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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — October’s Co-op Community Champion is Sonya Wilson, the owner of Wyld Acres, which provides Fort St. John families with the opportunity to reconnect with nature and horses.

Wyld Acres was initially a retirement project, but it turned into the Wilson family’s main source of income after Sonya’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago.

“It was at that point that I basically had to start providing a living for us and taking care of him,” said Wilson.

The couple decided to focus purely on the project they began in September 2019, their “dream” project, following the diagnosis.

The new business was a massive learning curve for Sonya, who says she didn’t know what she was doing.

“Nothing was ready. I remember the first winter literally going out at 6:00 a.m. and hand spreading salt along the road so that I could walk my horses down to the arena without them slipping,’ said Sonya.

Besides some needed repairs, such as a heater for their arena, Sonya says their situation has improved, but not as much as they’d like.

“We’re surviving. I mean, sometimes I don’t take a wage for myself.”

On top of running a business and caring for her husband, Sonya also homeschools her three kids.

“I don’t have a lot of time to actually work. So the farm has kind of taken on a life of its own. And eventually, when things ease up, we’ll be able to go more into a traditional business model.”

Since its inception, Wyld Acres has welcomed hundreds of local youth every year.

The farm also has specific programming for individuals with special needs and receives funding from Autism BC to help with operations.

Sonya notes that without local companies and individuals, Wyld Acres wouldn’t be able to continue running.

“We’ve really put a lot of time and effort in.”

Prior to her husband’s diagnosis, Sonya owned Imagine That! in Fort St. John while her husband worked in the oil and gas industry. Sonya has also completed multiple counselling courses.

Over the last couple of years, Sonya says her main motivator has been the kids utilizing the farm’s programming and her five kids, two of which no longer live at home.

“The biggest thing for me is, I can look out outside, and there might be anywhere from two to 10 kids out there,” said Wilson.

Wyld Acres’ services range from farm tours to horseback riding lessons to equine-assisted learning.

Providing experiences that wouldn’t usually be accessible to local children is a “big deal” to the Wilsons, said Sonya.

“I’ll look out, and there will be kids on my horses going out for a trail ride. These are kids that wouldn’t have that opportunity,” said Sonya.

“It gives us purpose.”

Sonya had called Fort St. John home since 2007 after spending around a decade in both Mackenzie and Prince George.

Co-op highlights people in Fort St. John who should be recognized for their work in the community. Anyone looking to nominate a community-minded person in need of recognition can head to Energeticcity’s website.

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Tre Lopushinsky is the News Director at Energeticcity.ca, and a NAIT broadcasting graduate. His love for local journalism started in Lloydminster, where he realized the importance of covering issues/topics for smaller municipalities. He is also the co-host of Before The Peace, highlighting Indigenous voices in the North Peace. In his off time, Tre is yelling at his tv while watching pro wrestling, MMA, and basketball.