As a small farmer , I have always believed that I have a strong responsibility to inform people in our community about what we do, how we raise the food they purchase and what it means to us and the community. I have written many times about the importance of small farmers and how much knowledge it requires to manage a holding and why purchasing local costs more. I have never tackled the idea, with any depth, on the importance of a healthy community.
We love the small village of McKellar and its surrounding areas. When I married Farm Boy and moved to this community 30+ years ago, it just felt right! It’s a feeling of being grounded and settled and just plain contentedness. It doesn’t matter where I am , walking the farm fields, the village streets, driving the back roads or enjoying the view of the lakes, I know I am where I need to be. I don’t have ambitions of making my fortune, but rather to make a living. To be able to spend a life in a place that one loves is like striking it rich in a different sense.
Over the last 100 years our neck of the woods has seen many changes. It began with a thriving community that boasted industries of lumbering, farming, a cheese factory and a fur farm to name a few. In the early years it had schools in McKellar, Hurdville, Middle River, Hemlock, Inholmes and Squaw Lake. With that came a Post Office, watch makers, a bakery, a dress making shop, blacksmiths shop, wagon making shop, harness making shop, boot and shoe makers, garages, hotels and lodges. There were full churches and strong agricultural societies. Families with long histories resided and stayed here. Jobs were available for the youth. In short, a strong presence of community .
Changes really began after World War 2. The discovery of nitrogen to make bombs, also made fertilizer. This started the long slow decline. Farms in southern Ontario , who’s land was very conducive to farming, with its loamy soil and flat landscape, began to use this new substance . Crops flourished and prices for foodstuff dropped. Farmers in this community and many others like it, could not compete. Losing money as a business is not an option, when trying to raise a family. Cattle were sold, farms closed up and the youth looked for work away from home. Typically in the cities. This creates the snowball effect of shops closing, decreased enrollment in schools and on and on. We have now become reliant, like so many others on tourism. While we certainly appreciate the business that is brought on from it , tourism is not sustainable. We need rural economic development that allows families to make a decent living. This will be no easy task, however it is doable.
So here goes, in no particular order………..
1/ Make our community one that will attract businesses. That is, make it so they don’t have to jump through so many hoops to discourage them. That goes from federal to provincial to municipal laws.
2/ Engage the youth! Let them go out and experience this big old world but give them a reason to return. Give them jobs and they will stay!
3/Take care of our environment. This is simplified, but clean water and air will not stay so if we don’t work on it. Create less garbage, drive less, shop local?
4/Welcome newcomers to the community. A majority of people move to our community because of the natural beauty of the landscape and the peace and quiet. They frequently bring ideas and talents with them. This knowledge could be useful in a community that works together.
5/Take some risks! As in life …if we don’t try, we won’t know. As business owners , we have many ideas. Some have worked out some have not. My point being that we must sometimes take a risk.
6/ Co-operation and Partnerships. A small community needs to stick together. We will have our differences, and we want our voices heard. Sometimes those egos need to be put aside so we can see the bigger picture. Working together isn’t always easy , but when we can do it effectively the whole community benefits.
7/Paint.! Attraction to things that look nice is genetically encoded. Who doesn’t love looking at pretty villages, up kept farms and parks. It has taken us years to repair and maintain our farm. We continue to look at ways to make it better because we believe in the importance of how we appear.
8/Include our Seniors! Our seniors can be an important source of knowledge and may have more freedom to help and engage in the community.
9/ Shop locally! Shopping local means money stays local. Embrace local business and know that you vote with your dollar to support a small family run operation.
10/ Take Responsibility! As a community we have the power to make change. Does it take work? Of Course, Absolutely and Undeniably! Take part in whatever works for you. Vote, shop, volunteer ect.
These of course are my opinions! However I have a strong belief that it can be done and will continue to do my part! Bravo to those in our community that spend endless hours volunteering, sitting on boards, running businesses and shopping locally!
- historical facts taken from McKellar Memories by Evelyn Moore