This is Aaron Shantz — Our Food SENB’s Coordinator
When I first met him at the Clementine Café on Elmwood Drive in Moncton, Aaron Shantz couldn’t shake hands because he had this massive gash from some accident with metal at his house. It looked painful and he made it sound like he had been incredibly stupid and clumsy.
The other thing I remember about that first interview is that he said his wife was probably better connected to food security skills than he was because he was just a forestry guy, his original career being in GIS for big corporations – the ‘devil’, as he calls them – helping them to cut corners around environmental policy. “It made me sick.”
But this is who Aaron is now. He and Shelley bought an abandoned farm and they’ve turned it into a homestead. In the photos you can see why Our Food SENB might think him suited to the job of coordinating food actions.
Aaron and Shelley have committed to the idea of a way of life they believe more people must turn to if we’re to survive on this planet. “I’m an idealist,” he says and the ideal is, “can someone start from scratch with no financial help from anyone else and actually provide for themselves and live with a low environmental footprint?”
The original plan was for Aaron to work some minimum wage job while Shelley grew their food. Aaron got jobs like welding plastic tanks for fire trucks, picking corn, and milking goats. “We were going to live agricultural bliss,” Aaron said, but “surviving in Kent County has been a real journey.” And then kids started happening. “We never factored having a kid.” Or two.
“I know a lot of people have the ideal (of food security and a light environmental footprint) but it seems like a really hard thing and that all the things that are needed don’t exist yet and that our generation has to learn those things. Maybe in a couple of generations we’ll have it figured out.” Aaron Shantz, Coordinator of Our Food Southeast New Brunswick.
You don’t really know the Shantz’s until you’ve seen the life they’re making for themselves in Sainte Marie. They’ve been gradually turning an abandoned farm into a viable homestead. They had that house built.
Aaron digging their potatoes. We were envious of how beautiful their garden was but not of how hard they worked to get it there.
This is Aaron’s wife Shelley and their youngest son Clem on their way back from egg collection at the chicken coop. It all looks so peaceful and beautiful to be living off the land, and you might even be inspired to give it a try. But it’s hard work, Shelley says. This year they’ve added pigs and ducks.
This is Griffen. He is happiest when he is working, especially if he can work beside his dad. When we arrived at their homestead, Aaron came bouncing up in their pickup truck with Griffen at home in the passenger seat.
Aaron and Clem in in the Fall of 2015.
Hard work seems to come naturally to Aaron, that a deep commitment to the food movement, whether it be growing his own food or backing up a grant applicant who has hit some resistance.
The Farm Truck. Aaron loves it despite — maybe even because — it has only a passenger door. Shelley probably appreciates its usefulness around the homestead, but she doesn’t have to like that it looks like it was driven off an auto salvage lot.
Aaron in his coordinator/presenter role. Our Food SENB is connected to so many projects that it requires a lot more skill than just knowing how to fill out a grant form. It also includes a fair bit of juggling.
“A beautiful shot of a mother working in her garden with her infant on her back on a warm Fall morning is impossible for a photographer to resist taking, but I sure wouldn’t want to be down on my knees doing it.” Archie Nadon
Griffen hard at work with the baby stroller hauling firewood. He was working at something the whole time we were there.
Break time for Shelley. It didn’t last long.
Shelly with Clem and Griffen at an Our Food SENB event.
Aaron chatting it up with another presenter, Lisa Brown, at our Community Food Mentor program in January, 2016. Aaron brought the group up to date on all that is happening with food security in Southeast New Brunswick.
Although Aaron is deeply concerned over his carbon footprint, he seems completely unconcerned about his gardening footwear. We haven’t checked with him about it, but we’re thinking these didn’t survive into the 2016 season.