Born and raised in Niagara, our roots and commitment to the well being of our community run deep. Our particular corner of Niagara is unique, providing a fertile environment for fostering our love of local history, music and art.
In 1997 we built our home at 2230 Four Mile Creek Rd. in Niagara on the Lake and in 1999 Applewood Hollow B+B welcomed its first guests. We have had the privilege of continuing friendships with many of them as they continue to return over the past 25 years.
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!
We love to promote the incredible bounty and diversity of fruit and produce grown in our own garden and 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 23 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. I guaranteed a minimum of 90% Niagara grown produce on our breakfast menu.
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.
Growing Deeper in Our Community
In 2005 I began assisting with the music at the Caribbean Workers church service. It has lead to many wonderful friendships with our Caribbean neighbours who are employed by local farms. Some of the men have been living and working in Niagara on the Lake for as long at 45 years, longer than most locals!
There are close to 7,000 men and women from the Caribbean and Mexico working in the Niagara Peninsula. The majority of them come to Canada through eight month work contracts arriving as early as January and staying until mid-December. Fruit farms, wineries and greenhouses are a substantial contributor to the economy in the Niagara Region. Without Caribbean and Mexican men and women working in Niagara’s orchards and vineyards the agricultural/tourism industries would not be possible. 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 relationships to flourish in our community.
My friends, family and I have made eight 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 seven 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 was organizing the Niagara Workers Welcome Concerts which were held every May from 2007 to 2016. 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. Featuring the music of internationally acclaimed artists such as the Toronto Mass Choir and Newworldson, it was the highlight of the year for many of our visiting guest workers. You can watch concert footage on our Workers Welcome Niagara Vimeo site. In 2016 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the farm work program in Niagara. Southridge Church hosted the event in St.Catharines which was attended by over 800 farmworkers, their employers and locals .
From 2017 to 2019 our new event, The Peach Pickers Picnic , took place each August at the Farm Market @ the Village in Niagara on the Lake. Over 1000 meals were served and 800 farm workers received a hearty dinner free of charge at the 2019 Picnic. Several hundred locals came out each year to express their thanks and “pay it forward” towards meal expenses. Farm workers teamed up with local musicians to provide lively Caribbean and Latin American favourites from home much to the delight of all who attended!
In 2020 the Covid crisis made it impossible for farm workers to access warm clothing needed for work. Five local women joined together to form Niagara partners to meet the practical needs of farm workers during the crisis. Dianne Hughes (retired, World Vision ), Donna Brown (Caribbean Workers Outreach Project), Julia Buxton Cox ( Buy Nothing NOTL chapter ) , Rev. Michelle Mercer ( Gateway Church ) and myself worked together for three years establishing new connections and partnerships which have have brought the community together in ways that continue to serve the needs of our friends on the farms.
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 was taken by the farm workers themselves. Using this material I created a five part collection called Hand Held, a simple 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 in the early years.
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!
Meeting up with familiar faces waiting for their flight to Toronto at the Ministry of Labour in Kingston, Jamaica. They were working in orchards in Niagara on the Lake three days after this photo, a temperature difference of almost 40 degrees! Brrrrr!