“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.” ~ David Suzuki
Métis singer-songwriter/university student/beekeeper Liv Wade and Christi Salyn, who runs a property management business, own and operate Heartfelt Farm on Salt Spring Island, B.C.
Liv grew up in the country. Christi was a city kid. Their mutual love for nature, animals and a healthy, sustainable lifestyle brought them together to grow food and enjoy the benefits of being close to the land.
Where did you learn to run a successful farm?
Liv: From the time I could walk, I was around animal care/farm life — in 4H and on my aunt and uncle’s farm. I was in a serious car accident while living in Vancouver. I decided to connect back to where I felt myself the most — to nature, animals and family — to heal. I also took a beekeeping program.
Christi: I had many homes and jobs on farms. My first job on Salt Spring was in a natural food store on a 10-acre farm. I felt inspired to learn all I could about the lifestyle. I asked endless questions to old farmers. I collected hundreds of books at garage sales and thrift stores.
How is your way of life healing?
Liv: Spending time in nature focuses you to be aware. If I go into my hives and I’m not present, I’m not going to do a thorough job. The bees won’t be as healthy to do their work. On the farm, if you’re not aware of the animals/plants needs, they won’t thrive and neither will we!
Christi: This life is healing for me on so many levels, from the health benefits of eating farm-grown food to the effects of animal relationships. This lifestyle pushes you to see what you are made of in ways you couldn’t imagine. It’s helped me to feel proud of what I can accomplish. This last eight years I’ve built up nutritious soil through a composting program using farm waste!
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
Liv: Since running the farm with Christi, I’ve learned to let go at the end of each day and to listen carefully. My connection to the land has taught me that nature is sacred and should be respected. I’ve also learned to reach out to the community, as there are others out there with incredible knowledge to share.
Christi: My biggest lessons come with births and deaths. Olivia and I have been through many of both. We provide our animals with a great life. And while most times are enjoyable, sometimes hard things happen. In celebrating the joys and braving through tragedy, I get to meet different aspects of myself. I learn to let go and I learn how to dig deep when I feel I have nothing left. Olivia is by my side doing it all with me, always reminding me “we got this.”
How does Heartfelt Farm promote sustainability?
Liv: When I share what we are trying to do daily, it piques others’ interest and inspires them to try, too.
Christi: Our focus is self-sustainability and sharing knowledge with others, not off-farm sales. We grow as much of what we consume as we can. We connect with other farmers to ask and give advice on everything from growing and raising crops to processing and preserving.
What have been your challenges?
Liv: We’ve faced discrimination as women and as a lesbian couple. We welcome young to old on the farm to learn basic skills. For the most part, people respect what we’re doing.
Christi: People sometimes do a double take when I load up a hay trailer or take out my chainsaw to fall a tree. But their reactions just make me smile.
What’s your advice for sustainable, self-sufficient living?
Liv: Start with something, even if it seems small and insignificant. Build your knowledge base by connecting with your local community and reading books. Educate yourself. Take local workshops/classes.
Christi: Just do it. I lived in the city for the first 25 years of my life, only ever owned a cat and didn’t like getting dirty. I started reading books, talking to farmers and went through lots of trial and error. The work is hard but the benefit is great. I have never been happier or healthier.
Nikki Sanchez is a Pipil/Maya and Irish/Scottish academic, media maker and environmental educator. After two years as David Suzuki’s Queen of Green, she partnered with Telus STORYHIVE on the first ever mentorship funding for emerging Indigenous filmmakers. She also helped create RISE, an eight-part VICELAND documentary series on global Indigenous resurgence, which debuted at Sundance in February 2017 and received global critical acclaim, including Best Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards.