Many hands have helped build this vision from such humble beginnings and without the help of volunteers we could not be where we are today. As spring begins to take hold here in Cape Breton, we are envisioning ways to bring people to the farm and the forest that continue to inspire so many who have found their way to this little piece of paradise. We have welcomed many people over the years and are continually evolving our volunteer program and our business model of farming, forestry, experiential learning, and permaculture.
We have broken down our volunteer program into 1 and 2 week immersions. From our experience, we find that this time gives an overview of the land, the farm, and the forest in all that they have to offer. You will be connected to the food that is grown here while being surrounded by the forest that offers mysterious reflections, and at the end of the day, you are in a community of others, wild and human, that support you in unexpected ways.
Some of the tasks and projects you could be involved in while at our farm include:
- daily animal routines (feeding, watering, milking, egg collection)
- electric fence maintenance
- goat wanders in the forest – yup, it’s just a fun as it sounds!
- planting, weeding, transplants, watering, high tunnel movement
- firewood collection, splitting, stacking
- harvesting of animals and vegetables
- compost systems, including garden and humanure
- farm stand management and customer interaction
- seasonal building projects
- bandsaw milling and wood products
- …and whatever else arises during your stay!
In exchange for your time, energy, and hard work we, offer meals, accommodation, experiential learning, outdoor education, community building, and nature-based mentoring.
Time / Energy / Hard Work
Volunteering on a farm is hard work. No other way to put it. You must be able to lift at least 50lbs and be able to tolerate working in wind, rain, sun, black fly swarms, and whatever nature has to offer on that day. Tending to life means a daily interaction with animals and vegetables alike, and they require food, water, care, and patience. The daily routines happen every day, twice a day no matter what and it can be the same thing day in and day out.
We are asking for your help with these tasks in exchange for all of the offerings mentioned. This will mean that in a week, you will be contributing between 25 hours to the tending of the farm, which in turn sustains our human lives. You will be enjoying the food you are helping raise, thereby dieting with the land in a very intimate and real way.
Your energy will also contribute to the continued vision of this place and what you offer will pay it forward for others who will find their way to this land.
We eat whole foods, cooked from scratch that either come directly from the farm or other local farms. We eat what is in season and only have a few items that are not sourced from the Maritimes. These meals are often cooked over an open fire, and fresh greens from the garden provide for an amazing compliment to this incredible food.
We provide the basics for three meals a day, with some prepared by us, others you cook for yourself. We do not provide snacks or tea or coffee, only the whole foods needed to prepare incredible home cooked meals. Please ensure that you bring food with you if you require between meal nourishment. We cannot accommodate strict vegetarian or vegan diets as we cook with our own lard and many meals are meat-based. Our offering here is to eat locally, ethically raised food that comes directly from this land.
Accommodations and Facilities
We have two options for accommodations during your time here. Indoor or tenting.
Our indoor facility is a travel trailer that we have converted via an addition into a common area with private bedrooms, lovingly referred to as the Fox Den. The travel trailer provides you with cooking facilities and there is a wood stove in the common area for cooler nights. These are very basic, rustic accommodations. There is no power in the Fox Den, therefore, lighting can be an issue so we highly recommend that you have a headlamp to navigate the evening and early morning. We do provide small battery powered lanterns as well. It is a practice in living with the natural rhythms of the day without the addition of artificial light.
There is a shower in the travel trailer, however, there is no running water. All water must be carried to the trailer. So in order to shower, you will have to heat up water on the stove and fill a bucket that you can take into the shower for a bucket shower. Simple, effective and uses very little water which you will be appreciative of because you are hauling all of your water. Water usage therefore becomes a great teacher in how much water you choose to use/waste, all part of the experience that we want volunteers to embrace during their time here on the farm. Not only does this create an incredible awareness of the amount of water wasted by most of us during our lifetimes, it also creates a deep appreciation for the source of this precious liquid that helps to sustain all life and how little water you actually require on a daily basis.
If you would like to opt for sleeping in a tent, we have tent platforms that you can set up your own gear or we can also provide you a tent. Sleeping in the forest is a way to have more privacy and to connect to the life energy of this land. For some that have come here, it is the first time they have slept in the forest and the experience for them has been a highlight of their time here at Twisted Roots.
We also have more remote platforms for those who are feeling called to stride deeper into the forest for a night. You can set up a bug net and tarp over these platforms, exposing you to more of the forest and creating opportunities for a true immersion into the wildness of this place.
There is also a screened porch at the brook area that is a bug free sanctuary in the forest. We use this area to hold meetings, play music and to enjoy hot summer days. We encourage volunteers to engage in daily practices, like yoga and meditation, and this magical place offers an amazing experience to be enjoyed during your time at the farm and in the forest.
Learning by doing. We encourage questions and suggest volunteers have a small notebook to take notes, as everything will be very new to you and you will be on a steep learning curve during your stay here. Any projects or tasks that we engage in will require explanation and demonstration. These can range from working on the bandsaw mill to milking a goat. We cover the basics of tool use and create opportunities for skill development through the various day to day projects that we complete as part of farm / forest life.
Experiential learning also extends to your daily living. You will learn how to use and manage a composting toilet, how to cook with whole foods, and understand the importance of minimal water and energy consumption.
We also provide a forum for discussion, either in our morning meetings where we explain projects and or systems, or during meal times where we encourage questions and discussion on a variety of topics.
We are a farm in the forest, with the wild community making up the majority of land that is accessible here at Twisted Roots Farm. Our backgrounds in outdoor programming and education provide a natural offering for us as we weave farm and forest together. We encourage volunteers to spend time in the woods, walk the property, and even try sleeping in more remote platform sites.
Nature-based Mentoring and Reflection
During your time here, our hope is that as you learn and tend to life on the farm, and be curious about the wild community that we are immersed in. Our approach is to offer ways to interact with the more-than-human community and from those interactions, we reflect what we hear which may provide powerful insights, metaphors, and imagery into aspects of your life that you may not have seen before. This is the power of spending mindful time in nature. Our work is based on various schools of thought, rooted in depth psychology. We resonate and have studied with the Animas Valley Institute, and use many nature-based practices developed by them.
As a core practice, we offer you to find a place on the property that you can visit each day, a sit spot, to observe and be in relationship with the wild community. From these interactions we begin to hear a story emerge and can offer other ways to explore these narratives within the wild community.
For more information on some of these nature-based philosophies, we recommend some of the following readings and websites:
- Animas Valley Institute, Bill Plotkin, Book: Soul Craft / Nature and the Human Soul / Wild Mind
- Martin Prechtel, Flowering Mountain, Book: The Unlikely Peace at Cuchamaquic
- Stephen Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginary Realm
The learning also extends into the areas of community interaction and relationship building. You will be working hard and living with folks you would not have known prior to your arrival. Communication is very important. As a part of your time here, we introduce volunteers to Way of Council, which is a talking circle format that we use. This practice provides the space for active listening as well as a way to express ourselves in a supportive environment. For more information on council, you can visit the Ojha Institute website or check out the book “The Way of Council” by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle.
How to Apply
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the dates you are thinking of and we will respond with availability. Intake days are Wednesdays to Fridays. Maximum stay for volunteers is two weeks. For longer stays, we require an interview with participants to discuss a longer term visit.