WELLSPRING GARDENS…EAT FRESH, LIVE WELL
It all began with a search for community. What exactly does community mean? I’m pretty sure each one of you would have a different answer. The Collins dictionary defines community as a group of people having cultural, religious, ethnic, or other characteristics in common. While that’s true, I prefer to define community in terms of how it feels from the inside looking out…a place where you have a sense of belonging and acceptance, a sense of fellowship, a sense of shared purpose. Community is a place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
My journey began when I returned home after living seven years in Québec City. While I was there I learned a new language and culture, taught English to business clientele, earned a translation degree and saw my youngest two leave the nest to go off to Montréal and college. When the opportunity came to return to the Ottawa Valley, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. I’d be able to translate out of a home office, I’d be closer to my two older children, my grandchildren and my Dad, my husband Joe wouldn’t be heading out to parts unknown on a plane every second week, we could build our dream home on that 100 acres we had kept…it all seemed good.
It became clear soon after moving back that the life I had left seven years earlier didn’t fit any more. It was like trying on last year’s bathing suit. Sure I could squeeze into it, but it was snug in spots and I had to keep tugging it into place! I’d apparently grown. I’d discovered a love for teaching and developed a taste for entrepreneurship. Four years of university while raising two boys and holding down a part-time job had trained me to channel my energies and hone my multitasking skills. Seven years of new horizons and challenges had stirred up a restlessness that was demanding an outlet. In other words, it was time to shop for a new bathing suit!
Not all journeys have obvious signposts. Mine felt more like trying to get from point A to point B in a room full of bumper cars. It began when we discovered that our 100 acres, the site of our future dream home, had somehow been severed without a righ-of-way. The only solution, after a year of negotiating with the township and parleying with neighbours, turned out to be buying back the very farmhouse and property we had severed and sold 12 years previously. Call it fate if you will, or maybe it was simply a case of making lemonade with the lemons life had handed me, but that’s when the idea for Wellspring Gardens was born. Although I didn’t know it then, it was the first step on the path that would lead me to the community I was searching for.
I began by talking up the idea with friends and family. Their enthusiasm and support encouraged me to go for it. I soon developed a core of loyal veggie customers. This was followed by a couple of years of trial and error (mostly errors) while I played with the idea of becoming a full-time gardener. As it turns out, tractors and implements do not a farmer make. Armed with this disheartening knowledge I took a huge leap of faith and signed up as an intern at The Rainbow Heritage Garden in Cobden, ON. My internship there brought me in contact with a new generation of farmers and farming models, agricultural communities and resources as well as the current food movements (locavores, 100-mile diet). After six months of full-out gardening and marketing at the Lansdowne and Carp markets on weekends, I was more convinced than ever that this was the right decision for me.
The eureka moment came when I sat down to map out a mission statement and five-year business plan. Here was a framework that provided for all of the things I had been missing from my urban experience: contact with people from other places and cultures; an educational component (interns, schools); working with the public (markets); entrepreneurship (growing the business); and a creative outlet (giving something truly my own to the local residents).
Somewhere along the way, I found my community. It includes people of all ages and from all walks of life. Some are old friends and some are new. But we’re all joined by our passion for good food, land stewardship and supporting local endeavours. It is a place of acceptance and belonging, a place of fellowship, a place of shared purpose. My journey is over and I’m finally home.