This is a story about the founding of the Wamhily CSH (Community Supported Homestead). What that is and why, is held in the story below. I hope this tale speaks to you and reminds you, as Field of Dreams profoundly taught us all: “If you build it, they will come.”
I bought my acreage in a very tumultuous and vulnerable time. I’d been working in social and environmental justice organizations my entire career and had just transitioned into a role in Vancouver’s tech scene. It was what I felt I needed to do, but left me with a void inside and some major guilt for having transitioned to a life “for profit”. For the first time, I was dedicating my daily toils to the system that I knew was broken and only compounding the things about this world that are hollowing us out from the inside.
It took three years working in high-paced tech sales for me to hit my wall. I was anxious, I was demoralized and I was becoming more and more disillusioned by the day.
And then I found Pemberton.
It happened as a result of a panic attack. Something that was totally foreign to me. I found myself hyperventilating under my desk in my office, overlooking the ferry boats of Granville Island with its happy tourists going about their day in the sun in one of Vancouver’s most beautiful locations. Who has a panic attack in Vancouver’s happiest place?
I fled the office, got in my truck and ‘drove’. I say ‘drove’ but if we’re being fully honest it wasn’t driving, it was running. I ran up the Sea-to-Sky, I ran past Squamish and past Whistler, further than I’d ever been in this direction. I ran, only to find Pemby.
It wasn’t until I hit this quiet mountain town that the anxiety lifted and I was able to breathe again. I felt it deep inside and I knew. This is it.
It took me a few months of weekend visits and some persistence from my realtor, but I found it. I found my acreage. I found my blissful slice of paradise. I found Wamhily – five wild acres in the mountains outside Pemby that lacked cell reception. Perfect.
For those of you who get it, this won’t be news to you. But for me, it was a revelation — the peace, the strength and the levelling and grounding power of these mountains. Of the land between them. And of what they can evoke in even the most desperate and hollowed out of us. So much so, I quit my job, left the upward trajectory of a stellar career and never looked back.
I named my acreage Wamhily. It’s a long story, too long for this piece, but the short story is that the calm steadfast mountains, our deep rich forests and the serene lakes that make up our magical home manifested. Wamhily, an acronym for With All My Heart I Love You. And I do.
Having worked in the political and not for profit trenches with others who wear their passion on their sleeves and who have been able to withstand the heartbreak that this world throws at us, things crystalized. Wamhily was built to open its arms to those still doing that great work, as a respite, as an oasis, and as a hub for support and connection between those who are able to continue the fight. A quiet place away in nature, far from the social and environmental fights we wage on behalf of others and our collective selves. A safe place in nature that is always here for you.
Unfortunately, real life creeps in, and reality is: no acreage is an island, as much as we wish it could be so. There are bills, taxes and the costs that come with participating in greater society. And after four years, Wamhily has been forced to evolved.
To say Wamhily was a one way street providing for the community that needed it would be a lie. After four years on the acreage, building my mini homestead, the community it fed has showed up. It has built gardens with me, it has tended bees, it has mourned their loss to bears getting fat for winter, it has supported the dream and revelled in its escapism. Now, it has moved to helping further, with supporting me in my homestead dreams and making sure the bills get paid to keep this place afloat for us all.
This brings me to the Wamhily CSH.
What is a CSH (Community Supported Homestead)?
To be honest, I’ve never heard of another one. The idea came from the intrepid farmers out there running CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), making their way with the help of their neighbours, friends and those that believe in local farming. Participants pay a fee at the outset of the season and reap the benefit that harvest season holds.
The inaugural Wamhily CSH is the first time a monetary value will be placed on the gift that Wamhily is to me and those that draw upon it. It feels weird to bring money into this beautiful ecosystem of love and support but it came at the behest of its community, now demanding to pay into the work I do and the dream it supports in us all.
In spring, we harvest garlic scapes from the garden and make pesto. Summer brings: beets, beans and cucumbers for pickling; tomatoes for drying and sauce; peppers and onions to add for salsa; berries for jam; cabbages for sauerkraut; herbs and kidney beans for drying; seeds for saving; and other garden delights that find their way into jars. Down time manifests vegan soaps made from scratch with exfoliants like lavender grown and dried here, and knitted dish rags so you can say goodbye to disposable j-clothes, among many other gifts.
Before the costs and toils of the season are upon me, I know I have the support of my community. Not just in spirit, but in the currency of our culture, dollar dollar bills y’all. Those who believe in what I’m doing buy in at the outset and set me up to be able to manifest the season’s bounty into what we need to get by throughout the year. A jar of raspberry jam, still smacking of the sunshine it was harvested in, shining through in the bleak grey of February.
In short, a CSH is a community supporting an alternative “back to our roots” lifestyle, supporting a person and supporting a belief that together we can grow, make and provide for ourselves. I’m not just preserving food or making my own cheese — we’re preserving a way of living that our existing consumerist and capitalist system have thrown to the wayside and devalued.
Wamhily’s CSH is more than just the monetary support to be able to provide healthy and love-filled food and household items. It’s the understanding between us that there is value in where we’ve come from and the knowledge passed from generation to generation. There is innate and deep importance in hands covered in dirt, arms torn up by blackberry brambles, wax from my hives dipped into tapers.
The Wamhily CSH is the manifestation of love into action. A divergence from the corporatized and prescribed path to a more connected and nurturing one. Of my community saving me and I hope, in a small way, me saving them.
It comes not from a place of judgment of what we’ve inherited and is easy, but of what we can do when we set our minds to it and believe that we are capable. Capable of a different narrative, capable of doing more with less and capable of knowing deep in ourselves that we don’t need the system handed to us.
This season, with the support of my community, I go to bed each night knowing that Field of Dreams was right. When you build it, they will come. At least when you build it together.