Annapolis Valley delegates reflect on conference

Roads from Georgetown

Valley delegates bring back ideas, inspiration

By Jennifer Hoegg

What will you do now?

The inaugural Georgetown Conference – Rural Redefined wrapped up with a call to action for the more than 250 delegates.

For three days, people from across Atlantic Canada gathered in the small town in eastern Prince Edward Island to learn, talk and share ideas about making and keeping rural communities vibrant. Selected for being “doers and producers,” the attendees were sent back home to do something to make their communities a better place.

Valley delegates say they are ready to heed the call.

Mood strikes a chord

Conference speakers came from all over, but it was someone from close to home who made the biggest impression. Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood lit a fire under the Valley delegates, who are eager to follow her example of “park your attitude at the door, pick up your smile and tell me what you’re going to do,” as Jane Nicholson of Annapolis Royal described it.

“She was just so full of power,” Acadia student Rachel Eisener added.

“(Mood) said something that I think was important,” delegate Ed Wedler said.

When the mayor set up the All Hands on Deck project to jump start enthusiasm in her town, Wedler pointed out, “she gathered all these people and said, ‘tell me, what are YOU prepared to do, no matter how big or small, to change Yarmouth.’ Don’t bring me your problems –  bring me your solutions.

“I think we should challenge all the delegates. What are you going to do, big or small, to continue the spirit of Georgetown in changing their community for the better?

“Sometimes you get very passionate people and they return home and it’s history – within three days,” he cautioned, adding he hopes the conference delegates will keep “actually doing something.”

Wedler, who lives near the Kings-Annapolis county line, is eager to make a contribution.

“I can’t give everything away – I’m looking at any way that I can contribute to the community in a technological sense, from Yarmouth and Windsor,” he said.


‘No more moaning’

Nicholson returned from Georgetown to Annapolis Royal and promptly did take action – she was elected to head the board of trade.

“I thought it was very worthwhile,” the vintage home décor shop owner said. “We’re going to go forward with a positive attitude and we’re going to do what we can do in a positive way.”

The key message she took home?

“It was: get off your arse and do it for yourself,” Nicholson said. “No more moaning.”

While she acknowledged the speakers at the conference were “preaching to the converted” – delegates who were interested and could afford to go – she appreciated the opportunity to be with likeminded, positive Atlantic Canadians.

Co-operation among southwest Nova Scotia’s communities is part of Nicholson’s renewed focus.

“We’re a string of pearls from Bridgetown to Yarmouth,” she said. “We’re beautiful beads and we need to make a beautiful necklace.

“I think there’s a new spirit of co-operation and hope.


Take responsibility

Georgetown gave Beth Earle a greater incentive to welcome newcomers to Digby and Annapolis counties.

“I want to take the opportunity to engage the boards of trade and realtors and find out when new people are moving in and making sure there’s a process in place (to welcome them),” she said.

“Whether they are immigrants or just people from other communities within Nova Scotia, making sure they have some guidance and support when moving in and knowing that we are welcoming.”

Earle, chief executive officer of the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre, said

Georgetown “was all about taking responsibility going forward and coming up with ideas, whether they are small ideas or big ideas, and thinking about our communities as we go forward.”

One idea is a plan she has with some likeminded women to create a 100 Women Who Care chapter in her area – thanks to helping hands from the chapter in the Saint John, N.B., area.

“We want to start one in a rural community,” she said.

“We can’t just sit around and wait for somebody to change things – we’re the people in our communities that have to make things happen.”

Lisa Kamperman echoes Earle’s comments on personal responsibility.

“We all have a role individually in community,” the project manager with the Kings Volunteer Resource Centre said. She also has a goal of directly welcoming new members of her community – and to avoid being a “naysayer.”

“I have a responsibility as a community member to speak positively,” about where she lives. “I’m going to ‘be the Pollyanna’.

“Yarmouth is rallying around things, “ she pointed out. “We need something to get excited for. We have a beautiful place and we take it for granted.”


Communication and awareness

Travelling to P.E.I. helped Laura Churchill Duke build her Kings County community, she said.

A highlight for the Kentville entrepreneur and volunteer was getting to know other Annapolis Valley delegates.

“The discussions the Valley people had amongst ourselves and finding out as a unit what we can do,” was positive, she said. “And talking through how the ideas from the sessions applied to our communities.”

Taking action with or without government support was another key idea, she said. As was the message that being aware of what is going on in her area is important.

“In order to get people more engaged in the town, they need to know what’s going on,” Churchill Duke said.

Ask us

For Acadia’s Eisener, the conference was a great opportunity to make contacts and talk about issues around her work towards creating a food centre in north Dartmouth. The networking she did in Georgetown will help with a dream of “providing an urban setting with some of the rural features of agriculture and food systems,” she said.

A youth café opened the conference for the younger delegates and four young people were part of the closing panel, but Eisener would like to see young voices heard throughout future conferences.

Ask young people “how we can keep younger folks here,” she said.

“I want to create conversations in my own peer group and at work, as well,” Eisener added.”

“Why is it that we decided to stay and how we can encourage other people to stay?”


To hear more stories from Georgetown and to continue the discussion of what “Rural Redefined” means for the Annapolis Valley, come to Roads from Georgetown Oct. 24, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Acadia’s Beveridge Arts Centre, Room 244.