Men­non­ites ‘a boon’

Farm­ers and trades­men could bring ben­e­fits to Is­land agri­cul­ture

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD

The re­lo­ca­tion of Men­non­ites from south­ern On­tario to P.E.I. may also bring a big ben­e­fit to the prov­ince’s beef in­dus­try, says realtor Al­lan Weeks.

Weeks, the owner of Al­lan Weeks Real Es­tate Co., said there’s a num­ber of Men­non­ite fam­i­lies look­ing at pur­chas­ing farms in P.E.I., largely fo­cus­ing on Queens County and part of south­ern Kings County.

While noth­ing is of­fi­cial, Weeks said a group of 22 Men­non­ites from St. Jacobs and Elmira vis­ited the prov­ince this past sum­mer, while an­other group of 23 from Mount For­est came in the end of Novem­ber. He also had two fam­i­lies tour the prov­ince ear­lier this month.

“They’re also look­ing to come back again some­time this

spring, al­though it’s not 100 per cent,” said Weeks. “A lot of el­ders and peo­ple from farm com­mu­nity, they liked what they saw.”

Weeks first met the group about a year ago at a farm show in Lon­don, Ont.

“I’ve got­ten to know them and they’re re­ally nice. They’re re­ally big into help­ing each other,” said Weeks, who noted the group also con­sid­ered farm­land in cen­tral Kings County but didn’t want to en­croach on a group of Amish mov­ing to the area.

Weeks said the group con­sists of hard work­ers who play an im­por­tant part of On­tario’s farm­ing com­mu­nity.

He said while mem­bers of the group in­clude skilled car­pen­ters, ma­chin­ists and welders, most are “true farm­ers.”

“It would be a ben­e­fit for P.E.I. agri­cul­ture and I think they’d be a real pos­i­tive as­set to our beef plant,” he said.

“They’re good to the land, they’re great farm­ers and neigh­bours. They’ll add a lot to agri­cul­ture, but some of them also work off of farms. I think they’ll add a lot to our Is­land cul­ture.” Alan McIsaac, min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture and fish­eries

“It would be an ex­tra if it helps keep our fam­ily farms run­ning. They don’t ac­cept any govern­ment pro­grams or fund­ing, and even pay for their own hos­pi­tal vis­its.”

Alan McIsaac, min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture and fish­eries, said he has met with both Men­non­ites and Amish groups who have been look­ing at mov­ing to P.E.I.

He said their ar­rival will bring ben­e­fits not only to agri­cul­ture, but also to the prov­ince’s over­all cul­ture.

“They’re good to the land, they’re great farm­ers and neigh­bours. They’ll add a lot to agri­cul­ture, but some of them also work off of farms,” he said.

“I think they’ll add a lot to our Is­land cul­ture.”

There are many dif­fer­ent groups within the Men­non­ite re­li­gion and they can some­times be mis­taken for Amish be­cause of their use of horse-drawn bug­gies and tra­di­tional cloth­ing.

The group of Men­non­ites look­ing to re­set­tle in P.E.I. are able to use trac­tors with up to 100 horse­power and an open sta­tion, as well as the same tech­nol­ogy most Is­land farm­ers would use.

Since their re­li­gion doesn’t al­low them to fly, the two groups took buses to P.E.I., al­though if they moved to the prov­ince they would largely travel by horse and buggy on Is­land roads.

Weeks said mem­bers of the group are look­ing to con­tinue farm­ing, but have lit­tle room to ex­pand in their cur­rent com­mu­ni­ties, as many have large op­er­a­tions such as hand-feed­ing 200 head of cat­tle and milk­ing cows.

Weeks said he’ll be re­turn­ing to the Lon­don Farm Show in March to con­tinue pro­mot­ing Is­land farms.

“I chose this farm show be­cause around Lon­don it’s about 15 to 20 thou­sand (dol­lars) an acre for farm­land, where land around here is two to four thou­sand an acre. But the big­gest thing is there’s no room around them to ex­pand,” he said.

“Ru­ral de­vel­op­ment is re­ally im­por­tant. Tourists come here to see the rolling hills and farm­land so it also ben­e­fits more than just agri­cul­ture.”

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Al­lan Weeks, the owner of Al­lan Weeks Real Es­tate Co., said there’s a num­ber of Men­non­ite fam­i­lies look­ing at pur­chas­ing farms in P.E.I., largely fo­cus­ing on Queens County and part of south­ern Kings County.

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