Meet Amy Hill, organic farmer and mom to four-year-old Ayla. On her farm in rural Nova Scotia, Amy runs a CSA program that delivers to families in Halifax and sells meat to markets across the province. We asked Hill to help us understand her motivations for living and working with purpose, and how that shapes her family life.
Why did you start doing what you do?
I’ve always wanted to be a farmer, ever since I was little. I grew up in the city, in Dartmouth, NS, but every year since I was born our family vacations would be at this farm with cottages. I just loved being there, collecting the eggs and being around the cows and the gardens. To me, that was what relaxation meant. This led me to attend agricultural college and getting an animal sciences degree, where my dream was to have a small farm just for myself and do wildlife rehabilitation. I did that for six years then realized that I really wanted to go into agriculture.
For me though, that meant agriculture where we weren’t always pushing the limits on everything, and I felt like organic or as close to, was the best fit for us. We wanted to do things like prevent instead of treat illness in our livestock and companion planting. Luckily I had a supportive partner who was onboard from the start.
What does this bring to your life?
I like having a connection with my food. To be honest, when I was younger I had a terrible relationship with food, which I know many people do, and felt terrible about my body. I wasn’t thinking of food as the main fuel that helps me live my life, and I ate because I was depressed, and ate more bad foods the worse I felt.
I had to develop a different relationship with food, and I had to know my pigs and my chickens, know where my food is coming from. Now I love to cook these big beautiful meals where we enjoy and celebrate food. It feels good to harvest what I’ve worked so hard on.
I find this new attitude that I have with food especially important because I have a daughter, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that she grows up loving her body and understanding what is it to eat, grow, and fuel that body. I love that I’m able to give this to her from such an early age.
Why is this so important to you?
I believe in this. I believe in animals grazing, in the prevention of illness in animals rather than treatment, I believe that we can grow fantastic crops using companion planting and we can still have a great outcome. We can have a lot of produce grown in a small space organically.
That said, I think there’s a reason why we need commercial dairy farms and chicken production — we want a lot of food, and we want it cheap — so conventional farming is definitely consumer driven. Those people are there to keep the masses fed. But there’s great importance in having organic farms too, that’s the side that I would like to be on. Do I hope that we’re going towards more organic farms? Absolutely, and I hope it gets more affordable for everyone.
Has parenthood changed how you view your work?
It has made my work more important to me. It helps me find time for my own passions outside of being a mother, and it also reminds me of what I am trying to set up for future generations.
What do your kids think about what you do?
Ayla loves the idea of all this. On the two days a week that she goes to childcare, she often says that she wants to stay home and farm, though of course because of her age there are days when she doesn’t want to stay out weeding and tries to make us go inside!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about working/ living with purpose?
Find the reason why you’re doing this, and hold on to it. There are days where I’m completely spent, absolutely exhausted, but I know I still have to go outside and work until dark. Those are the days when you look at yourself and think I can’t do it, I’m not good enough, I might be a good farmer, but I feel like a crappy parent. But you have to keep thinking, “What is my end goal?” Every year it gets a little bit easier, something falls into place, and that feeling is amazing.
The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Join us on Facebook.