Amish communities checking out province

Groups from Ontario may put down roots here

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on October 28, 2014
Prince Edward Island
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Anthony Wallbank has empathy for the Amish lifestyle.

That is why he is helping Amish communities from Ontario scope out Prince Edward Island to potentially set up roots on the Island.

Wallbank, owner of Misty View Homestead in Ontario, is no stranger to hard work as he grew up on a farm.

He appreciates the lifestyle of getting up early, being active and learning responsibility.

“I believe in that lifestyle of the Amish and the old order Mennonites,” he said.

Ontario has the second-largest Amish population in North America with dense populations in Kitchener and Waterloo area, said Wallbank.

With land prices in Southern Ontario skyrocketing, Wallbank is on the search for cheaper land for his Amish friends.

Wallbank has tried moving some communities to Northern Ontario where the land is cheaper but the terrain is rugged and not conducive to mixed farming, he said.

“This past spring they couldn’t even grow oats which is a pretty basic crop. You can grow oats almost anywhere but up there the crops were no good at all so that was discouraging to the Amish I took there.”

There are many reasons why Amish would thrive on P.E.I.

The soil is excellent, the growing season is longer than Northern Ontario and the land prices are cheaper, said Wallbank.

On Oct. 14, Wallbank and a group of Amish from Millbank Ontario made the 22-hour drive to check out P.E.I., mainly the eastern part of the Island.

The Amish noticed Route 3 and Route 4 had paved shoulders wide enough for a buggy to go down, he said.

“There is little chance that there would be a collision. It’s a safer environment than what it is here in Ontario.”

Islanders made the Amish women feel very much at home and the Amish men were impressed by the courtesy of the people and the pleasant humour of Islanders, he said.

“There was just a really warm reception and that means something to the Amish people.”

One Islander told Wallbank the Amish could mow three farms with a plow in the ground and never hit a stone.

“So I told that to the fellas that went out to P.E.I. and they spent the whole time looking for stones.”

They found two or three but were overall impressed by the few stones they found, he said.

Typically, the Amish want a hundred acres per farm and Wallbank suggests at least five families move to P.E.I. so they wouldn’t be lonely.

However, none of the group that visited P.E.I. plan on moving to the Island.

“The biggest single hang-up is the 22-hour drive. Some of them can’t get their heads around that.”

In another couple of weeks, Wallbank plans on bringing another group to P.E.I.

“If they did come here, they have enough room to really grow some roots in P.E.I.”