Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In Conversation With...Janet Rose

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

As Janet Rose leads me through her home’s mud room, scattered with coats and dirty boots, her youngest son passes us carrying a BB gun.
“What’s he up to?” I ask as Evan heads outside into a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon. 
“Shooting birds,” Janet laughs. “Not really. He scares them off to keep them from going inside the barns.”
If you’d asked Janet at the age of 26 what she thought she’d be doing when she turned 50, running a 153-acre farm in Linden likely was not the answer.
“I was born in York, PEI, and I grew up in the city of Moncton,” Janet says, “and then one day, we moved here!”
That’s the one-sentence version of her journey from single social worker to a doyenne of the local farmers’ markets yet the detailed version is surprisingly uncomplicated.
When Janet met Marty Rose, she was working with young offenders in a group home then with mentally handicapped adults on work placement. She had no interest in getting married but fate had different plans. 
“I met Marty at a New Year’s Eve party that neither of us were going to go to,” says Janet. “He decided he’d stop in to be polite. I finally agreed to go. And we met. He was the only guy not drinking and I was the only girl not drinking. We dated a long time before I thought of him as a boyfriend.”
And yet 18 months after meeting, they were married.
“It started slow,” she explains. “But it was meant to be because if anyone else had of asked me to marry him, I would have said no. I had no intentions of getting married.”
Shortly after the wedding, the newlyweds moved 45 minutes north of Moncton. 
“We bought a little place with ten acres and a brook,” says Janet. “The whole farming thing is an accident.”
Six years later, daughter Breanna was born, changing their lives a little more than expected. 
“How did we come to farm? You’re going to laugh,” Janet says. “We were still at home north of Moncton. We were planting our garden and I gave Marty a bag of beans and said ‘You can plant the beans while I plant the onions.’ I did not intend him to plant the whole bag of beans. He planted four 250-foot rows of beans. Well, we always planted a big garden but a thousand feet of beans! I told Breanna [who was seven] and her older cousin that they could sell the beans if they picked them. I weeded the beans all summer then helped them pick,” she says with a wry smile. “Then I found the sale from them. They made pretty good money.”
Thanks to Marty’s connection to Linden (his family moved there when he was 14), the couple regularly read the Oxford Journal so the following year, an ad in the paper about the Pugwash Farmers’ Market at Sunset Industries caught Janet’s eye.
“I said we were going to do it,” she says. “We went and in the beginning, it was very little, there was only five vendors. We had planted more stuff so we had beans, carrots, beets, onions and potatoes. The basics.”
Breanna always went with her to the market and when the people who were selling coffee decided not to  stop, Janet said her daughter, then ten, would take over. Although only ten years old, Breanna took a food services course and has sold coffee at the market ever since. 
In 2001, the family purchased a property on Lake Killarney Road and began establishing themselves as farmers (and parents: Eric, now 12, and Evan, who is 9, joined the herd). Thirteen years later, the house is larger, there are three barns and a horse shelter. They have pigs and meat kings as well as a market garden. Sheep, goats and laying hens have come and gone. 

Marty, Janet, Eric, Breanna, "Jake" and Evan
They work very hard for a small margin of profit.
“We build almost all our own stuff,” Janet says.  “We have to. Marty and Eric weld.”
Marty also continues to work off-farm as a refrigeration technician.
“If he didn’t have a full-time job, we couldn’t live off the farm,” Janet states. “Marty really loves pigs but none of the meat really makes you money. You put more money into your animals than anyone realizes. You have to have a barn, there’s the feed, and I’m out there a couple of hours a day.”
Now she sells her produce and meat at four Cumberland County farmers’ markets. If it’s such hard work with so little return, why do they do it? Janet is emphatic: they love it. 
“I still make more money doing this then if I had to pay a babysitter when they were little,” she says. “It’s not all about the money. It is so good for the kids. They have learned to get out there and talk to people. They have learned how to work with people. Even Evan who is nine years old can serve customers.” 
“They have a great work ethic,” Janet adds. “They’ve all learned you have to work for what you want. When the kids work, we always pay them. The sausage business, the selling of hot dogs, that Breanna and Eric’s business. That’s not our money. We donate the sausage to them,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t pay them for helping me at the Pugwash market anymore; instead we donate the sausage and pay their table fee. That’s Breanna’s summer job.”
For ten years, Breanna has been a big part of her mother’s market work but that changes this fall when Breanna heads off to Acadia University to study business. Janet says she’s really going to miss her but the boys are worried. 
“Evan keeps wondering who is going to cook because in the summer, Breanna makes most of the meals,” she laughs. “She likes to cook. Even the boys cook. I believe in independence,” she says. “You have to be able to take care of yourself.”
Evan returns from his chore of scaring the birds, peels off boots and coat and toque. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me what he can cook: cakes and cupcakes and boiled eggs. Whether he can feed the family that way is another matter entirely.

Janet with "Mama"

1 comment: