The Story Behind Cedar Haven Farm

A wonderful partnership in southern Ontario

This is the story of Canadian childhoods, a story of the love of land, a story of values and legacy. It’s a story told by Bill and Lyndia Hendry, owners of Cedar Haven Farm near Hamilton, Ontario.

In 2013 Bill and Lyndia approached A Rocha with the incredibly generous proposal of offering their very special 96-acre property for A Rocha’s conservation, education and agriculture program. In their own words, Bill and Lyndia tell how they felt called to this unique partnership and legacy.

Bill: A Country Boy

Bill was born into a rural Ontario family who made their living by toiling on the land, producing vegetables for the urban market. His dad had a greenhouse, a root house and long fields of market garden. His mother, when she wasn’t helping to grow or pick the produce, was busy canning food to carry them through the winter. Nothing escaped her canning kettle — veggies from the garden, fruit from the orchard or even a pig slaughtered by a neighbour. Six days a week they toiled.

Sundays were reserved for church, Sunday school and rest. Occasionally, family from the city would take the long trek out to the country or neighbours would drop by. Sunday was God’s day.


Bill Hendry

It was a good, but hard life on the farm. Paddy the horse helped to plow the fields, and there were always fresh pears dropping from the pear tree in the front yard during late August. As a youngster, Bill would help his mother care for the horse and harvest the sweet pears from the tree. Thus began his dream.  Someday, he dreamed that he would own an acreage. It would have a pear tree in the front yard and a horse either on the property or across a fence. He would be able to go out and pet the horse at his leisure but not have the work connected with it. What a pipe dream!

Pears on Tree

Time passed and market gardening became burdensome. The family moved from the country to the city and Bill’s dad got a job as groundskeeper for a large cemetery. Before long, Bill would accompany his dad to work on Saturdays. There he learned to drive at a very young age and later got a job in the greenhouse helping to grow plants for the gravesites. He tended these plants when they were set out in the ground and became very knowledgeable about plants and their care.

Daily bible readings, weekly church and Sunday School attendance were hallmarks of this family. Summers saw the family attending church picnics just outside of Toronto at Miles Park. Miles Park was a farm owned by Toronto undertaker A.W. Miles. It was his summer retreat where he kept a few donkeys. He shared the property with church and youth groups, allowing them to hold picnics there at no cost. He provided picnic pavilions, sports fields and picnic tables. All a group had to do was book ahead so he could make sure there was space for everyone to enjoy themselves.

Lyndia: The City Girl

As a young child, I (Lyndia) remember my grandmother humming hymns, and my Dad reading me stories, some of which were Bible stories. It wasn’t until I was about 6 years of age that I attended Sunday School and began a more formal introduction into Christianity.  Before long I was in the children’s choir, and participating in any and all the activities provided for children. I loved going to church. At one time, I thought I would like to be a missionary in Africa, but the minister’s wife dissuaded me and suggested there was lots of need for missionaries in Canada. Sunday School picnics were a real hit, and we usually went to Miles Park, the same one that Bill visited with his parents.


Lyndia Hendry

As a born and bred city girl, a trip to the country was a true adventure. Strange creatures lived there. I remember, Miss Davidge, my Grade Three teacher, giving us a picture of a bird and telling us to colour it red. I thought she must be fooling and coloured it black. All city birds were either black, brown or gray, certainly not red! Needless to say she was not happy with my efforts and insisted that I colour the cardinal red. That summer, at a day camp in a city ravine I saw a red winged blackbird and was amazed that birds could have red on them.

Red Winged Blackbird

Growing up in a Waste-Not-Want-Not family culture, I learned that whatever God gave us we should use and use wisely. Our city garden was home to a peach tree, a cherry tree and a plum tree, so I learned to help my mother can the providence that had been provided.

For two years, we lived with my grandparents. They loved their garden, and despite living in the city, grew a variety of vegetables, corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, onions and rhubarb. From them I inherited my love of gardening and what it can produce.

Fresh Garden Veggies

In my teens, our family moved to the suburbs.  Our backyard was bordered by an old forest, which provided wonderful fall leaves for Thanksgiving arrangements. As soon as I was old enough to work, I got a job in a bakery. This was the same bakery where Bill used to buy donuts for himself and his neighbour’s dog. I thought he was really handsome, but was dissuaded from entertaining any ideas of getting to know him, as I was told he already had a girlfriend. Little did I know that he had been my own blind date that had never showed up years before. It obviously hadn’t been our time to meet although our paths crossed or almost crossed many times. God was working behind the scenes.

Romance Blossoms

Time passed and we each developed in our own separate ways. I was the city girl, no question. Bill was a country boy. As my parents would later be heard to say when referring to Bill, “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” During our teens and early twenties God was working his own special magic. We would have close but not quite encounters, as we later found out. In our mid twenties we met at a dance at Timothy Eaton United Church in Toronto. As we danced, we discovered that we lived a little over a mile away from each other and knew several of the same people. Romance soon flourished. God had finally decided it was time for us to meet. As we look back now, we can see His wisdom and realize that to have met sooner would have meant we would not have loved nor appreciated each other as we do.

Bill and Lyndia

Bill had a cottage when I met him and over the years, I learned to be not quite so citified and Bill learned how do many wonderful things with his hands. Our jobs meant moving from city to city, but the cottage was a constant. With these experiences came self confidence, and we learned that together we could tackle anything life threw our way. Over the years, every once in a while Bill would mention his dream of having a few acres, a horse to pet, a pear tree in the front yard and someone to do the work.  I would gently pat his hand and indulgently say, “Yes, Dear.”  All the while thinking, That will never happen! Who could afford such a lifestyle?

A Special Place

As our working years dwindled and retirement loomed on the horizon, we realized Bill would never be content on a city lot. He would be one of those statistics that measure how short a life span some retirees have. Something had to be done. We discussed living at the cottage, but that didn’t really appeal, so we began to look for a small acreage on the outskirts of the city. We did find one place that stole our hearts, but the price tag was astronomical as developers had moved into the area. We met the elderly gentleman that lived on the property, and he proudly showed us around and regaled us with many of his fond memories. He introduced us to his real estate agent, who was also his friend, and we soon became friends as well.

Cedar Haven Farm Pond and Fence

We were constantly being drawn back to that one place, although we knew it was out of reach. We put offers on other properties in the area, but they were not to be. One cold January day, we went for a drive, and as usual ended up driving past our favourite spot. Only this time, there was a chain across the lane.  We called our mutual friend the real estate agent who knew nothing about the chain but said he would investigate. He discovered the elderly gentleman had died and surmised that the family would inherit the land. In February, the agent called back to say the place was going on the market at a reasonable price. We were ready to put in an offer and drove up with the agent just to make sure we were talking about the same place. We didn’t even bother to get out of the car, just as we were about to leave, another couple came by to look at the property and were interested as well.

We put in our offer immediately and it was accepted!

Cedar Haven Farm

A few legal issues with the estate meant a long closing date, but we were happy to wait. We still had to sell our city home. Despite the city home being on the market for 3 years, it sold within 3 weeks of purchasing the farm. (It was bought by a Hasidic Jewish group to use as a student centre.)

Naming Cedar Haven

By the time we took possession of the farm, it had been abandoned for over a year. The food was still in the fridge and the wild creatures had taken over. Our friends thought we had lost our minds.  Little did any of us know that we were being led by a much Higher Power.

As we were packing to move, we found the original plans we had drawn for the house when we first saw it 5 years earlier. Now it was time to implement those plans.  We knew that the house needed gutting as there was no insulation in the walls and the plumbing was a garden hose.  We decided to be the general contractors but hired a gentleman who had some experience with stonework to be our subcontractor. What a gem he was! He and his crew were kind gentlemanly types who sang hymns as they worked. We still hire many of his tradespeople when we need work done that we are ill equipped to do.

Cedar Haven Farm

Before we moved in a former student of Bill’s asked to farm our fields. We had also inherited another elderly gentleman who kept his bees on the property and a group of hunters who showed up in the fall. Thus began our sharing of the farm. We knew right from the beginning that this was not our land but God’s, and we were here to care for it, preserve it and share it. Soon, we were encouraging neighbours with smaller properties to walk their dogs in our fields and let their children play on our paved drive.

At one point someone asked us what we were going to call our farm. We looked around and thought there are lots of cedar trees here and they protect the wildlife. This property has a certain feeling of safety to it, and we wanted it to be a refuge for all God’s creatures.  Hence, we decided to call it Cedar Haven Farm.

Cedar Haven Farm Trees

Bird Boxes at Cedar Haven Farm

Cedar Haven Farm Bird on Box

Tree Swallow

New Friends

In hindsight, it seems God knew we weren’t yet quite ready for what was in store, and so He introduced us to the Hamilton Burlington SPCA, and for a little more than 5 years we worked with them fostering abused animals and allowing them to run part of their day camp program on our farm. Along with a wealth of information, we also received two priceless gifts: the love of our animals and a new friend, Kathy. Kathy was originally a back up worker to care for the animals if we were ill or wanted to go away. Now she is part of the family and lives in our home. Without her we could not do what we do nor have the lifestyle we live, she is definitely a blessing and we think of her as our guardian angel. After about five years partnering with the SPCA they felt the need to focus elsewhere, but the animals were left behind in our care.

Cedar Haven Farm Llama and Goats

A Rocha summer student worker, Anna Marie, befriends the Hendry’s barnyard animals.

Once again we were faced with the question, “What does God want us to do with this property?”  We knew it was only ours to keep so that it could be used for His Glory. We spoke with a number of different groups about sharing the land, but none seemed like the right fit.

Eventually, we met Jen Baker of the Hamilton Naturalist Club and head of the Head of the Lakes Trust. She worked tirelessly with us for over two years. She understood what we were aiming for but no matter how hard we tried we could not squeeze our ideas into the boxes set out by other organizations. Finally, one day she said, “I know someone who is with an organization that is more in keeping with what you want.  Would you mind if I sent him up?  Would you meet with him?”

A Rocha and the Hendrys

A few days later, Peter Scholtens arrived on our doorstep bearing Peter Harris’ book “Under the Bright Wings” and some A Rocha pamphlets. As we chatted, we realized that we were already living the A Rocha lifestyle without ever hearing of A Rocha! Even today we get chills when we think of how God worked in our lives and led us to this place.

Bill with Pete and Diana

Bill Hendry with Peter and Diana Scholtens of A Rocha Ontario

On of the first scientific activities that happened on our farm was the gathering of a number of scientists and conservationists who conducted a “bioblitz”. The results were astounding. The citizen scientists found over 100 species of soft plants, grasses, wildflowers, etc.; 34 varieties of trees and 55 species of birds in a 3 hour period.  Since then over 100 species of birds and 26 ecosystems have been identified. Over the years, rare plants such as Mountain Mint and some rare butterflies and bees have been discovered.  Efforts are being made to increase the presence of these rare species while eradicating such invasive species as buckthorn and garlic mustard.

Volunteer Day

Discovering wildlife at Cedar Haven Farm on an A Rocha Volunteer Day

Dragonfly on Finger

Stream Bluet Damselfly (Enallagma exsulans)

“A Little Piece of Heaven”

Several visitors refer to Cedar Haven as, “a little piece of heaven on earth.”  What a privilege it is to be able to share not only creation but the Creator with those who come! It is wonderful to hear the shrieks of delight and the look of amazement on their faces when children see or experience the wonders of creation. Cedar Haven is never more alive than when children are learning and exploring.

But it’s not only children who have benefitted thanks to our partnership with A Rocha.

Child Laughs While Holding Dragonfly

Our garden intern, Ben McCullough, has fed innumerable marginalized people from our vegetable garden as A Rocha works with the 541 restaurant in downtown Hamilton. He has introduced many young people to a variety of fresh vegetables they didn’t even know existed.

Cedar Haven Farmers Display Rhubarb

Ben McCullough of A Rocha harvesting rhubarb with volunteers from Indwell of Hamilton.

Many Newcomers to Canada have learned about Canadian fruits and vegetables and Canadian farming practices. Often Newcomers arrive at the farm within a week or two of landing in Canada. It is moving to see them pick up maple leaves, kiss them and declare, “I love Canada.”  But perhaps, the most poignant moments are when you see a mother with a child on either side sitting by the pond. Their body language says it all: “We are safe. No harm will come to us here.”

Cedar Haven is indeed a sanctuary for all creation and we are so very blessed to have been chosen to safeguard it in conjunction with A Rocha.  We’re so happy that our farm is blessing so many and that God’s land is being stewarded so well.

Bill and Lyndia on Volunteer Day

Cedar Haven Farm is a centre just outside of Hamilton where A Rocha works in conservation science, environmental education and sustainable agriculture.

Click to learn more about A Rocha’s work in Hamitlon & Ontario