St. Francis Herb Farm is a Canadian family owned and operated company. Caitlin, shares her perspective on transitioning from city life to life in small town Ontario (Combermere) and working at St. Francis.
Before Paul and I even met, I knew that I wanted to marry a farmer. I am city girl from Ottawa; for a long while the idea of meeting a country boy and living on a farm was a dream I couldn’t shake. Paul and I met in Ottawa while he was doing his MBA. We were friends for a while, then started dating. While dating, I was enamored by the idea of living in the country. I would love to go up to Combermere on weekends – the drive through the Ottawa Valley was gorgeous. In the summer, we would go swimming in the Madawaska River, on the banks of which the village of Combermere is situated. After a hike, we would have a picnic at one of the many lakes in the area. In the winter, we would go snowshoeing on Paul’s property. Observing the sifted drifts of snow balanced perfectly on the barren trees was delightful to me.
I ended up falling in love with St. Francis Herb Farm – inspired by Paul’s parents’ innovation and passion for helping people achieve health naturally. Herbalism was a new world for me in a lot of ways, but it made so much sense – to use natural means to fight illness and achieve health. It became clear to me why they chose to set up their business in these natural, beautiful surroundings. This pristine landscape epitomizes perfectly what it is that St Francis as a company wants to deliver to their customers, a primevally unspoiled natural health product that is safe for you and your body. Our location is a perfect fit for St. Francis, given the nature of our business, allowing us to thrive and move forward, as we witness the production cycle of the goods we make from the ground up quite literally.
As the weeks became months, I grew to love this area more and more…. Paul tried to ‘burst my bubble’ by warning me that the rural lifestyle is pretty sedate and quiet, very different compared to city living. He wanted me to be well aware that my weekend experiences did not convey a full and accurate picture of country living. I wasn’t being swayed, though.
Paul and I were engaged on Easter Sunday atop a hill on his 100 acres. It was a perfect setting, as we looked out over the valley. During our six month engagement, I did, to be honest, feel a twinge of apprehension, entertaining a little hesitation and fear about giving up my very active life in Ottawa to move to a quieter life in Combermere. I was the type of person who was out every night of the week – doing things like visiting with friends or family, volunteering at a soup kitchen, and conducting running clinics at the Running Room. It was coming home to me that I would not be able to continue the same lifestyle in Combermere. Would country living, I mused, turn out to be too quiet for my city preferences?
We were married Thanksgiving weekend 2013. My first year in Combermere has been wonderful. As I had originally hoped, I really do love living in the country. I love being able to wake up in the morning to go for a quiet walk down our road along the river – mornings when, more often than not, I’m apt to see loons, ducks, deer and only one car driving by. I love our farmers’ market in the summer, where we can stock up on the freshest of vegetables and meat grown by neighbours. I love having an opportunity to try my hand at gardening – this year, we had a successful garden that included green & yellow beans, kale, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. I even love how peaceful and quiet it is – there is beautiful stillness in the surrounding landscape. On the other hand, there is the reality of running a family business, and that means our day to day life is unavoidably not “quiet.” It can be desperately busy! Even more so because Paul and I, as second generation, are taking over the business, allowing Monique and Jeremy move into well-earned retirement! All the same, as packed FULL and busy as our lives are, I can’t think of a better or more ideal place to live. It’s so rejuvenating to live in the midst of all this natural beauty and serenity.
Working at St. Francis has been so challenging and rewarding. What more could you ask for than a busy and positive workplace nestled in a gorgeously serene natural setting?