Dear Red Road Friends —
For a variety of reasons, we’re having to change our life, and it breaks our hearts.
When we began this adventure ten years ago, we had no grandchildren, our parents were independent, we were in our late 40s, and we had money in the bank. The prospect of developing a small, sustainable, organic farm in rural Nova Scotia looked promising. We moved here to do that. We made friends more quickly and deeply than we ever had before, and discovered community not just as an abstract idea, but as as a living reality.
Today, our surviving parents (all living in Lincoln, Nebraska) have hit the age where assistance is required. We have four grandsons (one singleton and identical triplets, also in Lincoln) who we hardly see. And we’re ten years older, and all too aware of the physical limitations of our aging bodies.
If we were in our 30s, or even 40s, we would probably persevere: we feel like we have found a good balance that approaches financial and ecological sustainability for our small farm. A small CSA, a successful small bakery, local preserves, the right kind of field irrigation, a passive greenhouse, grapes and fruit and nut trees, the soon-to-be year-round New Glasgow Farmers Market for sales….
But it took all our savings to get to this point, and the approach we have taken requires two fairly able-bodied people doing the actual work, to make a reasonable living from year to year.
We know we’ll be less and less able-bodied in the next few years, and then we’ll be well past 60.
The unfortunate reality is that sustainable farming — especially at our age — can’t support frequent air travel to visit the parents and the grandsons. Nor will it (at this late date) support a viable retirement for the two of us.
Farming — putting food in people’s kitchens — ought to be as lucrative as an electrician’s work, or a plumber or a carpenter. Heck, it ought to be near a local bank manager’s salary.
However, it rarely is, especially at the small & sustainable scale. We’ve been working at well below minimum wage for years, as do many small farmers. That’s madness on a societal level, but a reality currently.
Michael’s previous profession was in academic digital publishing, and if we are ever to be able to take advantage of his previous professional reputation, now is the time. Unfortunately, almost all that kind of work is in the US.
This winter, he’ll look for the right position, while we stay for awhile in Lincoln, where our parents are.
Consequently, we are making arrangements for departure, including ensuring that our “Farm Fresh Bag” CSA continues and concludes with everyone happy. (Community Supported Agriculture may well be the best way yet invented to support small local farmers. Please consider finding a CSA for 2016.) Note: no changes are planned for the Farm Fresh Bag program.
Red Road Farm will, however, have to stop baking and harvesting for the New Glasgow Farmers Market, so we can use the time to pack and plan. September 12th will be our last day at the Market.
We hope to find a young family to either lease or purchase our farm, and put it to good use for the community. Red Road Farm is blessed with 45 acres of long-organic fields of generally rich soil, along with 50 acres of both old and mature forests bracketing the fields. It’s got lots of water, and lots of pollinators, beneficial insects, and wildlife. We’re far from any other farms, which is quite valuable in these days of GMO drift and neonicotinoid toxins killing bees. For the right folks, Red Road Farm is nearly perfect.
We are pretty sure that we’ll find the right people to take over this miraculous little bit of biodiversity.
Our decade here has been deeply satisfying, full of friends and music and laughter and shared experience. We have been able to live our ethics, and have gotten wonderful support while we did it. We can hardly believe that we must give up this hard-fought paradise.
We will return to visit, and we hope to return permanently once the professional days are over, but we also know that we can never recover the sweet pleasure of these particular friends at the other end of the telephone, or these specific regulars at our Market table, or these dear neighbors and colleagues and compatriots fighting the good fight for a sane world, at this key time in the battle.
We are deeply sad to have to leave. We are glad, however, to see a stronger Market than when we arrived, a growing sustainability sensibility, a vibrant community undamaged (so far) by hydraulic fracking, and a growing (if still immature) regional sense that food sovereignty is a good idea for Nova Scotia.
There’s so much more, of course, but this is enough for now. We have relished our time in the North Shore, where we found a real home. Thanks to everyone who made us feel not just *at* home, but cherished as a valued part of “home” for so so many people.
Keep on walking the Red Road — the Lakota metaphor for “the true path.” There are hard times ahead, and our communities will help us get through them.
Thanks for letting us be part of your path.
Michael and Susan
Red Road Farm