Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 3

Weaverview Farms

Weaverview Farms / Photo: Clark Hoskin

We headed south of Geneva and stopped at Weaver-View Farm, operated by a Mennonite family who rent out a well-appointed farmhouse to tourists, offer bed and breakfast experiences, and run a gift shop in the barn.

The tour of the Finger Lakes by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

We were met by Pauline Weaver, the mother of the family, who turned out on this increasingly wintery day to show us the house used as a rental property.

We wanted to understand how the Old World values of this family fit into the New Economy, especially a digital one. In the case of Weaver-View, a neighbour operates the website and hand-delivers emails to the family. Then, Pauline calls the person on the phone and makes arrangements. Pauline explained that her family has had many offers from couples engaged to be married to use the property for wedding ceremonies. The barn, while quaint, would need to be brought up to the Building Code so that no one was in any danger.

Our bus headed next to the small town of Penn Yan, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. This town has a heart of gold and never ceases to solve its challenges. Last spring, Penn Yan received 9 inches of rain in a short period of time, and the downtown was flooded. Many buildings were destroyed.

We were served lunch at The Pinwheel Market & Café, also home of Milly’s Pantry. Lunch was chili, soup and quiche made by volunteers in the café’s kitchen.

Pnwheel Cafe

Pinwheel Cafe, Penn Yan, home of Milly’s Pantry / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Suzan Richards of Milly’s Pantry explained the social enterprise housed in this facility. Yates County, which includes Penn Yan, has among the lowest household incomes in New York State. Years ago, a public health nurse named Milly Bloomquist witnessed children who weren’t learning well or were in trouble, tended to be hungry – even on weekends, when the school did not have the students in the building to feed. So Milly created the Weekend Back Pack program. Children could take a back pack filled with food home for the weekend to keep their hunger pangs at bay.

Today, more than 500 students participate in the program every weekend. Suzan explained that many older students are hungry but too proud to ask for a back pack. Commissions from sales of art and jewellery, as well as profits from the café, provide funds to purchase food for the Weekend Back Packs. Susan acknowledged that, by choosing to have lunch at The Pinwheel Café, our tour group helped feed a half-dozen children for a significant period of time. Milly Bloomquist passed away in 2014 in her 90s. However, before she died, she received the Presidential Citizens Medal from U.S. President Barack Obama.

One of the tour’s participants commented: “Very similar issues that we face in Norfolk County are shared by the communities that we visited. The impact that something as simple as a lunch can have on others (Milly’s Pantry). The power of the community partnerships in achieving important community goals.”

These were a few of the stops along the way on the Norfolk County Finger Lakes Study Tour. Watch this blog for more chapters in the story. See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

(c) Clark Hoskin 2015

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine