When Kieran Poznikoff finished high school, farming was the farthest thought from his mind. He studied kinesiology for a year in university, but then the itch to explore and travel took hold, and he never returned for a second year.
The Ki Mana Acres owner did, however, find his true calling — and all it took was a trip to Nepal. He lived with a tribe in the Himalayan foothills for 35 days, working in exchange for board, helping with corn and millet crops.
“They had a fully rounded, sustainable farm,” said Poznikoff, who grows microgreens on his Erickson farm.
He’d done a previous work exchange in Italy, and later studied permaculture in Taiwan and on Hawaii, but the Himalayan experience stuck with him most strongly, and he realized the lifestyle fit well with his personality.
“I am by nature a provider,” he said. “I like making healthy food for people.”
Many who buy his products at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market, fruit stands and Pealow’s Independent Grocers are enjoying his efforts, and several restaurants serve Ki Mana Acres green in their menu items.
Doing so helped bring the 22-year-old back to his roots.
“When I was little, I ran around barefoot in the garden, and I separated from that in school,” he said.
He didn’t want to disappear into the mountains, though — like the Himalayan tribe he lived with — so in 2018, he started a market garden on his grandma’s Erickson property, and made regular deliveries of produce boxes to 25 families.
But with Nigel and Laura Francis’s Cartwheel Farm already providing a similar service, Poznikoff shifted his focus to microgreens, which require less growing space and are more nutrient dense than other produce.
“They’re just little power-packed shoots,” he said. “You can eat a whole head of lettuce or a pinch of micro greens and get the same thing.”
Having received some initial guidance from YouTube videos, Poznikoff now grows about a quarter-acre, assisted by his girlfriend, Jenna Leduc, and an employee, Kate Ferris. The growing area is split between his own yard and his grandma’s, and he plans to double that space next year.
“I like the concept of farming on underutilized yards,” he said. “My slogan is, ‘Lawn to lettuce.’ ”
Each crop is grown in a bed that measures 50 feet by 30 inches. A crop is harvested three times, with Poznikoff using a drill-powered Quick-cut Greens Harvester — which combines a sharp blade and macramé brush — to cut the shoots of, among other things, kale, chard, pea and radish.
Keeping in the spirit of his farm’s name, which incorporates the Japanese and Hawaiian words for “life force”, Poznikoff makes sure the soil is well prepared for the crops he plants.
“We always feed the soil first,” he said. “If you have healthy soil, you have healthy greens.”
He wants to pass that health on to his customers, using 100 per cent organic growing methods, with a goal of becoming certified.
Poznikoff is also looking into the production of microgreens year-round, a step toward helping the Creston Valley, and ultimately, the Kootenays, become less reliant on imported greens.
“We’re definitely progressing as a community — everyone wants to eat more local,” he said. “It’s going full circle.”