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.
©MITCH MACDONALD/THE GUARDIAN
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. “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.”