Mariette Bardoel credits her support group of friends with helping to see her through the tough times
When Mariette Bardoel was just 19 years old she boarded a plane and flew almost 5,700 kilometres to a new and unknown life in a far off country.
The daughter of dairy farming parents, Mariette grew up in the province of Noord Brabant in the Netherlands with her four siblings.
She spent her childhood working in the barn alongside her family, doing chores and tending to her pony.
When Mariette was a teenager she met the man who would eventually become her husband.
His name was Wim and he was the reason Mariette decided to leave the only home she had ever known and start a new life in Ontario.
The move took place in 1984 and it didn’t come without challenge.
Wim had already been in Canada working on a farm for a year before Mariette could join him through a work visa to become a nanny.
“It was the only way to get in,” Mariette explains.
The young couple spent the next two years living closer in proximity but still apart as Mariette’s job was in Manotick and Wim’s was in Navan.
They’d see each other on weekends and this gave Mariette time to settle into her role as a caregiver and to learn English.
Learning a new language was one of the biggest fears Mariette had about relocating but she says working with children made it less daunting.
“You’re not as afraid to make a mistake when you talk and they tell you when you’re wrong,” she says.
In 1986, Wim received his landed immigrant papers and with that came big changes.
Mariette and Wim relocated to Park Hill, got married in a civil ceremony, and eventually held a second wedding back in Holland with family and friends.
On April 1, 1987, the newlyweds began renting a dairy farm in Ingersoll from Wim’s uncle and two years later they took over full ownership.
“We started that farm with 34 cows and four heifers,” says Mariette. “There wasn’t enough security for the bank to give us a lot of money.”
The couple also added children to the mix- a daughter Joyce in 1988 and a son Michael in 1990.
“Money was tight” in the early years so Mariette says she wasn’t able to see her family back in Holland as much as she would have liked.
“There would be events back home that you wanted to be at but it just wasn’t possible. There were times of homesickness. It was hard,” she says.
Craving connection, Mariette joined Oxford Women for the Support of Agriculture, a local association that offers networking and education to women.
Her role within the association has changed over time but she continues to be an active member today and encourages all women in agriculture to find a group of their own.
In 2011, Mariette found herself amongst another life altering change when her husband and partner in farming passed away suddenly at the age of 48.
In a blink of an eye, Mariette says, “there were a lot of decisions I now had to make on my own.”
If it wasn’t for certain key factors like life insurance, a dual will, and most importantly a supportive group of family and friends, Mariette says she doesn’t know if she would still be standing.
Mariette continues to have a role on the farm today although it’s a little different than it was even five years ago.
While her son Mike is managing the business along with his wife Hilary, Mariette is responsible for feeding calves, milking every other weekend, and filling in when needed.
Mike and Hilary will eventually take over the farm and a succession plan is underway.
Throughout it all, Mariette says having a strong social connection has remained very important to her and this is one of the reasons she joined the Ag Women’s Network.
“Even if it’s not in person you can bounce off ideas and ask questions,” she says speaking about the AWN’s Facebook group.
Something like this wasn’t there when I was starting out. There are more options for women in ag to be involved without being away from the farm,” she adds.
Being a member of AWN has also given Mariette “something to learn about.”
It keeps her on pulse of what’s happening in the agriculture sector and up to date on relevant articles in the news.
When she’s not working in the barn or connecting with her networks, Mariette can be found out in nature with yet another group of women whom she has been hiking with since 2005.
“There are 11 of us and we hike a couple of times per year. Two have lost their husband and one has gone through cancer so we talk about our problems and it’s really good to be together,” she says.
Mariette has some serious kilometres to her credit.
She’s hiked the entire Bruce Trail, the Avon Trail, the Elgin Trail, the Tour de Mont Blanc in Switzerland, and the Inca Trail in Peru. Together that’s 1,249 kilometres.
Mariette has no plans of slowing down either! She says she’s just started the Grand Valley Trail and when that’s done she’ll do another.