“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”Stephen Hawking
Due to the current situation regarding COVID-19, we are unable to accommodate casual volunteers at this time. If you are interested in volunteering at a later date, please send us an email and we can keep you up to date and let you know when we will once again be able to accept casual volunteers at the farm.
If you are considering volunteering for a longer period of time, you can review our Apprenticeship program and available intake dates.
Looking for a way to become more involved? Be sure to visit our longer stay Apprenticeship program. This is new for 2020, and we are excited to be offering such a unique learning opportunity here at Twisted Roots Farm.
About the Farm
In 2017, following our dream of living in deep connection to our food and The Wild, we found ourselves stepping into the role of stewards of an incredible piece of land on the East Coast of Canada. This was a long way away from our roots in British Columbia, yet one of the few places in Canada that was affordable. Our farm is located on the west side of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Twisted Roots Farm (formerly known as Rewylding Woods Farm) is an off-grid 74 acre permaculture farm nestled in the forest on beautiful Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. The farm is committed to land stewardship based on regenerative agriculture and agroforestry. We currently grow non-certified organic vegetables in a no-till permanent raised bed system on approximately one acre of cultivated land. Additionally, we raise pastured livestock on a small scale, including heritage breed pork, dairy goats, poultry, and cattle. We ethically harvest all livestock on-site and sell through the Farm Gate Sales program of Nova Scotia. As we have chosen to remain a small mixed farm that does not use heavy machinery, all of our systems and tools as well as the size of our cultivated spaces are relative to this approach.
We have a bandsaw mill and offer rough cut lumber sales as well as other hand-crafted wood designs. Other farm offerings include holistic learning opportunities, such as volunteer programs, farm tours, farm stays, workshops, and other artisan designs. As we are a newly formed farm, this will be the first season that we will have products available for sale. Our products will be available for purchase at the local farmers markets, on-site farm stand, and online. We are very excited about the many opportunities available and look forward to sharing the beauty of the farm with others.
The farm is located along a gorgeous year-round brook, approximately 5 km from the quaint village of Judique. We have cleared approximately 4 acres for our house site, pasture, and gardens. The property is completely off-grid, therefore, we rely on a small solar system for our energy, wood fuel and propane for our cooking and hot water, composting toilets for our you know what, and rainwater collection for domestic, livestock, and garden use. We do not have a television and our internet service is extremely limited, with cell phone reception available but not overly reliable.
All of our practices on the farm reflect our commitment to growing a livelihood that is steeped in supporting the natural beauty of the surrounding land with a focus on creating systems that will continue long beyond our lives. Through the development of educational, economic, and cultural relationships, we strive to raise the social and ecological awareness of individuals regarding the cultivation of their food and their relationship with the Wild Community.
We are very blessed to share this farm with Highland cattle, Alpine dairy goats and wethers, Mangalitsa pigs, American Guinea Hogs, Berkshire pigs, Muscovy ducks, a mix of heritage breed chickens, meat birds, and laying hens. It’s busy and full of life around here! All of these beings add fertilizer to the soil, provide us with meat and dairy products, as well as help revive pasture land through intensive rotational grazing
Creating a closed-loop system is of enormous interest to us as we feel that a dependence on external resources is neither sustainable nor practical. Therefore, we are working towards being able to support our garden systems solely with compost and soil amendments created here on the farm. We are also adding to our pasture each year, with a focus on providing a diverse mix of forage and grasses that will help support our various livestock breeds and rotational grazing methods.
A dependence on mechanized systems does not interest us and although we realize non-mechanized systems will be slower to implement, we value the simplicity and independence that they offer. Because of this, we also have a deep interest in reviving older farming methods, which is why we are working towards having oxen here on the farm. We also have two young Alpine wethers who were born on the farm last year, and we are beginning to train them as pack/cart goats.
Creating a new farm is a constant work in progress and patience is necessary when setting up systems that are low impact, passive, and unique to this landscape. This work is deeply rewarding as well as the most challenging task we have ever engaged in.
The Main Projects for the 2020 Season:
- Building wall tents that will serve as a cook shack and bunk house
- Increasing garden beds
- Planting berry and fruit shrubs/trees
- Improving/creating trails
- Continuing to revitalize old pasture land
- Installing permanent electric fencing
- Building additional composting toilets
- Completing the live roof on our small post and beam cabin
- Improving irrigation and water storage systems
- Milling lumber
- Building movable chicken coops
- Building movable high tunnels
The continuation of a Permaculture Plan for the property is of utmost importance for 2020, with a large focus on increasing growing space and soil fertility, as well as planning for more permanent plantings, such as fruit and berry trees/shrubs. We will also begin to establish permanent pasture areas in order to make the tasks of rotational grazing that much easier! And of course, there is always the ongoing daily routines and livestock management, including milking goats, goat cuddles, and goat hikes, feeding the cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks, collecting eggs, rotating pasture areas, and a variety of other tasks.
What to Expect During Your Stay
We are looking for people who feel drawn to be part of the creation of a new farm, along with the various social enterprises integral to this vision. This is not an established farm that has been in production for generations, it is a newly planted seed that needs help to grow. This season, we will be looking to host casual volunteers as well as apprentices. Please see our “Apprenticeship Program” page for more information about our apprentice opportunities.
Volunteers are asked to work 5-7 hours/day with two days off in a row with a minimum of a one week stay. Your days will be a combination of daily farm routines as well as seasonal projects.
Summers here can be humid and there are bugs from May – August. We suggest you bring a bug net for your head/upper body and light coloured, loose clothing. Rubber boots, work gloves, and a sun hat are also handy items to have around the farm. We have included a list of suggested items to bring, please let us know if you have any questions.
Due to extreme allergies and a care of this land, we are a non-smoking, fragrance-free farm. Please do not bring any products that contain fragrance/perfume, including laundry detergent, shampoo/conditioner, soap, hair products, bug repellent, lotions, sunscreen, deodorant, makeup, etc. As we practice organic farming methods, we also do not allow the use of bug sprays/repellents with deet in them and can provide you with a safe alternative. If you need ideas on what products would be suitable, please feel free to ask.
We have a wonderful screened porch (aka sanctuary) beside the brook, which is where we will often be found when in need of a cool dip. Our property is also only a short drive/bike to a variety of local beaches, many of which have incredible white sand with barely any other visitors…they are truly heaven!
And because we have dogs and cats of our own, we aren’t able to accommodate other pets.
Volunteer accommodation consists of a few different options, depending on availability when you arrive. Our travel trailer, Foxy Lady, will be getting an upgrade of a wood stove so that she may accommodate a couple, a single, or two friend volunteers in the cooler Spring months. We will also be building a wall tent bunk house this year, which will be our own design using a mixture of canvas, milled lumber, and metal roofing. The wall tent bunk house will have simple, single rooms with a shared living space and wood stove. We will also be using a similar design to build a wall tent cook shack, which will be fully operational throughout the early spring and summer months. There are also tent platforms available. All of our accommodation options are set in the forest near the beautiful brook and include a foamy, pillow, and a sleeping bag, unless of course, you would prefer to bring your own.
We are also open to volunteers who want to bring their own form of accommodation/gear, which could include a tent, camper, trailer, etc. This will need to be discussed prior to arrival to ensure that we are able to accommodate your set-up.
There is a composting toilet available for your use, which is the shared responsibility of the volunteers to empty, clean and maintain. This is just one of the many opportunities to fully immerse yourself in off-grid living! As we do not have running water available yet for our volunteer accommodations, shower facilities include a hot bucket shower. Think simple, clean, and rustic! All of our volunteers over the past two years have been pleasantly surprised at how far a bucket of water can go and just how refreshing it actually is! Volunteers will be required to haul and heat up their own water for showering, all a part of the experience which we are very familiar with!
Meals will be shared and cooked by everyone with communal help with clean-up. We do not provide snacks and if you require certain additional food items other than what we serve at meal times, you will need to provide those for yourself. Since meals are prepared communally, we are not able to cater to specific food requirements or allergies. We believe in a localized diet and therefore, we eat meat, either our own chicken and pork or from other local, ethically raised sources as we increase our own supply. We also cook with lard rendered from our own pigs, so we are unable to cater to strict vegetarians/vegans. We honor these beings through our deep gratitude for their lives and the integral role that they have in creating a natural, healthy ecosystem.
Our meals consist of simple, home cooked, whole foods made mostly from scratch, using as much of our own produce as possible. This means that we focus on eating what is in season as best we can. Since localized, healthy food is extremely important to us, we look forward to sharing this passion and skill set with our volunteers.
List of Suggested Items to Bring:
- Rain Pants and Rain Jacket
- Rubber Boots
- Sun Hat
- Loose, Light Coloured, Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants
- Overalls or Coveralls
- Work Gloves
- Bug Net (for your head)
- Flashlight/Headlamp with spare batteries
- Scent-free Soap/Shampoo etc.
Things To Do Locally
Our farm is located just a short drive/bike/walk to beautiful white sandy beaches, where there are no bugs! We are also very close to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, which is an old railway bed stretching 92 kms total from Port Hastings to Inverness. We are working to build trails throughout the property, which makes for an extremely pleasant way to spend an afternoon. There is also the Celtic Centre in Judique that promotes the traditional Celtic music of Cape Breton Island and is open every Sunday throughout the winter and daily during the summer.
There are shuttles available from Halifax and Sydney to Port Hawkesbury/Port Hastings, where we would be happy to meet you. There are rideshare programs as well, check out Amigo Express and Poparide for more information. If you are driving, we can provide you with specific directions to our farm.
How to Apply
Feeding people and farming in deep relationship with the land is a mighty task and one that requires a village to fully cultivate. We welcome you to come and be a part of this exciting endeavor!
Please forward an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Volunteer” and include the dates that you are interested in volunteering . You can also apply through our listings with WWOOF, Help X and Workaway.