Oil industry worker of 2 decades looks to the land for his future

Colby Redsky worked in the oil industry for almost two decades until he decided to change career paths.

‘Nothing spoke to me like farming did’

Redsky says it was the lifestyle that drew him to farming. 'To be able to enjoy the lifestyle that accompanies owning your own farm, and enjoy that into your later years in life.' (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Colby Redsky worked abroad in the oil industry for almost two decades, until he decided to change career paths. The 41-year-old chose farming and since he started three months ago, he hasn't looked back.

Redsky's career took him all over the world, to places like New Zealand and Iraq. He said the first time he thought about farming was when he was in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

"At the time I was staying in a camp 25 kilometres outside of Mosul. ISIS has taken over the city of Mosul and the Americans were trying to free it. It was absolute chaos," he said.

He said he remembers seeing people fleeing to the desert for their lives. 

'Suited in body armour'

One of the camps Redsky stayed in, in Iraq. (Submitted by Colby Redsky.)

"I would see families and all they would have was whatever clothes they had on, plus a bag full of seeds and a couple of goats," he said.

"They would try to find some place along a river where the ground was fertile enough to plant the seeds and there was some grass for their goats.

"Meanwhile, I was being suited in body armour sitting in a bunker and preparing to also flee in armoured vehicles," he said.  

Redsky said he had been thinking of quitting the industry ever since he started but his first thoughts of farming came from watching people survive.  

'Nothing spoke to me like farming'

Redsky and his colleagues in New Zealand in 2013, repelling down caves to study the composition of the rocks. (Submitted by Colby Redsky)

"Once I began reading about farming I grew more interested and began to think about it as a way of life or career."

He said it wasn't until the last four or five years, that the urge to leave became more powerful. 

"I tossed around a couple other ideas. Nothing spoke to me like farming did. I had an interest and a passion and decided to go after it," he said.

'A little miracle'

Redsky says he thought about leaving the oil industry since the day he started. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Redsky said so far, he's happy with his decision.

"It's been great. It's been eye-opening, and a little nerve-racking at times. But it's been a great experience. I'm really enjoying it."

Last winter, he found an ad on Kijiji for an apprentice position at Sweet Clover Farm in Montague, P.E.I. Gary Clausheide, the farm's owner, was looking for someone to rent the farmhouse on his property.

Clausheide said Colby showed up and was really interested in learning the trade.  

Included in the rent was a plot of land to farm on, as well as a set of farming ethics that Clausheide put forth.

"It was like a little miracle that I spotted that and I answered it," Redsky said.

​'I figured he'll figure it out'

Clausheide says 'the one thing I taught Colby is that there's two parts to farming. There's growing produce and then there's selling it, and they're two very different operations.' (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Redsky said he signed the agreement last fall and began farming this spring.

"Gary and I kind of hit it off right away," he said.

Clausheide is an organic farmer and Redsky has followed in his footsteps, learning how to grow vegetables such as carrots, spinach and squash.

Clausheide said one thing he's taught Redsky is there are two parts to farming. 

"There's growing produce and then there's selling it, and they're two very different operations," he said.

"I figured he'll figure it out. Farming is not an easy occupation, especially if you're trying to make money at it."

'Do what makes you happy'

Redsky has purchased his own farm in Panmure Island and plans to move there in November. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Most days, he farms barefoot, uprooting beets and tilling the soil. He said the journey has been worth it. 

"You gotta do what makes you happy I guess … don't stay in something if it makes you miserable."

Redsky has already purchased a farm in Panmure Island where he'll be moving in November. For now, you can find him at various farmers markets, selling his goods under the name New Radicles Market Garden.

His last piece of advice?

"Buy local!"

More P.E.I. news

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.