Arthur and I have dreamed of owing our our farm in Fiji for over 30 years. In 2014 we made it a reality when we purchased a 93 acre property very close to where Arthur grew up. Of course this property was 93 acres of tropical rainforest and in no shape or form a farm. Our plan was to retire from our paid work once all our children were adults and move from Canada to Fiji. In August of 2015 we made it happen. We officially retired, sold our house in Whitehorse, Yukon, packed our belongings into a 20 foot container, said our goodbyes to friends and family, and headed off on our adventure.
Over the past two years we’ve hacked back the jungle, cleared roads and land, built a base camp, planted 500 yasi trees, planted taro and cassava, survived Tropical Cyclone Winston, built our main house, planted lots of pineapple and banana plants, started a small poultry business, become beekeepers, built a market garden, and believe it or not enjoyed a more relaxing life.
We’ve still got a way to go with our farm development. Our plans for this year are to increase our bee hives from 7 to 20, add a rice field, plant more coconut and fruit trees, and build a small guest house. Ambitious I know, but if I learned anything from my years as a strategic planner, you don’t get anywhere without goals, action plans and metrics.
A bit about Arthur
Arthur was born in Fiji and grew up on Waidranudranu Estate in Wainiu, Bua. As a planter’s son he grew up producing copra. In 1984 in immigrated to Canada to be with his wife Karen. Arthur and Karen have always intended to make Fiji their home but raising four children (Siana, Kinesi, Ateca and Thomas) has kept them busy. Arthur has worked for 21 years in municipal water and waste water systems. He owned his own business, Mills Water Works, specialising in the building of small water systems for first nations communities in northern Canada, as well as training local communities in the operation of the installed systems . He is keenly interested in sustainable rural development and capacity building. In 2006 he had the opportunity to volunteer with SOARS and installed a small water system for an isolated health station in Manari, Guyana, South America. Although he spent 32 years residing in Canada, he has always maintained close contact with his family who continue to operate Waidranudranu Estate as a copra plantation. When he retired from the City of Whitehorse, his kids presented him with a set of digging forks and shovels as he always said that when he retires all he wants to do is dig dirt. And now he has 93 acres of dirt to dig.
A bit about Karen
Karen Mills was born in Canada. Her first trip to Fiji was in 1977 when she had the opportunity to visit Wainunu, Bua with a friend from Fiji. Arthur and Karen met in 1977 and were married in 1982. Karen received her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Western Ontario in 1985. She has worked as an Occupational Therapist for 25 years as well as managed the occupational therapy services at Saint Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia and the rehabilitation services at Whitehorse General Hospital in the Yukon. Prior to retirement she spent 6 years as the Director of Strategic Initiatives with the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Her primary role in this position was to facilitate the achievement of the corporation’s strategic and business plans, including overseeing major capital projects. Although work and raising her family were very rewarding, her real passion in life is passion quilting and fabric dying. When making plans for retirement Karen told Arthur that while he may be planning to farm Karen was planning to quilt. So far farming is winning out and quilting is having to wait until the house is truly finished. In the meantime Karen has embraced permaculture design, raising chickens, beekeeping and producing a market garden.