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Humans of Campbell River: Holly Hill Farm

Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place. This week we’re sharing the story of Holly Hill Farm 

katie denne

 Magic mixed with big dreams and boldness…. or possibly madness, is how we got here. But it all started with a low spot (more on that later). Do you ever have those connections, to people or things? To a spot, perhaps? One that takes you to a place of safety, love, peace, serenity, meaning?
Meet Mary McKenzie.
She was magnificent, and she was my person. She also happened to be my grandma, and one of my best friends. She was a textbook 1950’s housewife; yet a lady before her time; one who adamantly believed that I could move mountains. The type of woman who knew how to love, and love well. Who saw things clearly, understood without explanation, and could bring peace with just her presence. If you knew her, you loved her.
Children, flowers, and goodbyes brought tears to her eyes, and celebrating every possible holiday was essential. She never wore a pair of ‘slacks’, always wore clip-on crystal earrings, and was the most genuine, honest, faithful and devoted lady around. And she had a destiny; a destiny to be a mother; something that would bring her to that place… that place of peace, serenity and meaning… but Mary could not conceive. Imagine the heartache and longing she must have felt. The doubt, the utter devastation, but there was magic in her future: in the form of an orphaned baby girl waiting to meet her mom.

katie denne
katie denne
katie denne

Fast forward to the low spot. It was 1966, and Mary was the matriarch of her nuclear family; a breadwinner father, caregiving house-wife, son, daughter, dog, and even the white picket fence. It was time for the family to expand again, and this time, it was in the form of a farm. It was a low spot: an actual Low. Spot. Geographically. You thought I meant deep sadness and despair, didn’t ya? Nope, this spot was a hole. You couldn’t build there, you couldn’t subdivide, you couldn’t do much. But you could farm! So started the next chapter of their lives: a family project to develop this low spot into a family farm, Holly Hill Farm.

Holly Hill Farm holds the memories: of the quarter-mile race track where mom would race with her brother… of the huge veggie garden that would fill grandma’s kitchen, and of my first pony… her name was Gremlin (that is a story in itself). But as you know, Time Ticks On, and people have to leave. Grandma couldn’t stay forever. Papa had passed away, and the farm fell into disrepair: fences gave way, barns were dishevelled, waterways flooded, equipment rusted, and gardens grew over.

katie denne
katie denne
katie denne

It was 2011, and the farm was going up for sale.
I had a feeling: someone was going to buy it, fill it, and build a bloody supermarket. Can you imagine? How would I ever drive by again? How could so much history, so much connection be buried under a parking lot? So, I asked my husband to become a farmer.

Even though we had little to no experience, we had big dreams and creative minds. We wanted to build a place where our babies could grow healthy and happy; so up went a chicken manor, in came alpacas, and one day, he showed up with mini donkeys! Why mini-donkeys? Well, why not?

katie denne
katie denne
katie denne

It didn’t end there. Our family farm grew into Campbell River’s Farm. We opened the farm and the land to the community, slowly but surely creating an interactive petting farm, branching into hosting special events! Birthday parties, kids camps, educational programs, field trips followed and so much more. Holly Hill Farm naturally has, and continues to be, a place that brings people together: full of love, peace, serenity, meaning, and small traditions. It’s a place where magic happens and memories are made. I know Grandma Mary would love every second of this: watching through her happy tears while children play, flowers grow, and every single holiday is celebrated.

katie denne
katie denne
katie denne

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