November 2019 – Julie Lalonde

Both Sides Now


     Like a line from that old Jodi Mitchell song, Julie Lalonde has seen the Central Experimental Farm from both sides, now. 

     One side happened during her career. For over thirty-five years, she worked with Agriculture Canada that operates the Farm. It was a desk job that often involved statistics gathering, working in the areas of swine, dairy and specialty crops.  She never had to get her hands dirty, despite it being an agriculture job. 

     The other side is now, in retirement, and very different. After leaving waged work behind, a good friend encouraged her to join the Friends of the Farm as a volunteer. She became a member of the Shelterbelt Team in 2017. The timing was right. She was looking for something relaxing, having just completed a stretch as primary caregiver for an aging parent. 

     She decided to join and give it a try. Since then, there has been no looking back. She enjoys the team immensely.

     “I remember the first day on the Shelterbelt Team,” Julie recollects. “The people were so welcoming.” 

     It wasn’t just friendly people. Everything about that first day was ideal, including getting dirty and planting some trees. 

     She liked the sense of instant gratification that comes with physical work. Who cares, really, that you’re on the ground digging in the dirt, weeding and watering? It’s the variety of tasks that makes volunteer work so interesting for her, plus working outdoors on a team. 

     Julie speaks highly of Polly McColl, her team’s leader, who has been volunteering with Friends of the Farm for years. “She always remembers your name and makes you feel like you’re an important part of the team,” she says.

     After the snow has melted, the Shelterbelt Team starts early in the spring. It goes well into fall when the trees need to be pruned and wrapped to prevent damage from ice, snow, wind and wildlife. 

     Julie tries to volunteer weekly while her team is active, starting early before it gets too hot and working into the late morning. 

     She enjoys the social part of volunteering so much, in fact, that she decided to help as well with the big, annual book sale organized by the Friends of the Farm. The books are collected in October, then sorted and categorized over the winter. 

     The irony is that she’s not much of a reader. Nor is she much of a gardener, Julie adds– even though working on the Shelterbelt Team has taught her some useful gardening skills to apply in her own garden at home.

     She is a dedicated volunteer, determined to take on a task and see it finished. 

     Besides, she’s having fun. Seeing the Farm from both sides now, Julie knows this side suits her just fine at this stage in life. 


By Julianne Labreche

Photo by Polly McColl