From city kid to coun­try farmer

Why young pro­fes­sion­als are ditch­ing T.O. for ru­ral On­tario

Village Post - - Currents - Nikki Gill

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 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

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