A Pandemic Year - Loss, Growth and Hope

It has been one year now since our world changed so dramatically. The signs and smells of early spring bring back strong memories of the difficult decisions I had to make last year and of the fear and uncertainty. The “new normal” we live in now is nothing like normal. Still kept apart from our family and friends, we are all waiting eagerly for the day when we can hug each other again, can sit in a coffee shop, or a pub and share companionship with friends. The little interactions with our neighbours, the staff at our local restaurant, the other parents in the school yard that we once took for granted now stand out as valuable opportunities to connect with others, opportunities for connection that have been far too few in the last year.

Spring, though, is a time of renewal, new growth, and the return of the light. And it is a time of hope. For gardeners planting seeds, watching for the emergence of new shoots and buds it is the season of promise of things to come. This spring at Coyote Song Farm & Forest this couldn’t be more true. Our seeds have been ordered and the crop plan is being fine tuned. Seed starting supplies are being rounded up and our infrastructure is being built. A farm is sprouting before our eyes! And with it grows hope.

Gardening became a “Covid phenomenon” last year and this year even more people all over are taking up and expanding their gardening habits. Seed companies are overwhelmed with orders, some of them having to restrict sales to commercial growers in order to deal with the huge increase in demand. People are growing in their yards, on their balconies and in sunny windows. Gardeners are motivated to grow for so many reasons. Having something to do when everything is shut down is a big one. Also many people find it soothing to work the ground and have your hands in the dirt. Growing food and flowers is all of these things for me. My backyard garden got me through the difficult spring and summer last year.

There has been a huge amount of press attention to my career shift and much of it has focused on the resiliency that my story is seen to represent. If resilience means heading towards the good feelings rather than sitting in the bad ones, then I guess that’s what this is. Growing this farm business, like growing my garden, has given me something to focus on other than the losses. Exercising my entrepreneurial muscles feels good. Developing a business plan that incorporates environmental, social and economic values feels particularly good. But this story is not just about me. I could never have dreamed of starting the farm without the love and support of many. Access to the land and infrastructure thanks to John’s mother Kathleen is primary. John’s love and enthusiasm for the farm plan is too. All of the community support and media promotion of the farm is a privilege that can’t be taken for granted either. I am very thankful to Toronto Life, CBC, Radio Canada and the local Erin Advocate for telling my story. That people find inspiration and hope in it is humbling. The enthusiasm the media has shown for this adventure gives me confidence too. If so many people find this exciting I must be on to something good!

And so as I mark this difficult anniversary I will honour the feelings of sadness and loss and also be thankful for the opportunities I have been given, and have fostered. As I mourn for the loss of my former life and business I feel the hope of the spring and new growth. And as I miss the relationships and community that have come to mean so much to me over the last decade, I look forward to seeing many of you again and to making new friendships and new community connections both in the city and on the farm.