Once upon a time...
In my early life I lived in Castleton, a small hamlet north of Colborne, where I operated a modest hobby farm while raising my two young sons. When we needed a break we would head off to The Sandbanks for a day at the beach. Each visit made me fall more in love with the County and I dreamed that one day I might live there.
I kept this dream with me for the 17 years I lived in Toronto after moving there from Castleton. Soon, in what seemed like no time, my boys had grown and were each off exploring their own lives. Call it “empty nest syndrome” but after much soul searching I decided to stop dreaming, get practical and simply make my move to the County happen. However, I knew that to do this I would have to create my own work there in order to support myself, but doing what was the big question?
Ideas poured into my head, but it was not until a vacation in the county in 2010 that serendipity stepped in to point the way. While driving around exploring the island I came across a small shed at the end of a farm driveway. Posted on the door was a hand painted sign reading, “Pat’s Jams”. I decided to investigate further. Soon, Pat York, herself appeared. We introduced ourselves and began to chat. Eventually our conversation continued on into her house and into her kitchen where she was stirring a batch of jam (but of course!). It all seems so natural and a matter of course, when it came up that she was selling her business. Was this the answer I’d been searching for? Canning and preserving was a passion of mine and something I’d been doing for my family and friends forever, so why not make it my new business? Of course it wasn’t as easy as that but it soon became apparent to me that if I did not pursue this venture I would live to regret it. And so, here I am now, going on two years living in the County and am celebrating my first year in business on this Maple in the County festival weekend, March 23rd!
Moving to a new location is never easy especially when you’re leaving behind a place you’ve lived at for a long time and a lifestyle that you’ve become accustomed to. Besides the place I was leaving, I was also taking on a whole new career! But luckily for me, my hunch to move here was right on! I don’t just “like” PEC, I “LOVE” it! Its eclectic community of artists, artisans, restaurateurs, wine growers, farmers and locals whose families have lived here for decades, I find totally inspiring. As a business person, my most pleasant surprise so far has been how helpful the PEC’s business community has been in helping me establish my business. Seems everyone “gets it” that if this town is to be successful, it’s important we help each other out. Now that is an unusual commodity in a small town!
Originally, my thought, regarding Pat’s Jams, was to continue what she’s been doing for years i.e., proudly processing the wonderful bounty of locally grown fruits and vegetables available here in the County while using traditional canning methods which have been passed on for generations. While I’m very passionate about tradition I quickly found out that times have changed significantly regarding food and diet restrictions. Diets have become more complex over the years and regular sugar jams, which generally have a ratio of 50% sugar to 50% fruit, are no longer desirable or tolerable. Almost by accident I came across a natural pectin product called Pomona, which was developed in North/West Europe and is now distributed in the US and Western Canada. When I discovered I could reduce the amount of sugar I use in my jams and jellies to a ratio of 4 cups fruit to 1 cup sugar, I had my “eureka” moment!
I’m now in the process of finding a natural sweetener, one that is not chemical or if natural, does not have a bad after taste. I think I have found it but further testing is required before I can release this product. It was always my intention to branch out from Pat’s Jams eventually but with the discovery of the Pomona Pectin and what seemed to be the imminent trend towards low/no sugar diets; I knew Pat’s Jams would need a new cover. There was no way I could continue producing full sugar jams and so, a new company would have to be created. This is where my family stepped in to help. While legally this is my business (and I have the loans to prove it), I would not be here if it were not for the tremendous support of my family. Together we spent many days and hours tossing around our ideas for a company name and no matter how silly, we wrote them down. Eventually we all decided on calling the business “Prince Edward County Fare” and our slogan became “Yes, we can.” And from there, a business was born!
County Fare Owner