The roots of family and community run deep on Evergreen Farm

In 1924, C.C. Toews, his young bride Anna, and toddler Henry fled communist Russia for Canada, eventually homesteading north of Linden, northeast of Calgary.

Evergreen Farm was born — and the land remains in the family today, drawing people together and giving back to the community.

“The C.C. Toews farm is a cornerstone in our community for bringing people together,” says teacher and community member Cathy Price. “We’re so fortunate to have an open, welcoming place to invite conversations and experiences between all members of an ag community — producers, consumers, families, friends, and neighbours alike.”

It is a place with a ‘storybook’ feel from another age. There’s a large, red hip-roof barn, towering trees, and a welcoming two-storey home, built in 1931 and the first in the area to have indoor plumbing and electricity.

When he first arrived in Alberta, Toews took a job on a farm in a neighbouring community before partnering with Cornelius W. Toews (no relation) to purchase land and start building Evergreen Farm. ‘Uncle Corny,’ as C.C.’s children called him, lived with the family and became simply that — family. Eight more children would arrive and they watched their parents live with open hands, sharing all they worked for in Alberta. The couple was known for giving back to the community and often housed passing travellers.

“Invite everyone,” Anna often said. “You can always add more water to the soup.”

That sharing spirit remains at Evergreen Farm.

C.C. and Anna’s descendants still regularly gather at Evergreen Farm. From left to right are sisters Eleanor Dueck, Erma Klassen, great-granddaughter Ashlyn Meek, granddaughter Blayne Meek, and sisters Gladys Isaac and Ruth Ratzlaff.

C.C. and Anna’s descendants still regularly gather at Evergreen Farm. From left to right are sisters Eleanor Dueck, Erma Klassen, great-granddaughter Ashlyn Meek, granddaughter Blayne Meek, and sisters Gladys Isaac and Ruth Ratzlaff.
photo: Cheyenne Stapley

“I believe their sense of generosity came from their faith and having lost everything in Russia,” said granddaughter Blayne Meek. “They believed in sharing what they had, whether that was to help a neighbour build a barn, open their home to provide a bed for the night, or offer a meal.

“My grandparents said, ‘We have plenty — so let’s give.’ They truly created a home where everyone was welcome, and they were active and giving members of the community.”

And so they kept the farm, which is jointly owned by several family members. They say they’ve never thought of selling because it’s so important for the family, both for their own use and to share it with the community.

Its picturesque farmyard has hosted weddings, family reunions, Sunday School picnics, and youth group events. Community schools hold Farm Safety Days on the farm, and at the Christmas bazaars held in the barn, non-profit groups such as Ten Thousand Villages have tables of goods. The Acme/Linden Growing Project grows grain on the farm’s 287 cropable acres for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and also hosts an annual harvest supper. Last year, about 500 people came to the supper, raising an additional $15,480 for the Foodgrains Bank.

Meek helps organize annual family work bees every May to maintain the many outbuildings and the yard. When they all gather to repair buildings, paint fences, and clean flower beds, the old adage, ‘many hands make light work’ is clearly demonstrated.

It also draws the family together.

“I have great memories of going to the farm as a kid and playing with my cousins,” said Meek. “We played on the bales, had wiener roasts, and even crawled through the ‘secret passage’ in the house (a crawl space over the stairs that connects two storage rooms in the upstairs).

“I now enjoy making memories with my kids at the farm. I believe that the family enjoys using the farm as a gathering place.”

Today, it is the great-grandchildren who are creating memories. When the family draws back together, they know the children are learning the value of family, working together, and giving back — all in the same giving spirit of C.C. and Anna Toews.

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