Daimen and Estelle -CFI Staff

by Community Forests International on January 13, 2014

Founding members Daimen Hardie and Estelle Drisdelle built their own off-grid home, helped kickstart CFI, and continue to shape the organization both in Pemba and here in N.B. We pulled them away for their work momentarily to get their perspective on CFI and their DIY home in Rural New Brunswick.


Q: How did you first get involved with CFI?

Daimen: Tree-planting with Jeff when he first returned from Pemba.  We planted together all day, every day that season - so there was time talk about ideas.  I remember struggling to keep pace one day when it was over 40 degrees and Jeff riling me, saying "maybe tree-planting in Africa isn't such a great idea then".

Estelle: Creating the Food Forest Garden at the community garden in Sackville. That's where it all started for me.

Q: What made you think that it could work?

Daimen: To be honest, at the time I think I was too naive to doubt anything that we did.  I have great faith in the abilities of my friends.

Estelle: Jeff's confidence that we could make it work and my hope to do something I was passionate about.

Q: Of all the things you work on at CFI, what excites you the most and why?

Daimen: I like that we're always breaking moulds and raising the bar no matter what were doing.  That keeps things interesting.  Right now we're focusing on supporting innovators like ourselves and I get excited about the possibility of scaling up our work this way.  We're hosting a cabin design competition for our Rural Innovation Campus right now that I'm pretty excited about too.

Estelle: Innovation, especially around land use and growing food - I think it's what we need for a resilient and sustainable future.

Q: What are your personal hopes for CFI in the next 20 years?

Daimen: I think in the next 20 years the world will change more than it has in the last 100 years.  I hope that CFI can help shape these massive changes in a positive way.

Estelle: A rural innovation campus for Whaelghinbran Farm -  an inspiring, innovative and creative space to share ideas and build the rural economy. I see Whaelghinbran as a place that shows it is possible to use land in a way that generates a livelihood and protects all the natural systems there from being harmed. Better yet, I see it as a place where the land is productive, efficient, beautiful, restorative - and supports more life and habitat then when we arrived. I hope that our projects in Pemba have flourished and are completely self-sustaining, regenerative, and people and land are healthy and happy.


Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to make a positive impact in their world.

Daimen: Work with nature, not against it. Work with your friends and community, not in isolation.  And push yourself - it's sometimes uncomfortable but you won't regret it.

Q: How has building your own off-grid home changed your perspective? What's next?

Estelle: It really challenged me to look past the 'easy-way' to something more sustainable and in line with my ethics. This continues to prove difficult at times, we won't just go to the lumber yard if we want to build something - we really take the time to find lumber that was harvested sustainably and this often takes more effort and time. I thought we would finish our home in a summer but it's been almost 7 years - real change takes time! What's next? A food forest and garden around our home that is designed in the image of nature that grows food, medicine, fuel, fibre and fodder and provides for our spiritual, nutritional, creational, material and medicinal needs.

Thank you Daimen and Estelle. Your dedication and hardwork is why CFI is alive and well today. Thanks for going the extra mile and teaching the rest of us here at the office what it means to live by your principals in everything you do. For More on how CFI got started, check out our timeline

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