A 2024 addition to our newsletter, IJC Voice, is the “Land Lovers” profile, complied by local Guelph artist, writer and Ignatius land lover, Dawn Matheson, with photography by Teresa Blanking. If you are a lover of our fields and forests, flora and fauna and want to share in the wonder, please reach out.
Meet Matt Vermeulen, Ignatius volunteer extraordinaire, with magic hands that help the land.
Who are you? What would you like us to know about you?
My name is Matt Vermeulen and my wife Jenny and I moved to Guelph in 2007 after having spent two years in the small eastern Ontario town of Perth. It was in Perth where we were first exposed to the concept of Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) and where we got involved with projects and professions centered on environmental and human flourishing. It was 2012, just shy of my 40th birthday, when I first began treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic condition that all but ended my career. The next few years were very dark times as I struggled to maintain my physical and emotional self. The day my lovely friend and neighbour said, “Have you considered a garden plot or CSA at Ignatius?” my life changed in wonderful ways and “The Farm” became a second home.
How do you spend most of your time out on the land at Ignatius?
During the growing season, I maintain a garden plot, volunteer in the fields alongside the farmers, and contribute to some carpentry projects. In the off-season, it is skiing plus more carpentry, repairs and maintenance. I regularly walk the land all year round on both sides of Highway 6. All of my time, however, is spent in deep gratitude and appreciation for the Jesuits and the other like-minded people of our area who come to the IJC to make manifest a philosophy of community, responsibility and humility.
Why do you come? What does this land offer you?
I can answer this with very few words: faith in humanity. Among a majority of the people I have met over the years at IJC, there is a palpable aura I interpret as a desire for connections between themselves and the earth, the life growing there and each other. It truly feels like a place of peace.
What do you do to give back to the land?
There is no escaping the reality that humans have created money, and that, without it, our hopes and dreams often remain only that. At every opportunity my wife and I donate and/or purchase what we can from the IJC, mostly through the farm and related programs. I feel confident that our contributions to IJC will be used to protect and improve the land for generations to come.