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The Broadleaf Story

The Broadleaf Story

Joyce and Vernon HudsonIn May 1953, Joyce and Vernon Hudson purchased a run down, 400-acre farm. From this beginning, Broadleaf Guest Ranch was born. The Hudsons arrived with their two children Edward, age 6, and Donna, age 4. Their farmhouse took months of hard work to become a home. Work on the farm was a gradual clean up and fixing process. Three months after their arrival a third child, Kathy, was born. The following year finances hit rock bottom. Transport became a bicycle, yet the home was saved and Bobby was born.

After two years of hard labour, the situation began to turn around. Vernon helped build the Shepody dam that reclaimed the area's marshland; he also operated a sawmill at a garage in Albert. Joyce returned to teaching and took in boarders. The children, too, played a part and took the cattle to the exhibitions. (Eventually it would be their joy to exhibit the horses.)

Tractors and machinery were bought as the farm began to take shape. When the family began to register cattle and horses, the name 'Broadleaf' was chosen: Broadleaf is a type of grass (hay) that grows nearby in the marsh area. It is a very tough grass, and is only harvested at times when regular grass is insufficient. ('It's like bread-crust; the animals don't like it as well as the bread!')

'Henry Day' was the very first horse to be purchased at Christmastime in '57.

Between 1960 and 1965 Danny, Wendy and Douglas were born, and the Hudson family began the business of raising colts: A visit to Fredericton racetrack and an investment of $150, introduced Bonnie Federal to Broadleaf. She became the foundation mare.

In '66, Vernon had to make a decision to sell some horses. Desperate to avert this, the children understood that the horses had to be put to work. From this understanding the first horseback rides for tourists began…

With an investment of $1000, Donna and a girl friend bought 5 saddles and built a fence at the roadside. Trail rides cost $1.50 and on that first day, July 17th 1966, they raised $18. By September that year, the business had generated $865. The next year Vernon built their first riding stable.

All the while, Joyce continued teaching her elementary classes, first at Hillsborough then at Riverside. She recalls that there were always horses or land popping up to buy. Her children were up at 6am for barnyard chores before school, and of course, the daughters were much happier cleaning the barn than their bedrooms.

Food service was first offered in '67 on the ranch house porch (which now houses the offices). Initially Joyce would serve doughnuts, fresh bread and berries to the waiting parents of riders in the sun-porch. Dinners were introduced; the first was in honour of Premiere Louis Robishaud, who visited the area on Oct 3rd '67.

A loan in '69, and three carpenters converted a vacant hog barn into a Catering Lodge, which held 125 people. (This Lodge would eventually be extended and cater to 280 people.) Ahead of the official opening, the Shepody Lions booked a banquet for their visitors on Dec 10 1969. The official opening was celebrated with a musical program of family singing and dancing on January 17th 1970.

As the years passed, the second generation of Broadleaf Hudsons left school, and worked away, yet a love and appreciation for Broadleaf brought most home again. (The Ranch now supports a third and fourth generation.)

In '73, a local farm was purchased with 1100 acres and 2 houses that would become homes for Eddy with his wife Donna, and Kathy with her husband Darrell. Broadleaf Stock Farm Ltd was formed in 1974, and included all 7 children.

With a Farm Vacation tour in Europe coming up, Joyce and Vernon worried about leaving the farm; however, a deposit had been paid to the Department of Agriculture and leave they did. The 'children' managed well, this was '76 and Broadleaf prospered.

'Rodeo East', and the Lodge extension in '83 marked such a successful period that business almost overwhelmed Joyce and Vernon. At Easter dinner that year, the parents read their children a letter and it indicated the need for a momentous decision: Broadleaf could be handed to the 7 children or sold, and the proceeds divided. A joke was made that no one could find sufficient funds to purchase this growing business so, they would willingly take it on! And take it on they did.

First in this new development was the children's provision of their parent's 10th home: 'Broadleaf Too'. Working with 2 carpenters, Joyce made sure that the new building could include 'B&B' accommodation for vacationers. This business continues today.

Adding to the Lodge and a tent ground/trailer court, the Mountain Chalet was constructed. Followed by 3 country cabins, named after Broadleaf's breeding stallions: Lou's Joker, Mi Amigo and Comanche. Two cabin-style dormitories named Henry Day and Bonnie Federal were added, and this winter, the family is looking at year round camping facilities.

Trail rides have continued since '66, taking place annually from July 1st to Sept 1st. In '97 winter rides began and Broadleaf was established as a 'year-round, outdoor adventure destination'.

At the 1997 annual general meeting the 7 children were asked to tell what Broadleaf meant to them. All generations were present and here the family truly understood how Broadleaf had shaped their lives - they felt very blessed indeed.

Since then, the family have received awards (in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001) recognizing their level of hospitality, and the range of activities that feature in their adventure and retreat packages.

On December 20th 2001, Vernon Hudson died at the age of 76. His influence in the growth of Broadleaf continues through the second and third generations, as the family business continues to grow.

The Broadleaf Family

Broadleaf Reflections
(a poem by Joyce Hudson
)

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