Nova Scotia

Cape Breton's Farmer's Daughter market hires 3 in land-for-work deal

The owners of the Farmer's Daughter Country Market in Whycocomagh, N.S., have sifted through thousands of applications to find workers who they think will fit into the small community and put down roots in Cape Breton.

3 workers with B.C. ties chosen after 3,100 people from across the country applied to Facebook ad

The Farmer's Daughter market has been operating in Whycocomagh for nearly 25 years. (Farmer's Daughter/Facebook)

A Cape Breton business's offer of land for labour has produced results: three keen new hires and more attention than its owners could have dreamed of.

A couple of weeks ago, the Farmer's Daughter Country Market in Whycocomagh, N.S., posted a Help Wanted ad on Facebook.

It said that while the small business couldn't offer big money to lure applicants, it could offer plots of land on which to build a home.

Co-owner Sandee Maclean says the flood of inquiries has been overwhelming.

"The last time we counted I think we were over 3,100, and every time we open up our email there's still more coming in, so it's exciting," she said.

Maclean and her sister, who is a partner in the business, sent out questionnaires to promising applicants, then conducted interviews via Skype.

Ensuring a good fit

"We wanted to make sure that it was not only a good fit for our business and the co-workers that we have working for us now, but also a really good fit for our community," she said.

The sisters have settled on three families, all of whom currently reside or have recently lived in British Columbia.

Kerry Walkins says she and her husband Brett and their two young children left B.C. earlier this year after Brett was laid off from his job.

Brett and Kerry Walkins and their children, five-year-old Halle and one-year-old Nolan, are on their way to Cape Breton for a job at the Farmer's Daughter market. (Kerry Walkins)

"We were just tired of the rat race," she said. "We were tired of him working 60 hours a week and travelling three hours a day to get to and from work. 

"He spent more time at work than with me and the kids, and we just didn't want him to work to pay for a big house that we hardly used."

A simpler life

The Walkins have since been travelling the country in their trailer, in search of a piece of land and a simpler life.

Walkins says they read about the Farmer's Daughter offer on the CBC website.

"I think the most attractive part for us was obviously they were offering the simplified life that we were looking for," she said. "But for us, it felt a bit more concrete knowing that if we got it, we would go into it with a job and not just going and sinking our money into a piece of land somewhere and not really knowing what was happening.

Coming with a positive attitude

"So here, we actually get to become part of a community. We'll get to know the people. We'll get to work with them, and we're really excited about that."

They plan to set up their trailer on the 1.2 hectares of unserviced woodland that comes with the job.

Walkins says while they're not entirely sure what to expect, they're coming with a positive attitude.

Making plans

"My husband's been looking into some solar power options and other ways to keep us warm," she said, noting they can always rent a place in the village through the winter, if necessary. 

The deal with the Farmer's Daughter stipulates that if they're still working at the market in five years, the land becomes theirs.

Walkins says they hope eventually to build an off-the-grid home on the property.

Maclean says the two other hires include a single mom and her 10-year-old daughter, and a young couple who plan to use their land to grow organic produce to sell at the market.

"It's so amazing to be able to bring families to Whycocomagh," Maclean said, "because that kind of was our goal, to make sure that Whycocomagh continues to grow."

She expects all three families to arrive in Whycocomagh within the next two weeks.