ERIN – When Sarah Majeski moved to a farm just outside Erin, it was life changing.
Today, she has a simple goal, to connect with other women who share her love for the land and want to grow healthy, seasonal food. That's why she welcomes them to her farm.
“When women come to the farm, their blood pressure goes down. I can feel it. It’s therapeutic,” Majeski said.
“We are connected and focused on our commonalities as women.”
What Majeski calls ‘the collective’ helps empower women through a cultivating community as they work together, share stories and feel personally supported while trying to achieve the same goals.
“The way many of us define operational success is in terms of how much money we make for our efforts,” Majeski said.
“Here on the farm, it’s different and the rewards are different.”
Tracey Sullivan has been working on Majeski’s farm since last year.
“I moved to the area a year ago. As a gift, our real estate agent gave us items from local people. So I received eggs from Sarah and some pork from another local farmer,” Sullivan said.
“Sarah then started delivering herbs and vegetables. I had some boxes that I wanted to return to her and so I popped in. We just clicked right away.”
It was a new beginning for Sullivan after moving from Toronto.
“I run a full-time business and I’m coming to the end of that. Moving to the country was one thing. But I knew that I really wanted to do was find balance in my life,” Sullivan said.
“What I really enjoy about being on the farm is that there is no phone. It’s a mental thing that just allows me to disconnect. And now I’m finding that I really need this time.”
For Majeski, who has a background in business and community development, moving to a farm was a big transition for her and her family.
“We wanted more space. My dream was always to have a farm,” she said.
So Majeski dug in and began farming.
“Everything I try to do on the farm is through sustainable, regenerative agriculture,” Majeski said.
“Last year, we doubled our asparagus bed, planted a dozen red currant bushes and about 20 fruit trees.”
Majeski raises goats, chickens, turkeys and her woolly pigs stay outside all year long.
“The pigs forage for food, that I supplement with raw vegetables and hay. All of the things that I have here can take care of themselves to a certain extent. So, essentially, this is a ‘closed loop system’,” Majeski said.
“We have animals, but we also spend a lot of time in the garden. We go for hikes in the forest and spend a lot of time doing things in the kitchen,” Majeski said.
This has led to much research on homesteading and food preservation techniques such as fermentation, canning, dehydrating and making jams.
“I canned sauce for the first time in 2014 and we never looked back. Last year we canned 130 litres,” Majeski said.
“On the farm, everything is used for something. I’ve become very invested in this.”
In the beginning, Majeski says the farm was about food, food quality, food security and having her three sons aware of where their food comes from.
“But I needed to come up with a way to achieve these large goals,” Majeski said.
“I had a few women who were interested in coming to work with me. In fact, every time I turned around I had a someone come up to me and say I’d love to come and help you for a day.”
Whether it was a canning bee or honey collection, women began coming to the farm to help.
“From planting or feeding the pigs, they were taking ownership over different projects and kept wanting to come back and do more,” Majeski said.
Jessa Patterson is a regular farm volunteer.
“I started popping in just before the summer. I could see that the need was growing so I started dedicating more time to it. I thought maybe once summer ramps down, and then we would probably not see each other for a while, but it has just continued,” Patterson said.
“We took on more endeavours and tried different things like experimenting with pickling. And we were just hanging out. I didn’t just come for the produce. I came because of Sarah. She is so much fun to work with. I adore her.”
As much as 'the collective' is about farming, Majeski says it is also about mindfulness.
“We all prep things and we are all walk away with something. If this is something that speaks to someone, there’s probably good reason, and they should consider coming around,” Majeski said.
Majeski is grateful to have Sullivan and Patterson by her side.
“And I have about 10 other women coming in and out of my house right now on a regular basis. I think once summer comes, that commitment will only grow,” Majeski said.
“There’s more to it than just an exchange of gardening time for farm goods. Everyone is very aware of how everything is seasonally dependant. We have to do things a certain way for things to be fruitful.”
Majeski says there is value not only from a farming perspective but there is a connection with nature and with each other.
“After a full day, we feel good and motivated as we leave and continue our other lives as mothers, wives or whatever it may be,” Majeski said.
Patterson says she looks forward to the physical activity on the farm.
“I love this because it’s outdoor activity where I’m working and building my muscles. Doing this for a few hours a day, I’m sore when I get home. But I like that feeling,” Patterson said.
“It’s also about mental health, being outside and being in nature. It’s so healthy. I feel lucky that I do something that I just love doing and with people that I love spending time with. I’m totally invested and I want to see this grow.”
Majeski says ‘the collective’ is about evolving with other women and empowering each another.
“I feel that when we help each other, it helps yourself. It’s not about money for me. I need to balance out my farming costs and I need to work towards my goals in a way that also promotes my wellness. This is good for my soul,’ Majeski said.
“Not only will you leave with farm goods, but there is a trust. I tell people who are interested to come, one day or one week at time. If you like it, come back. It should flow organically, and nothing should feel forced.”
Majeski says women are enthusiastic about the end-product.
“They have developed ownership where they are telling me what I need to start doing. And that to me, is invaluable,” Majeski said.
“Everyone has so much to contribute. I value them so much.”
In the future, Majeski hopes to add yoga and meditation to the day-to-day farming practices.
“Without losing sight of what the collective is doing, I want to add some regenerative pieces rather than just labouring in the sun,” she said.
“The next layer would include contract professionals who would provide services on site. This will have nothing to do with aesthetic-type services. In contrast, services will include personal coaching sessions, meditation, forest bathing, chakra work, yoga, sauna sessions and music.”
Patterson says working with others, encourages her to see things differently.
“We are three very different women, but we all get along so well,” she said.
The intention, Majeski says, is providing a safe space where women can come together.
“Building on top of our evolution together, we will move forward with the intention of being increasingly self-aware, expanding upon our connectedness with nature, and healing the mind, body and soul,” Majeski said.
“This can be a place for women to transform into their best selves.”