Digby County is home to Nova Scotia’s youngest registered farmer.
Thian Carman, a grade eight student from Barton, has a few more chores than the average 14-year-old.
He has blueberry fields to mow and harvest, hay to cut and bale, maple syrup to tap and boil plus sheep and chickens and their eggs to look after.
“Usually young people work on their parents’ farm and they then take it over when they get older,” says Carman. “But since I started a new one, it’s in my name.”
The whole family helps out. His sister Meadow provided the name for Meadow Brother’s Farms and she and older brother Logan work for Thian.
“We are all his hired hands,” says mother Emily. “We were all up til midnight last night haying.”
Thian has registered his operations so he can qualify for the Farm Next program with the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board.
He still has to finish his Environmental Plan but says that will have to wait until after haying.
The Farm Next program provides up to $30,000 for new farmers, plus coaching in business planning and ongoing farm financial management advice.
Thian wants the loan to build a new chicken coop – he has 99 laying hens to house. He wants to expand his maple syrup operations from 200 taps to 1200 and set up a building for the boiling and bottling.
He also just bough a brand new 100-horsepower John Deere 5100 M utility tractor to replace his grandfather’s old Ford.
“It speeds me up,” he says. “ I can plow with a whole set of blades instead of just one, it has a loader, it has a cab which is nice in the rain and in the winter.”
Thian didn’t grow up farming – his grandfather Allen Thomas had a farm in North Range but the intervening generation took that land more towards Christmas trees and forestry.
Thian got interested in farming bit by bit.
He worked for Gilbert Doelle, an organic farmer in Gilbert’s Cove for three years, starting when he was seven.
“Next thing I knew he was growing a garden here at home,” says Emily.
He did a heritage fair project on oxen with Danny Haight and decided he wanted some sheep.
He has slowly been leasing up unused fields to cut hay.
He did a heritage project on maple syrup with Larry Goodwin and started tapping some trees.
“Next thing he’s telling me, ‘Mom we have to go to Springhill to pick up an evaporator.’”
He lost a few hay customers as the valley hay fields were drier and farmers there were able to cut earlier.
He says he can’t keep up with the demand for fresh eggs, the maple syrup sells itself too.
He took a month off school last year to boil sap.
“It was the best syrup season in a long time,” he says.
Thian intends to keep expanding the farm so that it will pay for college.
He wants to go the Agriculture College but isn’t sure if he’ll focus on animal husbandry (raising beef) or horticulture (growing blueberries).
His goals are, by the time he’s 50, to have 100 aces of blueberries, a barn with sheep and cows and more hay fields.
“I’d also like to get some wetland and throw a cranberry bog in there,” he says.
Whatever happens, his intention is to farm.
“You can make a living farming,” he says. “But you have to be careful and pick something that fits with where you live.”