A letter from a possible New Brunswick future.
Dear New Brunswickers,
I’m excited for next week. It’ll be Wednesday March 6, 2030 and I’ll be heading to the Land Services office of New Brunswick in Fredericton. My family is hoping that parcels of land will still be available outside of Fredericton. I am certain there still will be, and I don’t mind where the land is. Not really. But I do hope the land is near water.
I was born in New Brunswick, and so in the first six months of every year, I can apply for and choose a parcel of land. During the second half of the year, the land is allocated to newcomers.
Nearly all of my childhood friends have come back to New Brunswick from away to get their parcels. Some came back from Alberta, others from Ontario or British Columbia or the United States. As New Brunswickers, we all have a right to our own small parcels of land. It is a birthright. The land is free. Newcomers can apply as well.
Seven years ago, legislation allowed a pilot project for land allocation in New Brunswick. At first, it was a long abandoned hundred-acre farm near Zealand. The property was divided into small parcels, each a hectare in size, which are called homesteads.
My younger sister Amanda applied for a homestead when she turned eighteen. She got the first one.
My parents were horrified. They had wanted her to leave. To go off to university. To go away. She was accepted to Ryerson in Toronto, but she chose to stay in New Brunswick on her homestead. Seven years later, she’s still here and nearly 3,500 acres of abandoned farmland have been purchased by the government, subdivided into parcels, and given away as homesteads.
Everyone wants a homestead and their own piece of land, and my sister Amanda is having the time of her life.
Amanda always loved nature, and on her homestead, she dug a pond to keep a flock of ducks that run at you when you visit. She keeps goats for milk to make cheese. She rejuvenated an apple orchard. Her raspberries and blackberries are incredible. She plants a huge vegetable garden each year.
I wish I had started when she did. We are competitive, that way. My kids want to go to Amanda’s place on the weekends. Our folks even like going, even as they pester her about university. Amanda might still go, one day. But she met a guy out there on her homestead, and excuse the pun, they’re two peas in a pod.
They say New Brunswick has the highest number of small farms in the country now. People are beginning to call it Canada’s garden province. Tourists come just to buy the food people have grown on these homesteads: duck and raspberries and blackberries and goat cheese and dried apples and vegetables. For the first time in decades, the population is inching up. It might double in ten years, I heard.
In just seven years, we have 1,300 mini-farm homesteads. That is a lot of dried apples and goat cheese and vegetables from the garden.
Researchers say the gardens are even carbon sinks. Something about humus. Not the hummus, mind you, which lots of people do sell, but the soil humus. Plants pull carbon dioxide from the air, and some of it is transformed then deposited into the soil with the help of fungi. It is humification, which traps carbon. New Brunswick’s homesteads are fighting climate change, which encourages carbon sequestration through gardening.
Plant-heads—who like to call themselves Plant Specialists or Extension Agents—visit the homesteads across New Brunswick and encourage these gardening techniques to promote carbon sequestration. In fact, Amanda already has full-time work along with her garden. Amanda is a plant-head, much to our parents’ chagrin.
I was planning on moving my family out West, like my friends had. But, I’m not certain, anymore. I can get land, and there is so much going on here.
Folks are arriving from all over the world, looking for a homestead. Some have long hair and beards, but most don’t. Some are from the cities out west—Toronto and Vancouver—but many are newcomers from Sri Lanka, Denmark, Germany, El Salvador, Jamaica, and even Russia.
They are all looking for their little piece of green heaven right here in New Brunswick.
The province has done many things to support this rural renaissance. It gives away the land. It doesn’t tax the homesteaders, and instead it charges tourists a tourist tax on entry to the province. The tax hasn’t dissuaded tourism, and the press coverage of all of this has put the province on the map. Foodies travel here to taste the province, and homesteaders sell raspberry infused herbal goat cheese. Everyone spends their money locally.
I always knew New Brunswick had a gift for the world. And, with the allocation of small parcels into rural homesteads, we’ve found it.
Right under our feet.
So, we’ll likely do what Amanda did, and stay east.