Low Down Articles

How I Got Here

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This article first appeared in the "How I got here" column in the February 05, 2019 issue of the "The Low Down to Hull and Back News". Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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'Travel is the best education'

By Phil Jenkins

"I remember coming over on the Empress of France, possibly on her last voyage in 1960, when I was six," Ivan Hale says. He and his identical twin brother, Peter, together with their pharmacist mother and grocer father, were emigrating from Belfast to new lives in Toronto. That early journey may have implanted him with wanderlust; his life since has been peppered with travel, both Canadian and international.

Three generations of Hales. Ivan Hale (right) with his son Liam (left) and his grandson Zephyr (centre). Phil Jenkins photo

His first bout of wandering came in Grade 13; he completed the grade in three different schools across the country, and then went on, after consulting with many provincial ministers and Pierre Elliott Trudeau no less, to create Education Canada, an exchange program that eventually went international and became his vocation.

Ivan lasted two years at Western University doing sociology before taking off again, this time for France. "Travel is the best education," he says. (As the old saying goes, 'The person who leaves is not the person who returns. They arrive back much improved'.) While at university he had met Jennifer, a farmer's daughter, and during their engagement Ivan was offered a job in Ottawa. A friend at the YMCA suggested he escape the city and bunk up with a beef farmer in the Gatineau Hills.

Once there, Ivan soon began construction of a home for himself and Jennifer, by now his wife. "We got married in a small Ontario town called Welcome," Ivan says. And so the couple began raising a family and have now spent four decades, so far, among us in the "beautiful" Hills. Ivan's brother, Peter, followed on and now farms in Edelweiss. Having identical twin brothers farming in the Hills near each other is just one more unique facet of the Gatineau story.

Ivan and Jennifer's first home, which they largely built themselves, was an ultra-energy efficient house overlooking Vorlage ski hill. When a 300-acre hilltop farm came up in Alcove, they went for it. "In my spare time," Ivan says, "I'd been farming with - and learning from - Billy Cross in Meech Creek valley. That man, rest his soul, was a mentor and an education to me." He had also learnt that, if he wanted to farm and travel, raising beef would allow him the time off-farm to continue to be both home and away.

Over the years, the old farmhouse that was showing its age has been brought back to health, and their beef herd now stands at 40. Although they do not have the official certification, their beef would certainly gain it should they apply, as their customers at the Wakefield Market can attest. And, true to his nature, Ivan has reached the higher ranks of several farming organizations and developed a consultancy that involves travel. There are farmers in Africa he now counts as friends.

All in all, life in the Hills for Ivan Hale is where he wants to live it. As he says, up here, "It's amazing how good a day can be."