CHICKENS, GARDENING AND PESPI; LEARN HOW MEG BALANCES HER CORPORATE JOB WITH HER HOMESTEAD DREAMS.
While many Millennials dream of moving to the big city and taking on a big career after graduation, Meg had a bit of a different plan. A big career yes; but she traded in the big city for more land, more chickens and more opportunities to learn.
By day, Meg works for PepsiCo as a National Account Manager. But, by night (and really, most of her free time), she is cultivating plants, raising chickens, brewing kombucha, baking sourdough, blogging, and planning the next steps to expand her homestead lifestyle.
Never heard of the term homesteading? While the term has a meaning dating back to the late19th century with the Homestead Act in the U.S. when free land for the purposes of cultivation was provided to settlers, recently it has taken on a new meaning. These days, the homestead movement is a lifestyle in which people connect back to the land and strive to live more self-sufficiently. This can include expanded home farming (like Meg), urban farming (like raising chickens in the city), medium scale farms or even those who chose to live completely off the land (think Mountain Men). For Meg she feels "people have an unharnessed desire to understand where their food comes from" and she is on a mission to explore the homesteading lifestyle and share her knowledge with others.
People have an unharnessed desire to understand where their food comes from
Four years ago, her and her now-husband moved into a renovated bungalow in a rural area. While the house was perfect, the half acre property needed a lot of work. But, one garden bed at a time, they started to turn their homestead dreams into a reality. Now, 18 chickens, three pigeons and too many plants to count, also call the property home.
Commercial chicken operations in Canada grow standard breed birds (the ones that grow fast and produce the most eggs or meat), but Meg focuses on raising heritage breeds - those breeds that are naturally mating, have a long reproductive outdoor lifespan and have a much slower growth rate compared to standard breeds. Many of these heritage breeds are at risk of becoming extinct without the support of small farm or homestead operations choosing slow over yield. Meg has also expanded her coop by taking in rescues from the local humane society (who knew?!). What started as fostering dogs, quickly turned into rescuing pigeons and chickens. These animals can often be abandoned once they stop laying eggs and over a third of her chickens have been welcomed into her coop this way.
Heritage breeds, like Celine Dion above, produce a wide array of sizes and egg colours. And yes, Meg has wonderful names for all of her chickens!
Meg acknowledges the amount of planning it takes to grow her little operation each year and credits her love of lists to staying organized in order to be prepared for the busy spring season. "There is such a science aspect to growing plants," Meg explains, so in her downtime she is completing her Horticulture Certificate from the University of Guelph to better understand soil conditions and plant anatomy.
There is such a science aspect to growing plants
So, where does she find the time (because she still has a full time job!)? Meg explains how her role focuses on results and allows flex hours to accommodate different schedules. So, she can live a little bit further away from the head office, work from home a few days week and start work a bit later some days. Plus, she says "I make it work because I just love the homestead lifestyle."
In the long term, Meg aims to move to a much larger property (50+ acres!) to not only grow her garden beds and chicken coops to include goats, horses, sheep and pigs, but also to offer an immersive Airbnb and food to table experience for guests wanting to explore the homestead lifestyle for themselves. For her, this does not mean giving up the corporate world completely though. At PepsiCo, employees are encourage to pursue their passions. So in the future, while she may dedicate more of her core time to running her homestead, she still pictures herself contributing to the organization in different capacities.
Meg shared a few tips for others looking to take the first steps into the homestead lifestyle.
GO FOR IT. It can seem intimidating at first, but is also incredibly rewarding. Take that first step!
BUT, START SMALL. Rather than buying an entire flock, start with one or two chickens. Each year she builds her property up to add more elements (like bigger garden beds coming this spring!)
MAKE MISTAKES. Not everything will work out the way you intended the first time around. Check out her blog post on some of the things she has learned about chickens.
REACH OUT TO INFLUENCERS ON INSTAGRAM. There are so many people with incredible knowledge you can find online and you would be surprised when you DM someone with 15K followers and that person responds back with an answer to your question.