Tired hands and muddy boots are the new reality for the dedicated trainees in the 18-week Regenerative Farming Certificate (RFC) program at Hayes Farm in Fredericton.
RFC offers a hands-on, land-based learning that includes food security, food justice, climate issues and regenerative agriculture.
Participants balance time between in-class lectures and on-farm work, learning about seasonal food production. Then they test their knowledge out in the fields.
The produce grown by this hardworking group of nine is distributed to members of the community through Hayes Farms’ CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships.
You may have seen photos of beautiful produce grown on the farm, but who are the people that plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and make it all happen?
Things have been busy at Hayes the past few weeks. As the weather continues to warm, so does the push for planting and transplanting veggies into the fields.
This past week, the RFC participants were occupied planting carrots, squash, beans and lettuce, as well as harvesting spring onions for Community Food Smart. And of course, there is always lots of weeding to be done.
Matthew Golding, an RFC participant this summer, recently graduated from the Environmental Management and Natural Resources program at the University of New Brunswick. There, they were able to integrate their passion for spending time outdoors and protecting nature.
Like many of the RFC participants, Golding had limited farming experience coming into the program at Hayes. They are a huge fan of house plants but struggled to grow food in the past.
Golding first heard about the RFC program through Bhreagh Krszwda, an alumni who highly recommended it. They eventually met Claire May, the Coordinator of Hayes Farm, during a networking event. After looking through old farm photos and chatting about the program, Golding decided to apply.
“This is really where I want to be for the summer. I don’t know where it will lead afterward, but there is where I wanted to be, and it happened,” they said.
“I love watching things grow… I’m really excited to watch things bloom and become huge and feed everybody. I am working the back field that was previously fallow and had no crops, so it’s really exciting to see that [field] become rows and put vegetables in them. Just the whole process, I love it all.”
While spending long days on the farm can become exhausting, Golding’s motivation remains strong because they genuinely enjoy spending time on-farm and being surrounded by like-minded people who make tough days a little easier.
Tabitha Evans, another RFC participant, studies sociology and psychology at St. Thomas University.
Evans worked at the Sunset U-Pick for three summers. She was first introduced to Hayes Farm through a sociology class and the opportunity to volunteer at Hayes for a few months.
“I’m really passionate about food security and the environment. I guess this is just a place where I can share my passion with others, and I’m able to… kind of get ingrained in the community here on the North side,” she said.
As a very visual person, Evans says that watching seeds grow into flourishing plants, and witnessing the farm’s progress throughout the summer is very exciting to see.
“It’s important for everyone to have equal access to food, but I think that all communities should be striving toward food sovereignty and Hayes Farm is a good starting point for that in my community.”
Since beginning the RFC program, Evans noted that she has become more aware of the food she eats: where it comes from, how it is grown, and the work put into it.
In addition to learning about sustainable agriculture, she is grateful to have an opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture and the history of the land they grow on.
“I grew up on the north side, and the reserve has always been a big part of my life. I think learning more about the [Indigenous] culture here, and building the longhouse, it’s just given me a new appreciation for my Indigenous friends and the place I grew up… a better appreciation for the land I’m on.”
Much more to farming than food are the social, economic and environmental impacts that can play important roles, supporting and improving a community.
As a sociology student, having the opportunity to learn about regenerative farming and its impacts is pushing Evans to think more critically about the direction and focus she takes in her academic career.
Though she may not become a full-time farmer, Evans wants to continue using the knowledge learned throughout the RFC program to make a positive impact in the future.
She highlighted that everyone deserves access to healthy food, and that one part of food security could mean improving access to knowledge and tools required to provide for yourself.
“If we look back in history and look at how our ancestors lived, that was how they were supported. They had their own farms… so I think it’s good to go back to your roots and realize that you don’t need a lot to support yourself.”
Each of the nine participants have unique backgrounds, stories to tell and knowledge to share. While the RFC participants learn lots from their instructors, important lessons are also learned in the fields as they work together.
One of the best things about the RFC program at Hayes Farm is that it brings people together who may not have met otherwise. It gives people a space to connect with others who have similar interests and passions, as well as learn important lessons that go beyond growing food.
Hannah Moore is a recent graduate from St. Thomas University, currently working as a Food Security and Regenerative Farming Reporter for the RAVEN project at the University of New Brunswick.