Taymouth shares many of the struggles faced by rural communities in New Brunswick but newcomers choosing to make their home in its rolling hills are part of a different, more hopeful story about rural New Brunswick.
Taymouth was once home to a downtown street with shops, a post office and a train station. Today, the shops and post office are closed and the train is no longer heard but a growing number of young newcomers are making Taymouth home.
A short drive to the province’s capital Fredericton, Taymouth, with a population of about 600, is an attractive place to live for those seeking a good life on the land in close proximity to an urban centre with an airport and other amenities.
Jim Emberger came to Taymouth with his wife Marcy in 2006 from Baltimore, Maryland.
“We were both approaching retirement age and weren’t looking to be farmers or pioneers, but we feel at home in nature and were seeking that, plus a feeling of community,” recalls Emberger.
“The land surrounding the confluence of the Tay and Nashwaak rivers certainly filled our desire for natural beauty, but the deciding moment to move to Taymouth was when we stopped by the small community center, which had once been the local schoolhouse. It was closed, but the entrance was filled with notices for a weekend market, a musical event, classes for Tai Chi, etc. It just felt like the place we had been looking for. Rural, but with a sense of community,” adds Emberger.
Amy Floyd grew up in Cassidy Lake, a Southern New Brunswick rural community that was adversely affected by the closure of the PotashCorp potash mine in the late 1990s. She moved to Taymouth in 2015 and is part of making Taymouth thrive as a community.
“We need to create our own jobs,” says Floyd who is championing local food production as a volunteer with the Hayes Urban Teaching Farm in Fredericton. The teaching farm, one of New Brunswick Community Harvest Gardens’ main projects, is repurposing an 8-acre farm in Devon, on the city’s north side, to foster a new generation of farmers.
Recently, on a chilly December morning, Floyd installed wood duck boxes for the Nashwaak Watershed Association along the Nashwaak River. The boxes provide habitat for cavity nesting birds like wood ducks and kestrels.
“In the afternoon I went skiing along the river and entered the trail just as the snowmobile club groomer was leaving. What a beautiful day. I’m so thankful to live on the Nashwaak,” recounts Floyd.
Along with settlers who have deeper roots in what is traditional Wolastoq territory, they are choosing to live a life on the land and they are among the province’s fiercest opponents to risky resource extraction—namely shale gas and the proposed Sisson open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine and tailings dam–that could harm the Nashwaak watershed.
The Nashwaak River is deemed one of the most pristine in the province and is one of the last places where the endangered Atlantic salmon spawn.
Floyd and her Nashwaak neighbours are challenging the dominant narrative in New Brunswick, promoted largely by the Irving-owned Brunswick News newspapers in the three largest cities. Their narrative suggests that the future sustainability for rural families and communities depends not on their resilience and innovation but rather on their support for mineral and gas extraction and pipelines.
Amanda Wildeman came to New Brunswick from Alberta to study human rights at St. Thomas University. After her degree and a stint in Guatemala working with farmers growing fair trade coffee and practicing permaculture–the art of living and working with nature–she decided to stay in New Brunswick.
Wildeman recently settled on a farm in Taymouth on the banks of the Nashwaak River. “I chose to live in Taymouth for many reasons, I wanted to be on the water, I wanted to be close to Fredericton, I wanted to have a bit more land and space to raise chickens and bees, and I wanted community,” says Wildeman.
The former executive director of the National Farmer’s Union, Wildeman ran for the Green Party in the Taymouth area in the 2018 provincial election and has been an outspoken critic of the Sisson mine proposed in the Upper Nashwaak. Like Floyd, she is enjoying the perks of rural life.
“Taymouth has a vibrant community of folks who have been there for generations and folks who have chosen to move there more recently. Being only 20 minutes out of town, I still get to actively participate in my regular activities in Fredericton, but I also get a whole new set of activities and people in my life,” says Wildeman.
“And it’s breathtakingly beautiful,” adds Wildeman.
Watch Nashwaak residents Jim Emberger and Amy Floyd talk about the need to create clean rural economies in New Brunswick here.
Tracy Glynn is a contributor and editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op and a researcher on the UNB RAVEN project (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment).