Holtville man sells farm that's been in the family since mid-1800s

A 68-year-old Holtville man who pursued a homesteading lifestyle and the "realization of a dream" for 30 years is selling his 16-hectare farm in central New Brunswick.

Boisetown-area farmer has attracted interest in his farm from as far away as France and Hawaii

Murray McFarlane, tending a cauldron of bubbling sap, on his farm about 20 kilometres from Boiestown. (Facebook)

A 68-year-old Holtville man who pursued a homesteading lifestyle and the "realization of a dream" for 30 years is selling his 16-hectare farm in central New Brunswick.

Murray McFarlane, an artist and retired United Church minister, took over the farm in 1980s.

The property had been owned by his grandfather, Jeremiah Fowler, and his father before him. The piece of land in upper Miramichi was granted to his ancestors in the mid-1800s. 

Murray McFarlane's Holtville farm has been in his family since the mid-1800s. (Facebook)

"It has been the realization of a dream," McFarlane said, about growing his own vegetables, tapping trees for maple syrup, and raising chickens, turkeys and goats.

McFarlane said the farm, which is geographically in the centre of the province, has brought him a great deal of joy, "but it's a lot of work to maintain the place."

"We ate out of the garden all summer, made maple syrup in the spring, gathered wild apples in the fall — even made a press for the juice — picked lots of fiddleheads, packed root vegetables in sand or sawdust, put up some veggies, preserves and pickles," McFarlane said.

It's a lot of work to maintain the place.- Murray McFarlane

"But there were still lots of trips to the grocery store."

McFarlane said he and his wife, Ruth Goodine, have tried to be as self-sustaining as possible. The farm is about an hour's drive from Fredericton and McFarlane said it felt like the right time to let go.

He cuts trees and splits wood to feed the stoves, including a wood stove cooker in the kitchen. There is a generator in case the power goes out.

Out in the yard, away from the house, is an outhouse, although there is also a proper bathroom in the house.

The couple has raised poultry and goats for eggs, milk and meat.

Murray McFarlane in his Holtville garden. (Facebook)
"I was never bothered by chopping the heads of chickens," said McFarlane.

"But just could not bring myself to slaughter our own goats. And shipping them off to have someone else do them in was almost as bad, so we went out of goat-keeping," he said.

"[It's] just so much work, but I think the main reason was just the isolation of the last couple of winters," he said, with very few friends willing to drive the hour out of town on snowy roads, the winters have been long and a little too quiet.

Over the years McFarlane renovated the old homestead, built a barn, an artist's studio and put in a garden, though "our garden was more about soul work than practicality," he said.

McFarlane said he was influenced by a Maurice G. Kains book, Five Acres and Independence, "a classic in the back-to-Earth movement."

Since deciding to give it up McFarlane has listed the property on Facebook and said there has been "just incredible" interest.

"I've had inquiries from France to Hawaii and lots of places in between," he said, and the interest doesn't surprise him.

"All I needed to do was think about the way I felt when I first went there."


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