By Maureen Coulter
Oct. 27, 2014
Anthony Wallbank had a challenge for a group of Amish people considering a move to P.E.I. Try and find a stone in a field during their visit.
He issued the challenge after an Islander told him the Amish could plow three farms and never hit a stone. The visitors took him up on the dare, said Wallbank.
“They spend the whole time looking for stones.”
The Amish did find two or three stones, but they were impressed by how few they found. Once the Amish arrived back to Ontario, they placed the stones on their porch steps.
Wallbank owns Misty View Homestead in Ontario. He 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.”
That is why he is helping Amish communities from Ontario check out P.E.I. with a view to setting down roots here.
Ontario has the second largest Amish population in North America, with large communities in the Kitchener and Waterloo area, said Wallbank.
But with land prices in Southern Ontario skyrocketing, Wallbank is searching for cheaper land for his Amish friends.
He has tried moving some communities to Northern Ontario, where the land is cheaper, but the terrain is rugged and not suitable for mixed farming.
“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 the Amish would thrive on P.E.I. The soil is excellent, the growing season is longer than in Northern Ontario and land prices are cheaper, said Wallbank.
He and a group of Amish from Millbank, Ontario made the 22-hour drive to check out P.E.I. on Oct. 14. They spent most of their time in 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 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.”
Typically, the Amish want a hundred acres per farm and Wallbank suggests if they come, at least five families move to P.E.I. so they won’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.”