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Devastated mother takes leap of faith to set up an alpaca farm in rural P.E.I., welcomes Open Farm Day

Janet Ogilvie with baby alpaca Lager.
Janet Ogilvie with baby alpaca Lager. - Desiree Anstey

Janet Ogilvie made a dramatic lifestyle change and ditched all stress and chaos of city life in Hamilton Ont., to start anew in rural P.E.I.

TYNE VALLEY, P.E.I. - Following the unimaginable loss of her daughter, Janet Ogilvie made a dramatic lifestyle change and ditched all stress and chaos of city life in Hamilton Ont., to start anew as an alpaca farmer in the rural community of Birch Hill, P.E.I.

Janet Ogilvie with her alpaca called Keswick, from left, and her lama Griswold.
Janet Ogilvie with her alpaca called Keswick, from left, and her lama Griswold.

“I was once very materialistic – concerned about the car I drove, the clothes I wore, advancing my career,” she reflected, while glancing with a warm smile at her muddy boots during Open Farm Day on Sunday. “I used to spend my weekends shopping, and it was never enough. I had so much stuff.”

Ogilvie dreamed of bigger ventures while she worked in administration at the University of Guelph, Ont.

“I decided to enroll in the University of Toronto and start an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree. But six weeks in I lost my daughter, Amanda, and my world turned upside down,” she continued as tears filled her eyes.

“The police knocked on my door to tell me what happened at 2:30 a.m. Amanda had a diabetic crisis and just went to sleep,” she paused, then said, “I just didn’t know what to do.”

“It was more than the rug being pulled out from under my feet because I didn’t just lose my daughter, as if that wasn’t big enough. Amanda was my very best friend, and in many ways was my life partner. I was a single mom and it had been me and the girls since Rachel, my youngest, was 2,” she said, reflecting as Islanders walked through her farm property on Open Farm Day.

Family and volunteers at the farm include Glenys Rodwell, from left, Janet Ogilvie, Tracy Santi, Heather Ransbury, Karen Rhind, and Damien Barlow.
Family and volunteers at the farm include Glenys Rodwell, from left, Janet Ogilvie, Tracy Santi, Heather Ransbury, Karen Rhind, and Damien Barlow.

Open Farm Day was started several years ago and allows Islanders the chance to explore the agriculture industry, the people who make it possible and the work they complete on a daily basis.

Turning back to her journey, Ogilvie remembers breaking down about four months after the loss of her daughter. She never returned to work and would eventually be diagnosed with PTSD and receive treatment for the condition at Homeward Health Centre, a mental health clinic in Guelph.

“I feel very grateful that I got to go there,” she said. “There was one young gentleman that I met there from Halifax, but his grandmother lived on P.E.I. He talked about the Island constantly while I was in therapy. It sounded so peaceful and calm.”

In January 2010, Ogilvie took a brave and inspiring leap of faith and relocated to a century-old farm house on an 11-acre property in rural Birch Hill.

She began renovations on the former dairy farm and six weeks later her order of 30 alpacas arrived.

Green Gable Alpacas was born.

The work has not always been easy, but Ogilvie admits she wouldn’t change a minute of it.

“Islanders know how to live simply and enjoy it because where I’m from too many people spend their life rushing around. Before, if I sat on my front porch it was considered wasting time and lazy, but here I can sit on my front porch and just enjoy the day. It’s a very different way to look at life.”

Today there are 29 alpacas and one lama, all with individual personalities.

Alpaca Shilo photobombs Janet Ogilvie.
Alpaca Shilo photobombs Janet Ogilvie.

“Griswold, my lama, is my absolute favourite. He’s got lots of personality and is a gilded male and guard lama. He’s at least 16-years-old and is a little bit goofy, all neck and legs. Keswick is my best alpaca, and he is the foundation of my breeding program. He’s 11-years-old this year.”

The farm has been therapeutic for Ogilvie she acknowledged. Family and students help her run the growing operations, and a friendly pug called Otis is there at the gates to greet visitors.

“I really like this place and I know that I’m supposed to be here, but the kicker is Amanda would have loved it here. But this never would have happened without her, I believe in some way she led me to this place.”

To learn more about Green Gable Alpacas, as well as the products they sell visit www.green-gable-alpacas.myshopify.com.

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