From city kid to country farmer
Why young professionals are ditching T.O. for rural Ontario
Like many young Torontonians, Brent Preston and Gillian Flies had good jobs, two kids and were making a home out of their two-bedroom apartment on Palmerston Boulevard in the Annex. Yet they decided to ditch the city life and take a shot at becoming farmers. Seems like a wild change of lifestyle, but more and more millennials are making the leap to the country.
“We felt really trapped and confined in the city and decided on a whim to move out,” says Preston. That move took them to a 100-acre farm in Creemore, Ont.
“We have trouble figuring out what compelled us to do it in the first place,” he says. At first, they decided to simply look for a property outside the city, and they put in a low offer on a farm. They didn’t expect their offer to go through, but to their surprise, the owner accepted it.
“That’s what gave us the kick to actually do it,” says Preston. They weren’t completely foreign to the farm life; Flies grew up on a farm in Vermont.
“It wasn’t like a farm business that she grew up around, but they grew a lot of their own food and lived on a farm so she knew a lot about rural life,” he says.
Now that they’ve settled in, Preston says he loves running a farm business and the ability it gives him to connect with his community and with the chefs he sells to. The farm produces organic vegetables such as salad greens, heirloom potatoes, rainbow beets and Japanese cucumbers.
Although the work is enjoyable and satisfying, Preston says he does miss the restaurants and cultural events in Toronto. However, Creemore has a growing arts and culture scene.
“We’ve got our own little music scene. We have a friend who brings bands in to play at community halls. These fantastic bands who really enjoy coming and playing out here,” says Preston, also noting the area’s expanding, young population.
“In the past 20 years, people would retire to this area from Toronto. But now we are seeing young folks. People in their 20s and people who have kids,” says Preston. “There are so many jobs that can be done from anywhere that there’s a lot of people who realize they don’t need to be in the city.”
That ability to work virtually is what allowed Elis Ziegler and Jess Posgate to ditch
Northumberland’s designated arts community with a growing number of galleries.
This area has been upping its cool factor with pop-up music and food festivals in downtown Simcoe.
SOUTHERN GEORGIAN BAY
From gourmet restaurants in Thornbury to apple orchard heaven in Meaford.
The valley covers all the hipster bases with alpaca farms, wineries and cheesemakers. their Toronto lifestyle and move to the off-grid home they built in Milford in Prince Edward County last May.
“Building the place for me was a strategic move to lower my overhead and gain some physical and mental independence from the city,” says Posgate. Since making the move, the pair now has three bee hives, they are expanding their garden and are looking into a permaculture method of landscaping property and growing vegetables and fruit.
“It’s a work in progress in terms of whether the homestead will feed us financially,” says Posgate.
Ziegler has also noticed a big change in the population of PEC since they started their journey to the area six years ago.
“There are lots of young people with skills here and families, too, with little kids. Lots of people are coming here because of the pace and the economic opportunities for tourism,” she says. Those opportunities cover everything from wine and brewery businesses to food and beverage, micro-farms and market gardens.
Preston’s biggest take-away from his new rural lifestyle is that you can live in the country and still have it all.
“The stereotype of a small town as a cultural desert where everyone is backwards and conservative isn’t true here,” he says. “You can live in a small community and still have a really rich cultural life with lots of interesting people coming from really diverse backgrounds.”
Preston documented his family’s decadelong journey from urbanites to farmers in his book, —
Clockwise from left: Brent Preston at his farm, his kids Ella and Foster with a hen, Elis Ziegler and Jess Posgate’s off-the-grid home