FOREST TO FIELDS

It’s a story that could perhaps only be told in Newfoundland: a young couple’s dream of carving out a lifestyle from rock and bog. In 1979, city dwellers Philip and Rhonda Thornley knew they wanted to live in harmony with the land. They wanted to integrate family and work, vision and passion.

Philip and Rhonda Thornley

It was a daunting task. They took on the challenge of a cold climate, land with poor drainage and soil that required irrigation and frost protection. They built ponds and roads, picked rocks, bought every piece of equipment and built their own home and storage sheds.

These first generation farmers were clear about living intentionally, and as Phillip says,…

“Our life here on the farm is the source of everything.” Their decision to “live on the land” required gutsy determination and a commitment to face years of economic hardship and poor crops.

What followed over the next decade was no less than miraculous. With limited funds and manpower, the couple harnessed soil, sunlight, and water resources to transform forests into fields and one of the most spectacular U-pick strawberry and raspberry operations in Canada.

It was a great loss when Rhonda passed away in 2011 from ovarian cancer. As a female in the farming industry whose tenacity and passion seemed limitless, she led the way in her province to have one of the first Environmental Farm Plans.

Raspberry HeavenI recall sitting with Rhonda at her kitchen table drinking tea and discussing the unpredictable weather challenges they face on the farm. And when I asked what keeps her going, she paused, and as a smile slowly spread across her face, she said, “It’s a combination of craziness and being too stubborn to give up! But I guess really, it’s being in this environment, and watching things grow.

My idea of heaven is rows of lush grass pathways between acres of raspberry canes.”

 

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.  By Deb Cripps

…The story of a first generation of family farmers

Heavenly pathways and acres of lush berries can be found here:

Newfoundland - the love of food deb cripps

We dedicate this photo collage to the Thornley family and all of the hard working farmers in Newfoundland.

13 comments on “FOREST TO FIELDS

  1. Carl Hiebert on said:

    A much needed website.

  2. I agree Carl. What a touching story about Rhonda

  3. Annette Simmons on said:

    Thank you for that beautiful article. I will always remember my mother and I as picking berries together, great conversations, and cups of tea to get us through the farm work. *smile* she is forever missed, and never forgotten.

    Her ever-aspiring daughter,
    Annette.

  4. Amanda Norris on said:

    This is a beautiful article. Thank you sooo much for writing it. Knowing Rhonda while growing up and lovin the berry farm, this article brings me back to my childhood and many wonderful memories.

  5. Vicki Barnes on said:

    They were both beautiful people, certainly a beautiful story and there strawberries are MOuth watering :) I enjoy them every year !

  6. KAREN ORGAN on said:

    RHONDA WAS AN AMAZING WOMAN, ALWAYS WITH A SMILE, I WAS RHONDA HAIR STYLIST FOR YEARS IT WAS ALWAYS A PLEASURE WHEN HER APPT TIME CAME, IT WAS LIKE WE WERE JUST CATCHING UP ON THINGS, WE CHATTED SOMETIMES SHE WOULD HAVE TIME TO SHARE A CUP OF TEA. SHE WAS A VERY HARD WORKING WOMAN WHO LOVE HER WORK AND FAMILY. LEFT MANY MEMORIES WICH WE WILL CHERISH FOR EVER

    YOUR HAIR STYLIST
    KAREN

  7. Michelle (Landry) Moffatt on said:

    Growing up as a very close friend of Rhonda’s daughter I knew Rhonda and the farm well. This is a very nice article about a wonderful family. They not only grow the best strawberries I’ve ever had but they’ve raised some of the best people I know.

  8. Lenora king on said:

    I worked on the farm for a few years while I was in university. Rhonda was an amazing person and the hardest working woman I ever worked with. I will always cherish my years on the farm and such a great family to work for.

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