In 2009, I met a farmer. At the time, I had been living in the city for over fifteen years, and was pretty sure that wouldn’t change. I mean, it was perfect wasn’t it? The grocery stores nearby, delivery of hot food to your door, movie theatres, endless possibilities for entertainment. I had a great job, a large circle of friends and well, things were good. What else could you want?
When I met that farmer though, things changed for me in quite rapid succession. I can’t explain it, it just did. We were both thirty-four at the time, so it wasn’t 20-something naivety but, it just very quickly made sense for us. It went like this - in August 2009 we met, by April 2010 I relocated the nearly three hours to his farm in east-central Alberta, Canada and found a new job in one of the nearest towns, that June we became engaged while on a summer road trip to Alaska, four months later we married.
Can you guess what may be next? Right. About twelve months later, our first child was born and then twenty-one months later, our second. There. Now you have the short version of the last decade of my life. So, my point then?
While at home with my child on maternity leave, I started my own business as a photographer and writer to enable myself to work from home. After a couple of years, this evolved into writing and publishing my first book… then, a second. I published a two book series I like to call “The Farmwives Book Project”.
What writing two books about farm women taught me about life in the city.
The women in book one of my project were between the ages of fifty-five and ninety. The women featured in my second book spanned in age from their twenties to fifties. Both books contained in-depth interviews, photographs of the women, and straight-from-the-farm-kitchen recipes. The purpose of the project? To celebrate the remarkable contributions of farmwives. All told, I spent about five years interviewing more than forty Canadian farmwives about what it looked like to be a Canadian farm woman.
Here is what I learned:
Community is everything. You can be surrounded by million(s) of people and you can still not have a “community”. I learned that there is no feeling like having people you can truly trust in your vicinity and that have your back.
Plant some roots. Not everyone is fortunate to come from or live on a 100+ year old farm with deep roots and a long history, but planting some roots is important. They ground you and help you feel proud of where you come from and look forward to where you’re going.
Grow some food. Now this will be hard, but imagine just for a minute… what if you didn’t have access to a food delivery service?! Egad! I know! What if there was no one to bring warm food straight to your door? There are some places like this and guess what — we survive.
It’s okay to slow down. I live in amazing, and I mean amazing landscape. I often find myself pulling over to snag a photo of a particularly beautiful sunset or just a simplistic and peaceful scene. I use these moments to remind myself to enjoy life more, and run less.
Community is everything. I know this was already mentioned, but it deserves revisiting. Remember above when I said: “I had a great job, a large circle of friends and well, things were good. What else could you want?” Well, I know the answer to that question now and it’s “true” community. When I married my husband, I began the family I’ve truly never had before (more on that another day). I had great friends around me, but it was a sense of belonging that was missing. When you have a true community, you know you are home.
[This story was published on Medium on Oct 5, 2019 here]
Billi J. Miller is an author, photographer and speaker from Alberta, Canada who is known for telling stories from the heart & telling stories that matter with her work. She delivers a powerful talk on speaking your truth to empower others & about blooming where you're planted. Her work can be found here.