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Although Island Hill Farm Inc. lives up to its reputation of #thecutestplaceonearth, there’s another moniker that is just as fitting: the most inclusive place on earth. Solely owned by Flory Sanderson, the learning farm can have about 500 people walk through the property on any given day.
Sanderson, who married a beef and potato farmer at 20-years-old, started the primarily-goat farm in 2013. The farm itself was originally a private business but has been opened to allow the public to visit, shop and learn. Since growing in popularity, Sanderson has brought her daughters, into the business fold as well as her husband, Robby.
Q: After starting the farm, what made you want to include the public by allowing them to visit the farm, learn about the animals and industry?
Flory (F): When I opened it to the public it was to include people in a great lifestyle. I wanted to be a goat farmer, literally. But there are other things you need to sustain that business and you had to be diversified. It couldn’t be just goats, you had to have something else to offset that. At that time I was working at The Body Shop, and I saw people were looking for something different... there was a change. So I opened it up to invite more people to experience it.
Q: How would you describe breaking the barriers of what people think of farming?
F: If you’re an Islander, we’re used to what we’re used to, but you got to understand those who live away, don’t see it or get it. They just don’t know, because they’re not exposed to it. Their pictures are ‘Old MacDonald had a farm,’ and that’s the story. But now, it’s like, let’s show them.
Rebecca - Flory’s oldest daughter (R): Even before you opened Island Hill Farm, I grew up on a beef and potato farm. When I was young, I remember people coming to the farm and mom taking them to see the cows because they’d never been so close before. Mom’s really good with people so she wanted to include her passion for farming side with love of people and now bring it together with tourism.
Q: How would you say opening the business has changed you?
F: I’m a totally different person. I’m more independent. I’m a businesswoman and I know it, but in the beginning, it was hard because I had a business in a man’s world. But it’s a woman’s world too, so being included in things and being taken seriously was really hard.
Q: You’ve had people from all over the world visit the farm, how do you include them?
F: I feel like I’ve travelled the world. I really have through their eyes. I love learning about culture, talking about food, recipes. We share that we are farm to table. They get excited because we have foods they’d eat in their culture. Goat, duck, chicken, lamb. Asking questions is the most important thing. To have a sustainable future you have to be sustainable with people. If you’re not sustainable with each other’s cultures you’re not going anywhere, whatsoever.
Q: How does inclusion play a role in how you run your business?
F: We have three daughters: Rebecca, 26, Jennifer, 25, and Casey 21. They all have an aspect in the business. This is my family business – but what can you bring to the table to make it better.
R: We just hired quite a few new staff for the summer, I did some orientations and training with them. I found a solid worker to join me and another girl with the morning stuff and the milking. They’re all pre-vet. But with the inclusive side of it, she said to me the other day – ‘I find it so amazing that as a farmer, as a business that you are willing and wanting to include other people in helping you run your business because that’s not the old-school farmer way. She was so happy we wanted to include her and let her be part of it.
But as Flory said, a main reason for opening the farm up to the public was to include them in their lifestyle.
Q: It’s clear that you believe in getting people to learn, getting outside, interacting with animals and expressing themselves. Why do you think those things factor into an inclusive lifestyle?
F: I worked in a mall most of my life, raised the kids and never realized how powerful it can be to to walk outside and have this green grass. When you visit your doctor, what is it they tell you? Get outside, get physical, have exercise take care of your wellbeing. Vitamin D makes a big difference. Use all your senses.
Q: It seems like acceptance is the biggest part in being inclusive for you guys, why do you think that is?
F: I didn’t always feel accepted. But I want you to feel included so how can we make it work?
R: Not being accepted growing up, or feeling like you belong in places, gay or straight, connects to our mental health, how we feel about being women in business. We want to make sure how we felt, that no one feels that here. No one feels stupid for not knowing something.
Q: What is a nugget of advice you would give to someone based on your belief that acceptance is so important?
R: Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t. For one. Because if my mom listened to others, that she couldn’t do this that she was dreaming.
F: Dream big. You can do it. Find the balance on how to do it. Find all the avenues you can to be the best. Find what you’re good at and do everything you can to explore it all.
Millee is an old soul in the modern world, tea-a-holic and podcast listener, who is always putting pen to paper.
NOW ATLANTIC - JULY 2019
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- PEI’s Island Hill Farm maybe the cutest and most inclusive place on earth
- ROBYN MCNEIL: Halifax's Venus Envy helps create safe space, community
- LAURA WHITMAN: Inviting diversity into our conversations
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