Peterborough County now offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s rich agricultural history. The newly erected Peterborough County Agricultural Heritage Building at Lang Pioneer Village celebrates rural life and the history of families, farms, and agricultural advancements in the area.
The project, which culminated in the construction of a 1910-style barn with the capacity to hold 175 people, was funded in part by Community Futures Peterborough.
Community Futures Peterborough is a local organization that has been helping to develop sustainable employment opportunities in the City and County of Peterborough since 1985 and supports small businesses through flexible financing and business services. Community Futures Peterborough is the local branch of the Community Futures Program supporting similar organizations in 61 communities across the province.
For the Agricultural Heritage Building, the County of Peterborough accessed funding for a Project Manager employment position through the Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP), a program that supports rural eastern Ontario to pursue the creation of a competitive and diversified regional economy.
Across Eastern Ontario more than $80 million has been invested through the EODP on more than 7,600 business and community development projects to date. The EODP provides funding to applicants for two streams: community innovation and business development. The County was granted funding for the Agricultural Heritage Building through the community innovation stream, allowing the museum to open the newly added facility’s doors to the public in April of 2017.
While the venture is one of Community Future Peterborough’s latest projects, the organization has been active in the community for decades.
Gail Moorhouse, Executive Director of Community Futures Peterborough, says it is rewarding to “drive through the neighbourhoods and see the impact Community Futures Peterborough has had on the local business community.”
The impact the organization has had on the region is wide-reaching.
“Last year we assisted close to 400 businesses and organizations,” Moorhouse says. The County of Peterborough is one of those many organizations.
The roots of the Agricultural Heritage Building go back 12 years, when the International Plowing Match was held in 2006 in Mathers Corners. During the event, organizers received many inquiries related to agriculture in the area.
“As a society, we’ve become so far removed from agriculture,” says Karen Jopling, Project Manager of the Agricultural Heritage Building. “We realized there was a need to educate people on the importance of agriculture and the role that it plays, both from a community perspective but also from an economic impact perspective.”
Joplin points out that the common perception of farmers as simple labourers is a misguided understanding of their important role in society.
“Farmers are actually quite innovative and forward-thinking people,” she explains, emphasizing that communities exist because of the adaptability of the agricultural industry. “Farmers aren’t simply labourers. They are instrumental in developing communities and successfully respond to change. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Sheridan Graham, Director of Corporate Projects & Services at Peterborough County, met with Pat Peeling, EODP Program Administrator at Community Futures Peterborough, to develop a funding application to present to the Community Futures Peterborough Board of Directors.
“We are fortunate the Board saw the County’s vision and invested in it,” Graham says. “They have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process.”
The funding that Peterborough County received from Community Futures Peterborough went towards creating a Project Manager employment position.
Jopling filled this role and brought with her a wealth of knowledge and partnerships in the agricultural community from her farming background. Jopling grew up on a dairy farm and has strong emotional ties to the project, which she has worked on for the last four years.
The funding from Community Futures Peterborough not only helped with securing a position dedicated to the project, it was also instrumental in securing additional partnerships and community support. The remainder of funding for the project came from local organizations and community members, as well as the provincial government.
“When you ask community members to invest in a project, they wonder how many of their dollars are actually going to the project versus how many are going to administration,” Jopling says. “Having the position covered by Community Futures Peterborough was a strength and a benefit to the project. We were able to tell potential donors that 100 per cent of their dollars were going to the build.”
The finished building is a unique space that blends in well with the historical setting at Lang Pioneer Village while offering modern amenities, including accessible washrooms and a commercial kitchen.
The building was designed to be a multi-functional revenue generator. The County will run various educational programs year-round, such as cooking classes that focus on sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table practices. The County will also rent the space for weddings, conferences, meetings, and outdoor music events.
This is expected to result in significant economic spin-off for the community — in line with the mission of Community Futures Peterborough to generate and assist in the creation and maintenance of sustainable employment opportunities in the City and County of Peterborough.
Other attractions at the building include the Peter Hamilton Agricultural Collection, and ongoing development will see the installment of a Wall of Fame Gallery, displays of agricultural equipment and operations demonstrations, a large restoration workshop housing a steam engine, thrasher, and tractors, and a conservation lab with viewing window.
In 2017, 23,000 people visited Lang Pioneer Village, which has five full-time and four part-time staff members. During the busier months of the summer, they employ an additional 25 people.
With the opening of the museum, Graham and Jopling are expecting the number of visitors to increase, and with that, a greater economic impact on the local community — including additional jobs.
Peterborough County is well-positioned for tourism and offers an authentic experience of rural life. Jopling says more people are traveling for that authentic experience.
“People want to experience the history and culture of an area. That’s what Lang is. When you walk through the village and you see the Ayotte cabin, or the Milburn and Fitzpatrick houses, there are descendants of those families that are actually dressed in period costumes and talking to visitors about the history of the region. It is truly local and authentic.”
The Agricultural Heritage Building will offer visitors a new and unique experience. Jopling emphasizes that the barn, while it is a new build, is continuing with and maintaining the authenticity of the village, even in its construction process.
VIDEO: Barn Raising in 2017
In April of 2017, the County hosted an old-fashioned barn raising ceremony. Over 400 people attended, including many who had been involved from the beginning, showing the degree to which the community became invested in the project.
“As we raised the walls, everyone was counting down together,” Jopling recalls. “That is a cool moment to reflect on.”
Graham agrees, referring to the project as a community builder with local people involved at every step of the way.
“Local people were on the fundraising and building committee … we had a local architect, a local builder, Trent University students wrote the background of the agricultural implements, and we partnered with Fleming College and their skilled trades program who built the external walls for the building,” Graham says, noting that Fleming students were present for the barn raising ceremony.
“Local champions came together to help make this happen. The commitment has been phenomenal,” says Graham, indicating that a donor wall is being constructed at the museum to identify everyone who has contributed to the project.
For other organizations looking to access Community Futures Peterborough financing, Graham says not to be afraid to ask.
“You might read online about a program, but when you actually meet with them and talk through your idea and receive input, they might have other ideas or know of other funding streams that you didn’t even know about.”
“Sometimes people think they are going to say no, but they are in a position where they want to say yes. They want to see the positive impact on the community. It’s a benefit to both sides.”
There are many ways Community Futures Peterborough helps local organizations. Sometimes they simply share financial knowledge or refer people to community partners.
“Other times our conversations lead to financial assistance on some level,” Moorhouse adds.
“Last year, we helped 19 new startup businesses and 12 local businesses expand with loans as small as $2,500 to more than $150,000. The results are more than 200 jobs created and maintained in the City and County of Peterborough.”
For more information about financial assistance programs offered by Community Futures Peterborough, call 705-745-5434, email email@example.com or visit communityfuturespeterborough.ca. You can also follow Community Futures Peterborough on Facebook and Twitter.
For rental information and rates for the Peterborough County Agricultural Heritage Building, visit www.langpioneervillage.ca/pcahb/.