“Back when I was five years old I already knew what I was going to do,” says Bunnett, the owner of Green Meadows Organics in Havelock, New Brunswick.
Thanks to his deep passion, Bunnett is able to draw on a lifetime of experience, recalling valuable lessons from his father, as well as more recent ones from when he partnered with his brother on a large operation. Those experiences brought him to his present enterprise: running a family farm with his wife and three children.
The Bunnetts – David, his wife Sandra, daughter Marta and sons Jacob and Daniel – farm about 400 acres of hay, pasture and grain and raise cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys. They have been running Green Meadows for 10 years.
Prior to that, Bunnett and his brother Murray ran their father’s farm as a joint partnership. Before that, the two brothers were in partnership with their father.
“It’s different when you’re working for your father, because father always makes decisions,” Bunnett says. “When you start farming with someone else in a partnership, just like in a marriage, you have to agree on everything.”
The upside to a partnership, Bunnett admits, is having another set of hands to share the workload. “We weren’t able to hire anybody,” he says. “But lots of jobs go better with two people, rather than just one.” The downside, he found, was that every decision had to be jointly agreed upon, which wasn’t always easy. After five years, David and Murray decided to dissolve the partnership. “That’s in the past now,” David says. “We get along really well now.”
In order to allow their children to take an active role in the day-to-day operations of the farm, the Bunnetts opted to home school them. “We have always wanted to maintain [the farm] as something we can manage as a family and have our children involved in,” says Sandra.
Bunnett is keen to see one of his own children succeed him at Green Meadows Organics. “It would be sad to have to sell it to someone else,” he says. “You want family to take over what you’ve built up and the knowledge you’ve built up… There are challenges, but after a while, you do get systems worked out. It would be nice to pass that on.”
It is too soon to tell whether any of the children will follow in their father’s footsteps although Marta, 17, is currently considering her options. She is currently in Grade 12, and has plans to go to university in Manitoba in September to study international development.
“For a long time I always pictured myself as a teacher or doing something else, but in the last few years I’ve seen myself being part of a farm in different ways,” she says. “Most recently I’ve thought I’d like to do a bit of farming but also educate people about food and farming and different subjects that have been part of how I’ve grown up.”
Over the past two summers, Marta has been running a farm share program – also known as a ‘CSA’ – which has grown from nine customers the first year, to 20 customers signed up for the 2014 season.
Home schooling has allowed the Bunnett children the flexibility to learn at their own pace, but also pursue their own interests and hobbies on the farm. For example, Jacob, 14, raises goats, while 9-year-old Daniel raises rabbits, both of which are sold for meat.
For David and Sandra, the biggest advantage of home schooling is that the family does everything together. “We’re a unit and we work together,” Sandra says. “That’s a big part for us. We do enjoy working, living and learning together.”
As a father, Bunnett loves being able to see his children all day long. “Marta’s going to start university this fall – she’s gone,” he says. “They grow up so fast.”