Born and raised in Niagara, this unique area provided a fertile environment for fostering my love of local history, music and art.
Another passion is quite obvious to my guests as they sit down to enjoy a hearty country breakfast, a great opportunity to showcase the fabulous flavours of Niagara!
As a child, I remember helping preserve hundreds of quarts of peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, tomato and grape juice in August and September. We continued that tradition after getting married in 1976. Every August the kitchen would be steamed up from preserving bushels of peaches and pears from Lepp Farms. Our pantry was well stocked with homemade spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes from relatives who had a farm on Line 3.
In 1997 we built our home at 2230 Four Mile Creek Rd. in Niagara on the Lake. In 1999 Applewood Hollow B+B welcomed its first guests and we have had the privilege of continuing friendships with many of them over the years.
I love to showcase the incredible bounty and diversity of fruit and produce grown in our own neigbourhood. As our population has become increasingly urban there is little knowledge of what it takes to make food grow or whose hands do the tending of the orchards or vineyards. Over the past 20 years it has been gratifying to see the growing interest of my guests who want to learn about where their food comes from.
Shortly after opening the doors to our B+B I began the Fresh START initiative, actively promoting farms in our neighbourhood. Initially I guaranteed a minimum of 90% Niagara grown produce on our breakfast menu. In recent years I have been working towards serving 100% local fruits and vegetables.
Teaching my guests about how we grow food in Niagara is one of the highlights of the breakfast experience at Applewood Hollow!
Enjoying tree ripened fruit is a new experience for most of my guests. They happily load up on fresh peaches and produce at neighbouring farms or at Saturday morning market in Niagara on the Lake before heading back home.
Please check out our Links page it you would like to visit our farm suppliers and take some home to enjoy!
Growing Deeper in Our Community
In 2005 I began assisting with the music at the Caribbean Workers church service held on Sunday nights at Bethany Church in May and June. It has lead to many friendships with the offshore workers who are employed by local farms. Some of the men have been working in our neighbourhood for as long at 45 years, longer than most locals!
There are close to 2,000 workers from the Caribbean and Mexico here in Niagara.The majority of them come to Canada through eight month work contracts arriving as early as January. Fruit farms and wineries are a substantial contributor to the economy here in the Niagara Region and without migrant workers, the industry would be less viable, if possible at all. Many of our B+B guests enjoy meeting the people that tend the orchard and pick the fruit that they enjoyed for breakfast that morning.
Our visits to the island have fueled our desire to create more opportunities for these relationships to flourish in our community.
My friends, family and I have made seven trips to Jamaica to visit our “Caribbean neighbours”. We stay in their homes, visit their churches and schools and learn about their culture first hand. Jodie Godwin, owner of Bushy House Bed and Breakfast, has traveled with me on six of these trips. It is a unique kind of holiday that enriches the lives of families both in Niagara and Jamaica.
One of my passions has been to organize the annual Niagara Workers Welcome Concert every May since 2007. Farm workers had been an invisible part of the local population since the inception of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program in the 1960’s. We recognized a need to connect and develop healthy relationships in our community. The Welcome Concerts have provided an opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to our Caribbean neighbours. In 2016 over 600 farmworkers and their employers attended the concert for free with 100 locals purchasing tickets. The concerts are funded by ticket sales and sponsorships from the town, local churches and businesses. Featuring the music of internationally acclaimed artists such as the Toronto Mass Choir and Newworldson, it has become the highlight of the year for many of our visiting guest workers. You can watch concert footage on our Workers Welcome of Niagara Vimeo site. Photos of the 2016 Concert can be viewed on our Flickr site here.
In 2010 CBC Radio featured us in a four part series called Working Man. I combined the audio transcripts with video shot with inexpensive hand held cameras over the years, some of it shot by the farm workers themselves. Using this material I created a five part collection called Hand Held. It is a simple yet effective video resource for community groups, schools and churches to use to gain a better understanding of our their neighbours on the farms.
Hand Held #1 tells a bit about our story.
Hand Held #2 explains the challenges of the agricultural community both here and in Jamaica.
Hand Held #3 features the story of how the Workers Welcome began
Hand Held #4 tells stories from our community
Hand Held #5 – Leah’s Story – The story of a young girl whose family’s friendship with farm workers shows her a new way of loving, and accepting love from her neighbours. Leah is Dave Parker and Jodie Godwin’s 12 year old daughter. Leah and her brother Sam have both shared in our travel adventures to visit our Niagara neighbours in Jamaica.
It has been an enriching and life changing experience for our families to cultivate these very special friendships!