviewing this sustainability champion, who ditched her city life, used all her savings to move into a forest, and started her own organic farming business, Classic Eve Gardens.
“Please introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background!”
LIZ: “According to very few peoples’ standards am I considered regular. I guess I’m more regularly called ‘crazy… but in a good way.’ I grew up in a city named Brantford, Ontario. My family emigrated from Ukraine and chose Brantford as readily as choosing lottery numbers. So, I always felt like there was more to know and see, and as respectable as that place is, this sense of “there must be bigger things out there” always stayed with me.
After high school I moved to Vancouver, BC and worked with a few non-for-profit organizations focused on land conservation and environmental stewardship. But after learning that I would rather build something more proactive versus berating others for their environmental choices and finding BC too expensive to continue living in, I decided to move back to Ontario and further my education. I completed a diploma in News Media. But eventually I realized my creative spark wasn’t satisfied telling other people’s stories and I decided to make stories another way.”
“Tell me about ‘Classic Eve Gardens.’”
LIZ: “Classic Eve Gardens (CEG) is a part forested, part sandy, part dark soil, part waterfront lot, completely organic, market-gardener-sized farm (a small farm growing to sell at a farmer’s market) that I started. Myself being my only limitation. There is no electrical or water infrastructure, so everything now present in the farm came from an idea, then hard work, and then some trial and error until it was successful.”
“What drove you to start the business?”
LIZ: “After working on an organic farm last summer while still in school I decided to take up my friends’ offer of turning their newly inherited land in Quebec into my own farm. Without the capital to outright purchase my own land, this was an excellent way to get into the industry being a newbie. But my biggest drive was, why not?”
“What was the most difficult hardship you had to overcome?”
LIZ: “Sadly, the most difficult thing was overcoming the psychological and social barriers to get out here. Unfortunately, being single, city-born and raised, and a small statured female was a combination that, to many, is not the ideal person who should be doing something like this. There were some people close to me who either didn’t like or outright opposed the idea. To be able to stand tall, confidently, and follow through on this dream, was extremely difficult. I had to fight tooth and nail just to get here.
People who can’t see what you see or dream what you dream, will always be the most difficult barrier to overcome when you’re starting something new or different.”
“How is this a sustainable business?”
LIZ: “The not-so-secret reason that this business is environmentally sustainable is because of its market garden size. The direct market and high quality organic products in conjunction with a manageable size make it so that I can afford to use proper land stewardship that doesn’t stress the land beyond its limits. I don’t have the problems that large-scale farmers have.”
“What do you see Classic Eve Gardens becoming in the future, in terms of expansion?”
LIZ: “I see a lot of potential for this beautiful farm business. I have ideas. There are unused areas of the property that have a beautiful mix of acidity and sandiness that is ideal for fruit growing. Orchards of pears, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries: just berries.
Also, mushrooms. Which have always been geeky interests of mine. I’m obsessed with mycology like some are with Pokémon Go. Foraging is one thing, but I’d like to cultivate outdoor mushrooms.
The possibility to dehydrate and sell year round and ship distances is attractive to me. Greenhouses are something in the near future I would love to invest in, to get the season off the ground sooner with seedlings and extend it longer into the Fall/Winter.
In terms of long-term expansion it all depends on what I continually learn, which is essentially what farming is, continuous learning.”
“Tell me about the campaign you’re running now.”
LIZ: “This month I have launched a crowd funding campaign that will enable me to establish as a business. So basically, it’s a month long event that will allow me to collect small donations from people who like my cause. The initial costs of starting the business are steep, especially when you’re trying to get off the ground.
To be registered as a farm takes money. You then automatically start paying union dues, and to sell produce you need to buy memberships to farmer’s markets, which have added daily table costs. This crowd funding campaign is the tool to overcome these start-up hurdles. Once registered and paid up there are farm benefits and grants to move me forward toward my growth.
Hopefully people can see the potential of my efforts and give me their support. To become sustainable the first year will be the hardest obstacle so far. But it’s a goal I must reach and with help it is in sight and attainable. I am determined to see this business grow, just as I will as time moves forward.”