Living Off the Land – Rake & Radish Farm: Healthy Harvest in Hand

by Jo Barnes | photos by Kathryn Alvarez Photography –

While many people started backyard veggie gardens during the pandemic, Saanich’s Ardeo Mann decided, at the age of 23, to start an actual farm!

The half-acre Rake and Radish Farm on Cordova Bay Road had its beginnings right when the entire country seemed to shutting down with Covid precautions.

“It was March 2020 when I signed the lease for my land and then the pandemic lockdown happened!” shares Ardeo, adding with a laugh: “I had a bare field, and I had a moment of ‘Oh wow, do I go ahead with this?'” The answer was an emphatic “Yes!”

Since signing the lease for the land, Ardeo has worked tirelessly to transform the half-acre plot into a thriving market garden. Rake and Radish Farm produces a wide variety of vegetables including carrots, kale, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, cabbage, beets, lettuce, salad greens, peas, beans, corn, and of course the namesake radishes. In addition, Ardeo grows sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, statice and strawflowers.

Produce is distributed to Ardeo’s growing list of clients in small and large size harvest boxes which can be picked up on site or from a Fernwood location. The response has been very positive and, as Ardeo shares, the opportunity to feed a diverse group of customers throughout the community has been satisfying. “At first, 25 people had signed up for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes. They signed up quickly, and in the end, I had 50 households.”

Ardeo’s dream of becoming a farmer goes back to childhood and is something that has only intensified over time. “I’ve wanted to be a farmer since I was 10. My friends and I would say to each other ‘Let’s have a farm when we grow up.’ It was like a game that we played. The idea, though, stuck with me.”

As a teen, Ardeo began reading and researching about organic methods and shared these findings in school projects. After grade 12, an opportunity came up to do a farm internship on Salt Spring Island where Ardeo spent a season learning about growing vegetables and farmers’ markets. Later, a three-year position at City’s Edge Farm provided another opportunity for Ardeo to further develop skills and knowledge under the mentorship of owner Sol Kinnis. “I learned so much about production,” says Ardeo. “Sol was really great. In fact, she came out to look at the field where I am presently, and she helped me with sourcing items like organic fertilizer and irrigation parts.”

Starting a farm can be a daunting task at any time. However, the arrival of the pandemic brought even more challenges such as strained services and supply and equipment issues. “It was a hay field, and there was a lot of work to be done to convert it into a vegetable farm,” says Ardeo. “My friends came and helped me with building fenceposts and putting up deer fencing. We had to socially distance ourselves, but it was great to see each other during that stressful time.”

With plenty of research, determination and hours of hands-on labour, Ardeo has met each challenge along the way, including installing new greenhouses and irrigation systems. “I looked at a lot of YouTube videos. My friends and I built two greenhouses. They are really important for the seedlings and especially the tomatoes because they need a good head start,” relates Ardeo. “I constructed all the driplines by myself. It was a lot of work, but it provided focus during the pandemic.”

Farming approaches at Rake and Radish Farm include low till methods, avoidance of pesticides, composting, minimal use of plastic on fields, and cover cropping, all with the goals of helping to preserve biodiversity, enhance the soil and promote sustainability. The work is physically demanding and farm life poses other challenges like pests and weather. Ardeo admits that the journey hasn’t always been easy.

“In the first year, there were so many flea beetles at one point that I needed to figure out what to do and the best course of action. I was almost wishing I had a desk job when my asthma was triggered by the wildfire smoke.”

As well as earning an income from the land, Ardeo relishes the rewards of hard work and the benefits of working on this land. “I really like being able to see tangibly what I have done. I love to see how many people I am feeding. The farm is tucked up in the wood, and it’s so quiet. There is a family of owls here, and eagles soaring overhead. I get to experience so many special moments.”

It’s been a winding road since the lease was signed, but this intrepid young farming entrepreneur is ready, with rake in hand, to take on whatever lies ahead in the farming journey.

For more information visit

Shopping Cart