Amish buggies could soon be a common sight on Kings County roads if members of the conservative religious group decide to leave Ontario for the East Coast. Skyrocketing prices for good farmland in southwestern Ontario is forcing the Amish to look elsewhere to continue the group’s sedate, agrarian lifestyle. Land prices in Ontario are $15,000 to $20,000 an acre, which is unaffordable for a mixed-use farm operation. In P.E.I., farmland goes for $1,500 to $2,500 an acre.
P.E.I. seems to have everything the Amish are looking for — affordable prices for fertile, well-drained soil, good weather, a reasonable growing season, available small farms of 100 acres or so and laid-back, friendly residents. The biggest drawback for P.E.I. is the sheer distance from family and friends in Amish communities back in Ontario.
It’s unusual that the P.E.I. government isn’t playing a more active role trying to convince the Amish to relocate here. The group traditionally shuns using public health care, prefers to pay their own way with prescription drugs and hospital care and looks after their elderly in their own homes. All the Amish need is a little encouragement to help three to five families get settled and then more would follow.
Besides putting land back into production and providing a population boost to the province, the Amish are a peace-loving community which would stabilize agriculture and the population base in Kings County. Amish use organic farming methods and avoid pesticides. Their environmental footprint is very light.
Residents in southern Kings and Queens counties remember the arrival of many Dutch and Belgium farmers who came to the area in the 1960s to grow tobacco. They were a welcome addition to the Island community and the Amish would be as well.
The Kings County area already has scores of Buddhists monks and lay people, who over the past six years have acquired more than 1,000 acres of farmland. The two groups – Buddhist and Amish - might widely differ in some areas, yet are very similar in others. They both espouse organic farming, preserving the land, provide welfare and education programs and promote peace.
P.E.I farmers seem willing to sell to the Amish because they know the land will be well looked after. A number of Amish were on the province several weeks ago and another fact-finding mission is expected shortly. Islanders are encouraged to put out the welcome mat.
Levy vote step one
Voting is finally underway this week to see if fishermen in P.E.I.’s largest lobster zone will support a one-cent per pound levy to promote their catch. It should be a no-brainer but it’s taken over a year to reach this very preliminary stage so nothing should be taken for granted.
The levy is a key recommendation in several industry reports produced after record low prices rocked the 2013 spring fishery. Another season has come and gone and the 2015 season is just around the corner. Meanwhile, fishermen are still debating the most basic and preliminary moves to support their own fishery. A vote in favour of the levy took pace in the eastern zone months ago but the populous north shore zone is just moving forward now despite prodding from the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association and Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley.
An affirmative vote is only step one. If the vote goes in favour, it will result in fisher information sessions being held and then a second Island-wide vote on the formation of a Lobster Marketing Board which would then collect the levy. At this slow pace, a board could be several long years away from formation.