Alberta couple leaves city for farm in search of simpler life
It took a near-death experience to give an Alberta family the perspective they needed to make a drastic lifestyle change – trading in their down town digs for a down-home farm.
The Mendieta’s lived in the heart of Calgary, working office jobs in the finance and insurance sectors.
But at 29-years-old and with a six-month old baby to care for, husband Brian received a life-changing diagnosis.
“My dentist found a lump in my neck,” he recalled. “It turned out I had stage three lymphoma.”
While undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Brian had what he believes to be an allergic reaction to one of the drugs. He went from a raging fever, to icy cold and nothing would warm him up. He nearly died.
“It really changed us. I never thought that someone at the age of 29… It just never crossed my mind that one of us could become so sick,” Jennifer said.
The whole ordeal made the couple re-evaluate what meant the most in their lives.
“In Calgary we really realized how other things were taking a priority,” explained Jennifer.
“Material things were taking priority over being together, and just the simple things. It made us appreciate today and the blessings that we have in our life and all the time we get to spend together.”
They also looked at how they could become healthier.
“We started analyzing why I got cancer, what happened. You think about all the food. I’m sitting in an office all day and I couldn’t help but eat what was the quickest and probably the least healthy,” Brian said. “You know…all the processed foods.”
And that led them to want to know where their food came from.
“We thought, there’s just got to be more to life than just working all the time. It made us look into actually farming. So we started talking to farmers, we started going to trade shows and reading online about what farming entails,” Jennifer said.
“It became really important to us to eat really wholesome food, instead of processed food, knowing that there are no added chemicals or hormones.”
They decided they wanted to test the idea by working alongside other farmers first and it didn’t take long for them to realize they were ready to dive in and buy their own land.
“I think pretty well everyone laughed to start out with, just out of sheer shock,” said Brian, “because everyone moves from the farm into the big city.”
They didn’t let that deter them from becoming first-generation farmers.
“We decided to take a chance, because this day could be our last,” Jennifer explained. “That’s what cancer made us realize. We decided we really wanted to go back to our roots, to be self-sufficient and spend time as a family.”
That doesn’t mean they didn’t have reservations.
“It was really scary to leave behind all our security and take a chance on a dream,” she said.
At first the Mendieta’s focus was on growing and raising their own food, for their family of five.
“Then people started catching wind and they said, why don’t you raise a cow for us? When you’re doing your chickens, throw 50 in for us. It just grew and grew and grew,” Brian explained.
Two years later, City Life Farms is about to open its third butcher shop in the Edmonton area, and is far bigger than the Mendieta’s ever thought it would be.
Now they deliver local meat to the city twice a week and Brian feels healthier than ever.
“I’ve dropped a ton of weight and I think it’s 100 per cent lifestyle. It’s being outside and doing yoga in the barn, just living life to the fullest.”
They say they couldn’t be happier with their new home.
“It’s possible to be sustainable. It’s possible to raise enough meat to raise your family. You can raise enough vegetables on an acre. It’s doable.”Follow @SarahNKraus
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