Nicole's blog

Summer Intern 2019

The application period for this position is now closed. Thanks for your interest!

Town Farm Co-op (in association with Clean Foundation) is hiring a summer program coordinator!

  • paid internship runs for 15 weeks (May 13 - Aug 23, 2019)
  • full-time hours in New Waterford
  • applicant must be a full-time student aged 15 - 30 and a Canadian citizen or legally entitled to work in Canada
  • apply online between March 1 - 17

Job Description – Clean Leadership 2019 Program

Summary of the Program

The Clean Leadership Program (formerly Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps or Youth Corps) was established in 1989 to provide Nova Scotian youth with training and employment opportunities in the environmental field. This program engages community partners across the province to hire students to carry out work in the summer months that fosters environmental stewardship. The Clean Leadership program provides Nova Scotian youth with green sector work experience, an enhanced appreciation of the environment and their community, and develops skills for life-long learning (including team-building and leadership skills, increased knowledge for future employment and/or education ventures, program evaluation techniques, and the ability to give back to their community and their environment.

Job Title

Town Farm Summer Program Coordinator



Summary of Position

The community partner for this Summer Student Intern position through the Clean Leadership program will be Town Farm Co-op, reporting to Nicole Dixon, executive director (ED). In this position, you will be responsible for guiding Grow @ Home participants (youth or adults), co- planning garden and food workshops, and assisting with the urban farm and New Waterford Community Garden. The successful candidate should have some teaching and/or leadership experience, a love of the outdoors, computer skills, and an interest in or experience growing and/or cooking food.

Community Partner

Town Farm Co-op is an urban farm and garden school that teaches natural farming, foraging, and fermenting to regenerate communities, build local food security, and foster a new generation of food producers. Town Farm is based in the former coal-mining town of New Waterford, Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island).

Duties and Responsibilities

In collaboration with the executive director, summer interns will:

  • Communicate by phone or email with participating families
  • Supervise and assist 5-10 youth (12 to 15-year-olds) and/or adult participants during farming, gardening, and food production activities
  • Co-plan and teach and/or assist during garden and food workshops
  • Assist with building raised garden beds
  • Assist with tree planting
  • Distribute and assist with planting seeds and seedlings to Grow @ Home participants
  • Answer general garden questions
  • Assist with urban farm activities, including chicken- and beekeeping
  • Assist in building activities (e.g., greenhouse)
  • Attend weekly check-ins with executive director
  • Help manage community garden
  • Map town orchard
  • Assist with maintenance of Town Farm Co-op website and tool library database


Specific requirements and minimum qualifications required to successfully perform the job. These are necessary qualifications to be considered for the position.

  • Must be a Canadian citizen or legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • Must be between the ages of 15 and 30;
  • Must be a full-time student and intending to return to school in fall 2019;
  • Is not a member of immediate family of community partner;
  • Have an aptitude for safe work practices and the ability to multi-task in a busy work environment;
  • Familiarity with computer productivity software is an asset (i.e. Microsoft Office);
  • Must have good communication skills (e.g., phone, email);
  • Should be able to work productively as part of a team while responding to feedback;
  • Demonstrated interest in future employment in the environmental/green sector is considered an asset;
  • Demonstrated interest in or experience growing and/or producing food;
  • Preference will be given to candidates from New Waterford/CBRM.

Working Conditions

Interns will be required to work outside in all weather conditions. If dangerous weather conditions occur (i.e., thunderstorms or extreme heat), activities will be suspended or moved to a safer location.

Please note: New Waterford is serviced by CBRM Transit Bus #9. Hours can reflect the bus schedule if required.

Physical Requirements

Interns will be required to lift heavy objects (i.e., lumber, soil, compost, etc.) and use hand tools (i.e., hammer nails, drill holes, saw wood, etc.).

If interns have bee or food allergies, they must make this known to the executive director. Interns with bee allergies should carry an EpiPen and may be excused from beekeeping activities (at their discretion). Protective bee clothing will be supplied.

To Apply

Applicants must apply online using this form. You will be asked to upload your résumé, cover letter, and letter(s) of reference.

Funding and Program Announcement

New Waterford’s Town Farm Co-op Announces Funding for Grow @ Home Program

May 1, 2018 - New Waterford, Unama'ki (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia

In an effort to reduce the effects of poverty and build food security in New Waterford, Town Farm Co-op has received funding to run a Grow @ Home program during the 2018 growing season. The funding is part of the Nova Scotia government’s poverty reduction commitment and is run through the Departments of Communities, Culture, and Heritage and Community Services. Forty-nine projects are sharing $600,000 in the first year of the Building Vibrant Communities grants program.

“We’ll be guiding 15 families through a growing season,” says Nicole Dixon, executive director and operator of Town Farm. “There’s a learning curve to gardening and we want to make it easier for people to grow food in their yards.”

Families interested in partcipating must live in CBRM voting district 11 (New Waterford and area) on a fixed or lower income. Town Farm is accepting applications until Friday, May 25. Participants will receive everything they need to grow food at home: a raised bed, soil, compost, seeds, and seedlings, and materials to extend the growing season into fall and winter. As well, participants will attend workshops on growing, maintaining, harvesting, and preserving their food. They will also receive a discounted membership to the Cape Breton Food Hub, who, along with Gardiner Mine’s Blue Heron Farm, partnered with Town Farm on this project.

“Growing your own food is incredibly beneficial,” Dixon says. “Not only is it healthier and yummier and fresher, gardening is good for the body, mind, and soul. Plus, a home garden can greatly reduce a family’s grocery bills. It’s also fun to grow veggies you can’t get at Sobey’s, like yellow or black tomatoes and purple carrots and beans.”

Town Farm’s Grow @ Home program will benefit New Waterford, too. Dixon believes participants will become confident food growers who’ll inspire others to garden. Town Farm aims to foster a new community of growers, with gardens spreading from yard to yard, and even growing into vacant lots. This co-operative of gardens and growers will form the basis of a vibrant, sustainable, urban farm, which could in turn create a beautiful, more food secure community. “I can see Colliery Lands Park from my own backyard garden,” Dixon says. “And I always envision it as an urban farm. Imagine growing food where we once mined coal!” 

Dixon takes inspiration from the urban farms popping up in Detroit, Michigan, where the car industry collapsed much like New Waterford’s coal industry. Urban farms are now revitalizing Detroit’s land and economy and Dixon believes the same could happen in New Waterford. 

“There’s incredible abundance here. People think there’s nothing left but that’s far from true. We have an ocean, apple and cherry trees grow wild all over town. Food isn’t just limited to the grocery store. We can grow it, we can forage for it, and we can sell the excess to supplement our incomes. Everything we need to live a happy, healthy life is right here in town.” 

About Town Farm

Town Farm Co-op is an urban farm and garden school that teaches natural farming, foraging, and fermenting in order to regenerate communities, build local food security, and foster a new generation of food producers. Town Farm is based in the former coal-mining town of New Waterford, on Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island), Nova Scotia and here, online.

Read the Nova Scotia Government’s news release.

See the full list of recipients.

For more information or to apply, go to You can contact Nicole Dixon, executive director and operator of Town Farm Co-op, at or by calling 902-304-8805.

Urban Chicken Defender

I raise chickens in my backyard in New Waterford. Even though New Waterford is bordered by an ocean, it's technically urban, which means my chickens are, too. For the most part, my neighbours have been pretty happy--or at least very curious--about my chickens. But some people at the other end of town are not as happy about their neighbours raising chickens, and they contacted the media to complain. Well, I think chickens are great--not only do they provide me with eggs, meat, poop for my garden, and hours of enjoyment, they helped me through the depression I suffered after I had to quit my shitty job when things there took a turn for the worse. So I decided to contact the CBC to tell a more positive story about backyard chickens...and became an "urban chicken defender" in the process.

Take a listen to my interview with CBC--you'll even hear my rooster, Slim Charles's, opinion, too (that's the handsome fellow on the left).

Egg Inside an Egg!

On Wednesday, March 1, 2017 (Ash Wednesday--the beginning of Lent!) something egg-straordinary happened. My speckled Sussex hen, Percy, laid a GIANT egg. We all thought it was a double-yolker but it turned out to be a double-egger! An egg inside an egg. Apparently it's a super rare occurrence: 1 in 1000, once every 7 years, once in a lifetime kinda thing.

You can watch a video of me cracking it open here.

Our local newspaper, The Cape Breton Post, thought this was quite an egg-ceptional story, too! Front page news!

Some photos of the mythic, magic egg, below, as well as a picture of me holding Percy, my hero hen (with bonus Maddie!). We ate the egg(s) with some leeks and onions I pulled from the garden. 


How to Garden in January

A lot of people put their gardens to bed for winter in the fall. But this year I wanted to give four-seasons gardening a try. I’ve discovered, with a bit of planning and know-how, that you can get fresh veggies from the garden year round.

Last week, during a melt and thaw, I harvested veggies from my garden—kale, Brussels sprouts, and a coupla carrots. I made a big kale salad and roasted pork chops from Thyme for Ewe farm. It was a celebration of the food, a little party in the middle of a winter week, just Julien and me and our garden-fresh vegetables. In January!

This past garden season I didn’t really have any goals. I knew I wanted to expand my garden (dig up a coupla new plots) and plant some fruit trees and bushes. But I also wanted to try some season extending and got Niki Jabbour’s fantastic book The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener. Two things happened because of this book: 1) I increased my garden’s yield and 2) I extended my growing season. For months we haven’t bought any produce from the grocery store (except potatoes). Which means eating a lot of pumpkins and squash—and finding new ways to eat pumpkin and squash.

Harvesting veggies from a winter garden takes a bit of planning—essentially, gardening in January really means doing the bulk of the gardening before January. It’s not like I was able to put seeds in the ground in November and get kale in January. It means planting the right veggies at the right time. It means paying attention to maturity dates and hours of sunlight. ‘Cause after 10 hours of sunlight, stuff stops growing. Here’s a list of things I had to do:

1) Plant the right veggies. That means cold-hardy and cold-tolerant veggies. I’m not harvesting tomatoes right now. Winter is all about kale. And kale cousins (the brassica family). I also planted new veggies I’ve never tried—mâche, mizuna, claytonia (care of Annapolis Seeds). Plus root veggies (carrots, beets). Some herbs, like parsley, are cold-hardy, too.

2) Plant cold-hardy veggies at the right time. A lot of the kale I have out in the garden I planted in the spring and summer—then I just left it out there, either covered up or totally exposed (seriously—nothing seems to kill kale). Those Brussels sprouts I harvested? I planted in late spring (seeded indoor: 15.04.18; planted out: 15.06.23). Same with the carrots. I also planted the mizuna, etc., in late summer/early fall, so it’d have a chance to start growing before we went below 10 hours of sunlight (note: nothing’s actually growing right now—it’s just sitting in stasis waiting to grow once the sunlight increases). The mizuna, etc., is in a plot I’ve been calling my “spring hunger gap patch”—my hope is once the sunlight increases it’ll start growing again in time for a late winter/early spring harvest—that time of year when almost all my storage and freezer crops have been eaten and I usually have to wait till April or May for fresh veggies. Here’s hoping I won’t have to wait till April or May.

3) Pay careful attention to “mature by” dates on seed packages and know when your first frost date is for your region. Niki Jabbour goes into this in a lot more detail, but basically you gotta time your late summer plantings for fall/winter harvests with the date the plant is expected to mature. So, say you wanna plant some spinach. If the maturity date is 45 days, then count back from your first expected frost date (and add a week or 2 just in case). Since I live in Hardiness Zone 5b/6a (map) my first frost date is usually around October 15-31 (proximity to the ocean usually gives us a later frost date—our first light frost was 15.10.19—didn’t get a really hard frost till November). So, for an Oct. 15 harvest, I shoulda planted my spinach seeds around the first week of September or the last week of August.

This part takes a lot of planning and it’s tough to get it exact ‘cause there’s so many things that can affect the growth of a plant. My mizuna, etc. patch became the “spring hunger gap patch” ‘cause I planted those veggies really late (on October 4). But, luckily I already had a lot of kale in the garden.

4) Cover your veggies to keep them “warm.” There’s lots of ways you can cover your plots for winter: cold frames, row cover, low or mini hoop tunnels made of plastic, straw bales, or a straw/leaves mulch (again, check out Jabbour’s book for more details on covering your crops). I opted for mini hoop tunnels and straw mulch. I used some leftover plastic I had from a mattress I got when I moved into my house four years ago, then I covered the edges with straw. I also covered my carrots with straw. Because the plants are cold-hardy, you’re not really trying to make sure they don’t freeze—you’re just protecting them from the elements. Also, once it snows, snow acts as an insulator. I’ve been making sure I dig out my tunnels after each snow as I want the sun to warm and eventually grow the veggies. If you’re not gonna eat the veggies till spring, you can keep the tunnels buried in snow until spring.

Fun story: I’m always trying to keep my costs super low when it comes to gardening. So, on the lookout this fall for straw, I put an ad on Kijiji after Hallowe’en asking for people’s straw bale “decorations.” I got a few phone calls—and quite a few free straw bales in the process!

5) Harvest your veggies at the right time of day. This is a tip from Niki Jabbour—between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. is the best time to harvest winter veggies as they have time to defrost, slowly, outside. Harvesting earlier or later means a much faster, indoor defrost which also means mushy greens. I didn’t know about this when I harvested my Brussels sprouts last week but thankfully I harvested them sometime in the afternoon. Although, I don’t think this would happen with kale ‘cause, nothing kills kale.


I moved to Cape Breton in January four years ago and I remember going to the Superstore in Sydney River to get groceries, looking at the selection of veggies and thinking, I’m gonna get scurvy! The selection was pathetic—sad wilted greens, bruised eggplants, tasteless, white tomatoes--everything from California or Mexico or South America. “We’re at the end of the line,” a friend’s dad said recently about our groceries. “It’s like they forget about us.” And now vegetable and fruit prices are skyrocketing, thanks to our shitty dollar. When it’s dark and snowy out, it’s so important to eat well, but, especially in Cape Breton, it seems so difficult.

Flash forward four years and I’m pulling fresh veggies outta my garden in January. I like to imagine Cape Bretoners and others turning their backs on grocery stores, saving money, and eating well. With time and planning, soil and seeds, it’s entirely possible.


ETA: I also found some cold-weather gardening advice, plus plans for building a really great cold frame/raised bed, on Community Forests International's website. CFI is doing GREAT work in what is one of the epicentres for organic gardening in the Maritimes: Sackville, New Brunswick.

Special thanks to Leonard Vassallo of Blue Heron Farm, who first introduced me to the idea of season extension and four-seasons gardening.

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