There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted November 30th, 2015
Meaford music scene and business environment add to retirement advantages

Billy and Ann Marie Fairley had found the perfect retirement location in Meaford – a beautiful, charming Ontario small town on Georgian Bay. But the couple weren’t retired yet, and beyond its location and charm, Meaford offered other advantages.

Meaford also proved to be a welcoming environment for a small business, which met another criterion. Billy operates his tailoring business, The Sewing House, from the basement in their new home at 96 Margaret Street, where he tailors and repairs all kinds of clothing – dresses, jeans, jackets and more – including replacing zippers, which is a hard-to-find service. He quickly found customers knocking on his door, and his clientele continues to grow.

To top it all off, Meaford’s musical community was a truly welcoming surprise for the accomplished rock drummer. “Music is becoming more than a sideline,” he says. “I’m busier here musically than I was down in Alliston.” From the foxtrots of Pitlochry to Meaford’s music scene, Billy “The Kid” Fairley has led an interesting and varied musical life. After three years in the hotel gig, he started a group called Just Us with Andy Roberts on guitar and Dougie Thompson on bass. (Dougie later joined Supertramp, and Andy played with a number of major artists on tour and in the studio, including a stint in the “Surrogate Band” during Pink Floyd’s 1981 The Wall tour.) Then he teamed up with an erstwhile folk trio gone folk-rock, becoming the drummer for String Driven Thing. 1973’s “The Machine that Cried”, the band’s first album recorded with the rock line-up, is “now regarded as a forgotten classic”, according to Wikipedia.

When Billy maried Canadian Ann Marie and moved with her to Canada, he initially thought he’d left his musical life behind. “I lost all my musical buddies, and I lost a lot of chances.” He returned to the UK to play a few times, “But Canada’s a place to bring up your kids, definitely,” he says.

And now his musical horizons are expanding in Meaford. He’s teamed with a number of professional and amateur musicians and songwriters and hopes to be in the studio recording soon. He also has plans to stage a revival of his musical, “Freedom”, a rock opera treatment of the Braveheart story brought to life in the movie starring Mel Gibson. “This is the true story, though”, Billy emphasizes.

Meaford’s proving to be the perfect place to retire. “It’s safe here to ride bikes, it’s safe to go on walks. You can go down to the harbour any time in five minutes. The tailoring business is getting busy. And I’m busy musically,” says Billy, who’s packed a lot into the first few months of his Meaford life. “You have to,” he says. “I’ve lost a lot of close friends in the last few years, and it’s made me think, I ain’t here for a long time. Let’s go out with a bang.”

Hear and watch a couple of Billy’s performances:

posted November 27th, 2015
Retiring in small town Ontario – Meaford proves perfect for this couple

Not too long ago, an aborted trip to Tobermory found Billy and Ann Marie Fairley on the road through Meaford – where they discovered a retirement location that checked off all the boxes on their lists.

After getting off-course on a trip from Alliston and up the Bruce Peninsula in the summer of 2014, the couple arrived in Meaford from the west. They were immediately captured by views of the blue sweep of Georgian Bay and the charm of Meaford’s historical main street. “I thought, this reminds me Pitlochry,” Billy says. Back when he was 16, he’d spent years in the Perthshire, Scotland village, playing drums at the popular Atholl Palace Hotel. “It was my haunt for three years, playing quicksteps and foxtrots.” He chuckles. “Not my type of music, but it was the best time of my life.” Set amidst beautiful rural scenery, Pitlochry is close in size to Meaford and the main street is lined with shops housed in older architecture.

“We came through Meaford, and I said to my wife, ‘You know what, let’s move here. This is gorgeous. The massive water and just the quaintness of the town. She said, ‘Yep!'”

A year later, they’d made the move.

Billy’s sewing and tailoring business could be reasonably easily transferred to a new location, as long as he could build up a new clientele. And while she’d initially planned on commuting, his wife was fortunate in being able to arrange a transfer from the Catholic school in Alliston to one in Collingwood. “It was funny how it all came about,” says Billy. “It was meant to be.”

Box One, checked. They’d found the perfect destination for their retirement years. And they’d settled in before they were even fully retired.

But Meaford proved to have much more in store for Billy “The Kid” Fairley. More next time.

posted October 29th, 2015
Meaford entrepreneurs face the Dragons

Dragons' Den MeafordThe Dragons have ruled. Once again, Meaford’s very own Dragons’ Den has tested and rewarded up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Here are the results of last night’s pitches.

Candice Ruhl Designs, owned by Candice & Michael Ruhl, hopes to open a Meaford shop and gallery to offer Candice’s unique handcrafted sterling silver jewelry. They took the dragon’s share of the bounty, with $3,950 in cash and a total of $17,525 in cash and prizes.

Zach Hannam’s Zaagi Soap Co. came away with $3,950 in cash and prizes to help expand his company’s sales – of natural, handcrafted soaps made from locally grown botanicals – within the community and online.

Brewmaster Mark Lewis was the audience favorite for his plan to establish a downtown Meaford brewery. He took home $800 in cash and a total of cash and prizes of $2,904.

Tanya Snell recently launched, a hub where businesses and consumers meet, and plans to expand its service to Meaford, and Scott Gooch builds custom wood furniture, cabinets and Windsor chairs in his rural Meaford workshop, Bayview Escarpment Fine Furniture & Cabinetry. Both Tanya and Scott took home $900 in prizes.

Thanks to the Meaford Chamber of Commerce for holding the successful event.

posted September 18th, 2015
A history of Meaford Golf Course, Part II

Ivan Alderdice grew up on a large cash-crop farm in Meaford, but he was a born entrepreneur – always on the lookout for a new opportunity. “I always had about three different careers,” he says with a laugh. Over the years, he operated a long-haul trucking company, worked as a broker for McIntee Realty, and developed a successful subdivision in Meaford – all while he continued to run an 800-acre farm. When the Meaford Golf Course came up for sale in 1991, he was intrigued. “I was never a golfer, beyond charity tournaments and that kind of thing,” he says. “But the subdivision was finished and I was looking for a good investment.”

At the time, he was already maintaining his real estate and farming careers, but the agricultural side of course management appealed to him. “That was the easy part for me – hard for other people, but easy for me. I had a spray licence in agriculture way before they even brought them in to golf courses.” He and his wife, Mary, made an offer.

From the beginning, Ivan planned to expand the course from its original nine holes. Initially, he added an additional set of tee blocks for each hole with enough difference in position to begin to approximate an 18-hole course. Meanwhile, to accommodate the expansion, he’d bought two properties off Nelson Street at the same time he purchased the course. Eight years of careful planning and hard work clearing and transforming the rough property later, nine brand new holes were ready for play.

The 18-hole course opened in 2000, and the new nine holes became known as the Millenium. The older nine were now christened Randle for the original owners of the course.

Ivan’s proud of the work he’s done to transform the golf course, particularly the natural and agricultural enhancements. He added ponds to capture water, which previously flooded the lower holes in the spring, and to stop erosion and provide for irrigation. “You used to have to wear rubber boots to play the 7th fairway right till July,” says Ivan. “So when you’re out there cursing me for these big ponds, remember they’re not just a trap for your balls. They’re there to control the water in the spring.”

Meaford Golf Course aerial view

He’s also proud of the club’s scale. While modern golf trends toward longer and longer courses, he believes golfers are really looking for shorter, but still challenging, courses – the kind of play you’ll find at the Meaford Golf Course. “We’ve got to get rid of our ‘architect’s eagles’; we shouldn’t be building these 7,000 yard courses,” he says.

Even as the 8th hole on the Randle Run earned Grey-Bruce Golf’s recognition as one of the “toughest holes in Grey-Bruce” (with the Millenium #1 “a close second”), the course plays quickly, and golfers are welcome to play four or six hole configurations.

“It’s supposed to be fun,” says Ivan. “It’s called a game.”

Meaford Golf Course

posted August 26th, 2015
Meaford postcards capture the past

The scenes here capture a slice of Meaford history, circa 1910, some of which has been preserved to this day.

Meaford Town Hall 1910

For a tour of Meaford past, via historical postcards, visit here.

Meaford Sykes Street 1910

posted March 27th, 2015
Enjoy a night out in Meaford

Meaford, Bruce Grey Simcoe, and the Ontario government have released an ad which takes you on a night on the town. Warm gatherings, great food and exciting culture warm up this beautiful, snowy winter’s night. The video was shot at George’s on Main and Meaford Hall and Culture Centre in downtown Meaford.

Posted by Georges on Main on Thursday, March 26, 2015

posted February 18th, 2015
Camera crews capture things to do in Meaford

Meaford’s coming to a (computer or TV) screen near you.

For the last few weeks, you may have noticed some lights and camera action around town. George’s on Main was captured recently for a Tourism Ontario commercial, and tomorrow, a crew will visit Meaford Hall to capture a sense of what’s available at Meaford Hall. The Municipality and BruceGreySimcoe Tourism are sponsoring the video, “A cultured night out”, which will showcase some of Meaford’s offerings.

Prior to the Thursday Flick this week, moviegoers will become extras in the production. The finished video will be available through the Municipality’s website, and on County and area tourism sites.

“If a picture is worth a 1,000 words a video is worth a million,” says Stephen Murray, Economic Development Officer for the Municipality. “With the increasing use of social media we wanted to share one of the many things people can do in our municipality with the world.”

posted February 9th, 2015
Ambitious plans for the Market “barn” on Highway 26

Meaford MarketThe barn which currently houses The Market and EcoInhabit east of Meaford may soon be offering much more. The Market Co-operative Transition Team plans to turn the beautifully renovated structure into a one-stop shop for locally-grown and organic food market, holistic arts clinics, infrared yoga classes, a gallery, café, gardens, a not-for-profit ECO school, as well as workshop and rental spaces.

The plan is to form a co-op, which will buy the building and operate the expanded facility. Funding will come from members of the co-op as well as investors/shareholders.

The more-than-century-old barn features a lower floor currently occupied by The Market, and two upper floors occupied by EcoInhabit. Read more in the Meaford Express.

posted January 10th, 2015
Cirrus Hill Farm offers a taste of the past

Last time we introduced you to JoAnn McCall and Cirrus Hill Farm, and it’s heritage philosophy.

Heritage breeds are the birds raised before industrial agriculture took over – carefully selected and bred to develop traits suited to the local environment, and to farming practices of a bygone day. They’re self-sufficient and mate and reproduce naturally.

Cirrus Hill Farm specializes in Beltsville Small White turkeys, Saxony Heavy ducks, Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin Light Layer ducks, Buff Orpington and Ancona Dual-Purpose ducks, Ancient Roman geese, Standard White Chantecler chickens, and, recently added, Heavy French guinea fowl (from Quebec, for grow-out only).

Beltsville Small White turkeys, while relatively recently introduced, fit the heritage bill. They were first bred by the US Department of Agriculture during the Depression to help strapped farmers of the era. McCall describes them as “a miracle of traditional selective breeding and a priceless agriculture heritage. This small, busty, naturally reproducing heritage turkey looks like its descendant, the modern giant industrial BBW, but there the similarity ends. Smart and personable, hardy, fertile and strong foragers, layers of delicious eggs almost year-round, they produce a delicious meaty table bird 8-17 pounds in 6-7 months , and will breed naturally in their first adult year.”

Saxony ducks were also bred early in the last century – in Germany. “The Saxony is a very beautiful, productive large duck which grows rapidly on pasture, finishes a less fatty roasting duck of 4-5.5 lbs, and lays as many of their big, rich eggs as any heritage chicken,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Campbell ducks (Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin) date from 19th century Britain. “Both lay very well and will outlay any heritage chicken breed while foraging more of their feed,” writes McCall. “The elegant, frenetically active Campbell has been proven many times to be the champion layer of all domestic fowl, besting the Leghorn in formal competitions.”

The Buff Orpington duck was popular in its 19th century heyday for both heavy laying and eating. “These are the rarest of the production bred heritage ducks we offer,” writes McCall, “and are highly recommended for a multi-purpose farm flock, combining all of the best features for small farm use in a sweet, pretty duck in desperate need of more preservation breeders.”

Chantecler-chicken-at-Cirrus-Hill-FarmWhite Chantecler chickens are Canada’s native heritage chicken breed – a originally bred at the Abbey Notre Dame du Lac at Oka, Quebec in the 1900s. “Brother Wilfred developed a ‘Canadian’ chicken, a dual purpose meat and laying bird, tolerant of bitter Canadian weather, and reputed to continue laying their large, creamy brown eggs through the long winters, when American and European breeds give up.”

Mother Goose was a Plain-headed Roman goose, the breed believed to be among the first domesticated geese in Europe, and might be the geese of the Temple of Juno, who saved Rome from the Gauls by alerting the sleeping sentries of the attack. “These ancient geese continue to be an important commercial breed elsewhere, producing small traditional Michaelmas and Yuletide geese, but are almost extinct in North America. The “tufted” mutation was selected as the standard for exhibition by the APA. Ours are of the original type, surviving representatives of the original, ancient goose, that may have graced Caesar’s feast table.”

Eggs and birds for cooking, in season, can be ordered locally from The Market. Will you notice the difference when enjoying a heritage turkey or goose raised traditionally? As McCall writes on the website, “Duh! So much better than Styrofoam supermarket turkey – prepare to be amazed.”

posted January 3rd, 2015
Heritage birds find new life in Meaford at Cirrus Hill Farm

“Eat them to save them” is the catchphrase of many heritage livestock and fowl aficionados, and Meaford’s Cirrus Hill Farm embodies this practical philosophy. A breeder and purveyor of heritage ducks, turkeys, chickens and geese, JoAnn McCall aims to “help rare breeds of exceptional merit survive for a secure future food supply… [and] see a large, viable local resource flock for each breed, in every county in Canada.” To that end, she sells live hatchlings, started birds, breeding stock and fertile eggs to those interested in raising the heirloom breeds. She also sells eggs and dressed birds to locavores, gourmets, restaurateurs and those interested in trying something different from the standard grocery store fare.

Roman Geese at Cirrus Hill Farm“Inspired by the French ‘Label Rouge’ program of humane, natural husbandry, and the traditional customs of regional French specialty producers, our market birds enjoy an idyllic chick-hood roaming at liberty on lush summer pastures, followed by a relaxed, species-specific finishing program to produce an exceptional gourmet product,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Her ducks and duck eggs have found fans among those in the know. “Waterfowl are almost all tender breast meat, and serve more diners per pound than land fowl,” she says. “Ask a top chef like European trained Teo Paul of Union Restaurant on Ossington in Toronto, who serves our ducks in every imaginable way as specials on his elegantly rustic lovavore menu. Duck is much more versatile than chicken in the kitchen.”

And Sarah Elton, author of the best-selling Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens” visited Cirrus Hill Farm a few years back and wrote about this local treasure for The Atlantic’s website.

More about Cirrus Hills Farm next time.

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