Fresh air and wide-open spaces are the calling cards of acreage living. While the daily lives of those living in metropolitan regions are often filled with nosey neighbours and traffic gridlock, those living in more rural areas tend to lead a more relaxed lifestyle.
Although more than 80 per cent of Canada’s 35,158,304 residents call urban centres like Calgary home, a 2009 survey showed 43 per cent of rural Canadians (those living in towns of 5,000 people or less) rated their quality of life as “excellent”.
Compare that to just 32 per cent of those living in communities of 100,000 or more, and you have some insight as to how rural Albertans view their way of life.
“[We have] fresh country air, we can have a big garden, we grow everything ourselves from our beef to our vegetables and things like that,” says Debbie Malyk, who has lived on a farm outside of Airdrie for the last 30 years.
Having enjoyed the rural life for the last three decades, Malyk says that she now takes some of the joys of rural living for granted. Having raised three grown children who’ve now moved on, she says the true value of rural living becomes obvious every time they visit.
“We are living it, but our kids have all moved away and they come home and they appreciate it more.”
With their farm backing on to a coulee, Malyk says it’s not uncommon for her children to come home and spend hours walking the property, which acts as a very large off-leash park for their Great Danes.
With Halloween drawing near, Malyk recalls how the holiday would bring her rural community together, showing off yet another of the unique allures of rural living.
“Everybody would come and the parents would dress up and the kids would dress up and you would bring all your candy through the hall and the ladies would divide it up. You always knew it was safe.”
According to Statistics Canada, there were 614,855 rural Albertans living in the province as of 2011, representing 19 per cent of the population. While the number represents a slight drop from the 20 per cent seen in 2006, there are plenty of reasons to believe the province could see more Albertans opting to move to the country.
In addition to the lifestyle benefits referred to by Malyk, there are plenty of financial reasons why rural living makes good sense.
A long-time mainstay of rural living, Alberta farmers saw their cash receipts in Alberta hit $3.85 billion in the first quarter of this year — a new all-time record high and 9.3 per cent higher than the comparable quarter of 2012, which had set a record at the time.
While not a farmer, Mario Kummer is one of those recently lured by the attraction of living on an acreage. Moving from the city along with his wife and four boys, Kummer says the benefits of the move are obvious.
“In the city you are right on top of each other, no space to move in. You have close neighbours, continuous traffic and noise,” said Kummer. “In the country you have open space, fresh air and the kids can run free without any fears of getting hit by another car.”