Ready for change, a family plants the seeds of a new life in rural Cape Breton

·2 min read
Indigo Christ, left, her partner, Josh Vander Welle, centre, and her brother, Challian Christ, have created Mull River Farm in Mabou, N.S.  (Kit Christ - image credit)
Indigo Christ, left, her partner, Josh Vander Welle, centre, and her brother, Challian Christ, have created Mull River Farm in Mabou, N.S. (Kit Christ - image credit)

Indigo Christ always wanted to explore her interest in growing food. When the pandemic hit, she was working at Dalhousie University in Halifax as an administrator and pressed pause on her life. She was ready for a change.

Christ moved to Mabou in western Cape Breton in 2020. She'd fallen in love with the area while visiting her mother, Kit, who had bought 24 hectares of land in the area a few years earlier.

The land had nothing on it at the time. Now, sitting along the Mabou River on Mull River Road, enclosed by walls of trees, is Mull River Farm.

"Seeing how welcoming the community was to our family and seeing the opportunities here to grow and to contribute something really pulled me here," Christ said in an interview.

The Christ family is originally from Ontario. Christ and her partner, Josh Vander Welle, who is apprenticing as an electrician, moved from Halifax and her brother moved from Ottawa to join their mother.

Indigo Christ
Indigo Christ

They've since built two small cabins and a house that serves as a bistro and café. They also have goats, chickens, gardens, a campsite and an open greenhouse.

"I have the joy of living in a community where I care about the people around me and [they] care about me as well," she said.

Christ said her mother always had an affinity for the East Coast.

"We grew up listening to the Rankin Family and Great Big Sea, she would come for Celtic Colours. She was always drawn to this part of the world, especially Mabou."

Elizabeth Barry
Elizabeth Barry

Christ said her family didn't set out with the intention of becoming farmers, it was something that happened organically.

Mull River Farm now grows about 50 different chemical-free varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Christ said they listened to what the community asked for and their role became clear, which is to serve nutritious food while respecting COVID-19 safety concerns.

Indigo Christ
Indigo Christ

The farm is open on weekends from June to October, sharing a timeframe with the Mabou Farmers Market, a collection of local food growers and crafters.

Mull River Farm hasn't yet presented competition, according to Kerry Walkins, manager of the market. She said they have a mutual relationship.

Small farms lend themselves to relationships between farmers and consumers, which according to Walkins transforms how people eat.

"Health isn't just what we eat, it's social interaction and having a community around you," Walkins said.

Indigo Christ
Indigo Christ

Mull River Farm is bringing in visitors, which helps the local economy, according to Inverness County Coun. Lynn Chisholm.

"It's great to have someone move into the area and start a business like this one," she said.

Chisholm said more people in the area are leaning toward healthy options, resulting in more small farms sprouting up. She said having a farm like this as an example is helpful for anyone interested in a healthier lifestyle or in growing food.

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