WHYCOCOMAGH: A Cape Breton business with a unique plan for recruiting new employees continues to draw interest from people around the world.

In 2016, Heather Austin and her sister Sandee MacLean, co-owners of The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market, decided to offer two acres of land as an incentive to prospective employees. Last week, Austin told The Reporter the business has received about 500,000 responses since they posted the original job ad on Facebook last year.

“We’re still getting about 100 a day,” said Austin. “It’s very, very overwhelming. It’s not what we expected at all.”

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The business is now offering three acres of land to successful applicants who intend to settle in Cape Breton. Employees hired under the program can use the land, and it will be transferred to them after they have worked for the business for five years. Austin says she currently has four employees working under the program.

“Our big thing is not necessarily that you would have the skills to work here, but that you would be the right fit for Cape Breton,” said Austin. “We want people that come and stay. It’s good for Cape Breton and it is good for our business.”

Over the past year, Austin says she has been contacted by people from throughout Canada and the United States, as well as countries all over the world, including Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Italy and Ireland. She has received applications from people of all backgrounds, but many of them share a desire for the type of lifestyle Cape Breton offers.

“We’re at capacity right now for employees,” said Austin, adding that another new family will be arriving to work under the program in the spring. “I’m looking at expanding because I have all of these wonderful people I can pick from now.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
Whycocomagh business The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market is still receiving responses to a job ad they posted over a year ago.

Prospective employees are not the only ones responding to the post. Austin says that people are now contacting her to inquire about relocating their businesses to Cape Breton. She has heard from a wide variety of professionals, from vegetable farmers to IT workers.

“We had a company that did outdoor excursions in Sweden, and I think they’re thinking Cape Breton would be a better place for their business,” said Austin.

Austin says she has also been contacted by business owners throughout Cape Breton who are searching for qualified candidates to fill a variety of openings, including mechanics, millwrights, and chefs.

Last spring, the Cape Breton Partnership began working with The Farmer’s Daughter to help them sort through the large volume of applications and inquiries that have been coming in.

Kerry Walkins, the store’s general manager, lived in Vancouver before relocating with her husband and young children to Cape Breton. She has been working under the program for over a year. Although the change to rural Cape Breton requires some adjustment, she is happy that her family made the move.

“We love it here,” said Walkins. “It’s a slower pace of life, we enjoy more outside time as a family, and we’ve made some really good friends. It was definitely a positive change for us.”