‘Beautiful island needs people’: B.C. family lured to N.S. for free land, job
Katelyn Verstraten, CTV Vancouver
Published Sunday, September 25, 2016 2:22PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, September 26, 2016 8:53AM PDT
A B.C. family that responded to an online ad offering free land and a job for people interested in moving to rural Nova Scotia has officially arrived and begun work.
Kerry and Brett Walkins arrived in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island last week with their two young children (Halle, 5, and one-year-old Nolan) to begin their new lives.
It all began at the end of August, when Kerry noticed an ad posted on Facebook by the Farmer’s Daughter Country Market.
“Beautiful island needs people,” the ad read. “We are an established business in the heart of Cape Breton, rich in jobs, land, and potential, but no people.
“Are you someone who is looking to live a simpler life, close to nature, in an area that still believes in community meals and weekly jam sessions? We can't give you big money, but we can give you an awesome life.”
Speaking to CTV News from Nova Scotia, Kerry chuckles at the whirlwind two weeks her family has had.
“When we saw the contest… I said to my husband, ‘This is exactly what we've been looking for. We want a piece of land. We want to grow our own food, we want to have some animals.’ So on a whim we applied,” Kerry said.
After two days the Walkins learned they had been accepted by the Farmer’s Daughter, and less than two weeks later they arrived in Cape Breton Island.
Two more Vancouver families - a single mother and her daughter as well as a couple – will also be moving to the community soon.
“A lot of us seem to desire the community, the connection with nature,” said Kerry. “All of us just seem like really positive people, none of us seem to be afraid to go out there and get dirty.”
‘We really are committed to keeping Cape Breton alive and vibrant’
Sandee MacLean is one of the masterminds behind the Farmer’s Daughter Facebook post, which has since gone viral.
MacLean, who owns about 80 hectares of land, said she was trying to come up with ways to attract employees to the quaint bakery and store in the small community of Whycocomagh, because conventional ads hadn't worked.
So after a walk along a mountaintop, she and her sister posted a note on Facebook offering parcels of woodland to anyone who will work at the store and might not mind living off the grid.
The response was overwhelming: the Aug. 28 post has been shared more than 8,100 times, with thousands of people applying from across Canada – and even internationally.
MacLean said the only requirement is that the person must work at the store for five years. After that, the two acres of land is theirs for free, as long as they cover the legal cost of roughly $2,000 to transfer it into their name.
Employees make between $11 and $13 an hour - a typical wage for rural Cape Breton, she said.
"We really want our community to be repopulated," said MacLean. "We really are committed to keeping Cape Breton alive and vibrant and we're not really interested in making a huge profit off people."
Escaping the ‘rat race’
It may be early days still, but the Walkins feel like their new life is exactly what they’ve been looking for.
The family used to own a house in Mission, B.C., but grew tired of Brett’s long work commute and the “rat race.” Now Brett plans to stay home with the kids while Kerry works at the Farmer’s Daughter, a job she officially began on Wednesday.
They are currently living in a 30-foot trailer on wooded property, and plans to look at building on the land in the spring.
“This is the kind of thing people work their entire lives to do, and we're in our early 30s and we're doing it now,” Kerry said, noting that while they feel “very blessed” the initial move was a bit challenging.
“It was hard. The first day we left our house I was like "Oh my gosh, are we making the right choice?’ But since we've left we never looked back. This is great.”
With files from The Canadian Press