By Nicola Ryan
A farmer’s work is never done, and no one knows it better than Krista Chatman. Krista’s the owner and operator of Three Mile Ridge Farm in Lethbridge, NL. With a blend of traditional intuition and modern savvy, she’s transformed this once dormant farm into a bustling social enterprise.
“It’s what I know. I know farming,” she says simply. “The farm I own and operate is where I was born and raised. It’s a family farm. My grandfather, William Reader, was the original owner back in the 1950s. I’ve been falling asleep in the tractor since I was two,” she adds with a laugh.
Today, Three Mile Ridge is a bustling 81 acres of gently rolling fields that are filled in the summer months with a bounty of fresh produce. It’s hard to imagine that for some 30 years the farm had been lying dormant - until Krista made up her mind to bring it back to life. “I was taking care of my grandparents and raising my children, and I just looked out back [and thought], I can do this. I can just go do this!” she recalls. “So that’s exactly what I did."
“I started off on my own in 2007, with my son on my hip, literally, digging up the ground,” she laughs. “When I grew a successful crop in my third year, when I made actual money, I went and did an online business management course. I did that so it could help me plan better around what it was I was doing. So I got the education for managing the business itself, and the knowledge from farming comes from years of watching it. I brought my husband in with me - I’d say around nine years ago he came on board - and I made him partner and we’ve been at it ever since.”
As any farmer will tell you, farming is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.
“In a typical day for us, during our morning coffee, my husband and I will discuss the day’s chores and what we have to accomplish that day. We’ll have planned ahead you know, a week in advance or a month in advance, on what needs to be accomplished. Our coffee is every single morning a business meeting, but it’s our life because we live what we do.” The rest of the hours in the day are full of hard work: planting, weeding, watering in the summer; harvesting, processing and preserving in the fall.
“We grow all the normal crops that you get - carrot, turnip, cabbage and potatoes. We also grow large varieties of different things. We grow red, yellow and striped beet; spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash; lots of zucchinis, yellow and green zucchini… We also grow in containers in the greenhouse, and we do the normal peas, beans, tomatoes, all of that stuff,” Krista says.
While farming comes naturally to Krista, so does the drive to share her family’s passion with others. The farm hosts Farm to Fork food tours from August to October, where visitors can pick their own fresh vegetables, cook them up in the cookhouse, and enjoy a meal by the private pond. “We do a farm culinary tour,” Krista says, sounding excited. “Not a lot of farms around here actually do tours, but we love what we do and we love sharing with people and encouraging them to grow their own food. We can take groups of up to 10 people. I give every person their own reusable bag and we walk around the farm. It’s about an hour’s walk to every field, and we dig up the fresh vegetables that we’re going to eat.”
While the COVID pandemic put a temporary damper on the tours, Krista found other ways to keep Three Mile Ridge active in their community. They offer their fresh vegetables for sale at farmers markets and their on-site store, and supply produce to local chefs and restaurants. They also participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, “which is basically a subscription for vegetables,” Krista explains. Members pay up front to secure their share, and we then use the money to buy seeds and equipment and get food growing. Then, each week, beginning in mid-August to late October, we provide fresh, local vegetables to our members.”
In addition to all her hands-on farming duties, Krista knows that running a farm in the 21st century requires an online social media presence to interact with people. “I wanted to expand the business a little bit more, so I joined NLOWE [Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs] and became a member,” she explains. “I started going to meetings and networking events and workshops that they used to host. There were social media workshops, and how to build your brand workshops and things like that, and I took it all in. They were very helpful.”
Krista approached growing Three Mile Ridge’s online presence in the same way she tackled the farm - with an independent, hands-on approach. “A lot of business owners don’t have the time to sit down and do [social media], but I can’t afford not to do it,” she says. “If I don’t do social media, then the world won’t know we exist. That’s the only way right now for us to market things.”
Krista built their website herself and posts content to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. She also offers farm experiences through AirB&B, Atlas Obscura and Workaway Cultural Exchange to encourage visitors. It’s a thoroughly modern way to mix traditional farming with new tools. “My father says ‘What are you doing that for?’ and I’m like, ‘You’ll understand later when we get the bookings!’” she laughs.
Three Mile Ridge Farm is proud to grow healthy food that feeds families, and Krista is absolutely in her element - carrying on the family tradition and planting seeds for success for years to come.
Take a video tour of the farm and learn more about Krista and her family business by visiting ThreeMileRidge.ca or Facebook.com/ThreeMileRidge.