In his National Post article “Can the Amish win over the Islanders? Cheap farmland triggers migration from Ontario to P.E.I.”, Joe O’Connor writes about how cheap farmland is attracting a migration of Amish to Prince Edward Island.
Brad Oliver describes himself as an “old hippie.” He plays mandolin and guitar with The Rubber Boot Band, a down-home, down-east-Prince-Edward-Island-way-trio formed in 1979. The band is famous for wearing rubber boats onstage during the island’s “mud season.” Their biggest hit — the Cardigan Song — includes the lyrics: “Come Saturday morning me throat she is dry; My wife says to me: “Let’s go shoppin’ b’y”; We went to JD’S and I said to her, “Dear, you go get the groceries and I’ll go get the beer.”
Oliver provides his hippie credentials as proof of his open-mindedness. By day, he is a real estate agent, and on a recent April morning he was doing his utmost to make his newest clients feel welcome by installing a hitching post — for horses — outside his office at 3 Rink Street in Montague, a small town 50 kilometres east of Charlottetown.
“I was sitting in my office two years ago when Tony Wallbank — Tony works as an agent for the Amish in Ontario, and the Amish all call Tony an English guy, because the Amish call everybody that isn’t Amish English — but Tony walks in here and says that the Amish were looking for a realtor in P.E.I.,” Oliver says.
“He said they might be interested in setting up an Amish settlement here. I have sold eight farms to them since, with eight more potential sales in the works.”
When P.E.I.’s legislature convened on April 5, the Liberal government’s throne speech spoke of increasing the island’s population to 150,000 by the end of 2017, for a gain of 3,500 residents. For decades, the story around the island has been one of young people moving elsewhere, with depopulation in rural areas and ballooning numbers of seniors as related themes.
Now along come the Amish as a potential solution to the island’s population woes. Or perhaps they are a new problem, only time will tell. Meantime: horses and buggies, men in wide-brimmed hats and women in bonnets, have been glimpsed in Montague, and on the rural roads thereabouts.
Compare, if you would, Mark Mann’s 2013 Maisonneuve article about the settlement of a similar group, of Buddhist sectarians, in the same part of the province.