George and Melaney Matheson operate Springwater Farms in Albion Cross, PEI, with daughters Ila and Rae. On their farm they have sheep, cash crops of straw and hay, plus they sell meat, sheepskin and wool products at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market and their own shop in the summer at their farm. Rae, who is 18 years old and works at the Farmer’s Market for their farm, and Ila, who is 21 years old and is studying at Dalhousie Agriculture College. George and Melaney are both passionate about keeping consumers informed about their lamb products, farm practises and the advantages of consuming lamb. These two are very well known in the 4-H community, from George being a former 4-H member to both of them being current leaders. In the community, George and Melaney are well known and are always there to lend a helping hand.
Name: George & Melaney Matheson
George: I am a full-time farmer and Director for PEI Mutual.
Melaney: I am a full-time farmer and occasionally do some supply work with the United Church of Canada.
What does your job entail?
We have a sheep farm with around 70 breeding ewes. Our day to day is always caring for the sheep with chores done twice a day. We also do cash crops of hay and straw in square bales. We sell lamb and sheepskin products at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Markets and have a small shop in the summer at the farm. Winter is a major time when we sell the hay and straw to local farmers and some farmers off the island. We sell our yarn and wool at the shop in the summer. There is a local shearer that comes in at the end of March and shears the sheep. In June, we take the wool up to MacAusland’s Mill, and the wool goes against the cost of the blankets we purchase.
How long have you been involved in agriculture\food industry on PEI?
George: I grew up in 4-H, and my dad was a farmer, but he sold the farm when I was a teenager. 1979 was the year that I first started farming and bought my parent’s place back, in 1996.
Melaney: Officially since we got married in 1995, so 25 years. I didn’t come from a farm, but we had farms all around us and a high percentage of my relatives are farmers, so I always grew up around farming.
What is your education/ experience prior to entering your current job?
George: I have a Degree in Agriculture from the University of Alberta, and I also worked on a sheep farm for six months. So when Melaney suggested we get into sheep, I was all for it.
Melaney: I have a Degree in Science (Biology) from the University of Guelph, which offers a few courses in Agriculture and a Masters of Divinity.
We both got into the Agri-Tourism Club when it was around, which helped us launch into our own shop, direct marketing, and selling at the farmers market.
Are you involved in any extracurricular or community activities?
George: I was on the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market Board and have been a 4-H leader for many years, and have been involved with the Dundas Plowing Match.
Melaney: I have been a 4-H leader for many years and also help at our United Church. I have also been involved with the Dundas Plowing Match and the Provincial 4-H Agriculture Committee.
What’s your favorite way to eat lamb?
George: I enjoy any type of lamb that has Melaney’s famous rub. She lets the rub marinate the day before she cooks it. It’s delicious on lamb chops.
Melaney: I enjoy a roasted leg or a lamb burger.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
George: I wanted to be a farmer even after my dad sold the farm when I was young.
Melaney: I always wanted to be a farmer or veterinarian. I have learned now that the two of those go hand and hand.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
George: We are quite well known in this small fishbowl.
Melaney: I am a real nature lover. I like to walk in the woods everyday. I enjoy the connection with nature.
What would you want consumers to know about your business and the agriculture/food industry?
George: That there are advantages for eating lamb. It is easily digestible and is one of the first meat you can feed a baby. The price for lamb is quite reasonable too. We go to great lengths to ensure safe products and inform consumers about the care that goes into each lamb and what we are feeding our lambs.
Melaney: That food is incredibly safe. In today’s society, with social media, consumers are often misinformed. People need to take a good look into who is writing the articles or posts and just to be careful with what you read.
Why do you do what you do?
George: Farming is excellent, there’s always lots of work. Setting our own hours is something that is nice too.
Melaney: We love it; it’s who we are. I never really call working on the farm “work.” I always see ourselves doing stuff here; retirement would look about the same, just a little less work.