It was love at first sight for a couple arriving on PEI in late June. They had just bought a large acreage near Hunter River for their farming operation and it was the perfect location to set up, says Ellen Bowman.
She and her husband Samuel took a leap of faith leaving their Ontario home, where they owned and operated a 100-acre farm, to start fresh halfway across the country.
They are located between New Glasgow and Hunter River, at 4749 on Route 13.
The Bowmans have more challenges to overcome than most farmers. They are Mennonites, who have a strong devotion to the land, but shun many of the conveniences of a wired society – including personal computers, smart phones and cars.
“We don’t drive cars but we can ride in them (as passengers),” said Samuel.
“We wanted a customer friendly spot for our retailing – it was more or less a shot in the dark,” said Ellen.
“Beef is our number one thing. Grass-fed, grass finished beef – no grain and it’s organically produced,” she said.
“We decided as a group of Mennonites we had to spread out or our young people would not have the privilege to farm.”
The couple, who have two adult children in Ontario, have joined five families and one single young man (who is a carpenter) in the Island’s Mennonite community.
Everything is sold right at the farm and their only advertising so far is the large, inviting sign out front – Home-Style Flavours.
The choice of the name reflected their efforts to bring “nutritionally dense” food to consumers.
Beef is only a part of the business, with Ellen involved in making pastries and baked goods. She cooks “old fashioned” meat and fruit pies from scratch. She also uses four kinds of bread.
She went on to say their daughter is helping to stock the shelves with crafts and gifts, ranging from handmade dolls to handbags and aprons.
The entire operation covers two locations – their 45 acre farm along the highway and another 100 acres in Hunter River.
“We’ve been investigating the Island about two years before we even thought moving would be an option for us,” said Samuel.
The couple arrived on the Island from St Jacobs, half an hour northwest of Kitchener Waterloo.
“I think it (the business) is going the right kind of direction,” said Samuel.
“We’re getting some repeats now,” said Ellen.
Customers have come from as far away as Nova Scotia to buy the couple’s cuts of beef.
The Bowmans have 18 cows and 15 calves and 16 or 17 yearlings, said Samuel. The couple also have two horses and close to 20 sheep.
“We milk them and we use their milk,” said Ellen. The Bowmans had operated a dairy back in Ontario.
“I was told maybe I should have llamas or donkeys to ward off the coyotes during the spring calving season,” joked Samuel.
“But we haven’t had any problems.”
They also have chickens, which are organically raised and sell their eggs to customers.
The Bowmans bought a double house, which features an in-law suite, where the commercial operation, including the kitchen for baking, is set up.
Ask any 80 year old and they will have more than a nodding familiarity with the Bowmans back-to-earth lifestyle, said Samuel.
The couple aren’t seeking to become a huge success at their endeavor, they just want to earn enough to sustain their farm.
Most of the Island’s Mennonites are located in the central part of the Island and that helps them stay in contact with each other by horse and buggy.
So far they’ve travelled as far Stanchel and North Rustico by buggy and they have words of praise for Island motorists.
“They are very courteous,” said Samuel.