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Why is Rural Newfoundland & Labrador Not a Haven for a Thriving Sheep Industry?

Fields of Sheep, Northern Ireland

After exploring parts of Ireland during a vacation in November 2010, I was astounded by the resemblance to rural Newfoundland & Labrador. However, one key difference was all the lambs and sheep local in fields all throughout the island. This is a missed opportunity for our island that thrives in Ireland and New Zealand.

Fast facts

  1. 1. Meat is New Zealand’s second-largest food export and is worth $5.14 billion.
  2. 2.  Approximately 90 percent of sheep and lamb and 80 percent of beef meat producedeach year is exported. New Zealand’s key export markets for meat products are the United States and the European Union.
  3. 3. The main farmed species are sheep (34.2 million), cattle (9.6 million), deer (1.7 million) and goats (0.09 million).
  4. 4. New Zealand has the largest deer farming industry in the world – there are an estimated 4,000 farms with deer in New Zealand. It has around half the global farmed deer population (

Sheep have been brought to our island since the 16th and 17th centuries. We have a climate that should enable sheep farms to thrive. However, local demand historically has been low and rural farms are in decline.  There were 341 sheep producers in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of 1995, this represents a decline of 20% from 1977, according to the records of the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods and the Sheep Producers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Between 1977 and 1995 the sheep population fluctuated between 5,700 and 9,700. Therefore, it can be concluded that the average flock size per farm has been increasing, but the total number of sheep farms has been on a decline [Handbook of Selected Agricultural Statistics, Page 11].

Sheep in Rural Northern Ireland

 I was unable to find sheep numbers more recent than 1995, but I would hope they have increased from 10,000. In comparison to New Zealand’s current 35 million sheep, we do not factor in the global marketplace. A visit to the Sheep Producer’s Association of Newfoundland and Labrador ( the following message:

Welcome to the home of SPANL’s new Web Site. The SPANL website will begin further development in the upcoming months. The membership apologizes for the delays in finishing the site. We are a non-profit organization attempting to utilize the resources of our membership. Today computers are as common in the household and business as the VCR, practically everyone has access to the Internet. Through the development of this Website it is felt that a larger audience can be reached to showcase the SPANL and its tireless efforts to rebuild an industry that is part of Newfoundland’s history and culture.

Sheep have been a focus of Newfoundland popular culture. One only has to listen to the late Dick Nolan’s song, “Aunt Martha’s Sheep” which describes a sheep being stolen in Carmanville, NL. He was a talented folk musician, born in Corner Brook, NL.

There is a great opportunity for Newfoundland & Labrador to further develop and grow this industry, especially in rural areas.  Escalating meat prices, growing local demand and limited farmers committed to the future of the industry has established an environment for growth in this market. Historically we have been great mariners of the sea – there is room to transfer these skills to ranching and better land-base utilization.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher C. Mitchelmore 

An Opportunity for More Rural Social Space – The Coffee Shop?

Treats at the Coffee Shop, Northern Ireland

Where are the local coffee shops in Rural Newfoundland & Labrador? I am not talking about the Tim Horton‘s that are springing up practically everywhere, including rural areas. There is even a Tim Horton’s in St. Anthony, NL on the peninsula’s tip that has a town of under 3,000 people. Some residents from the Strait of Belle Isle region, where I reside have even driven more than 100 kms to get a “cup of Joe” combined with a high calorie sweet to match. This is the power of branding and the importance of changing to fit with market demands.

It was not too many years ago, that there was a local bakery in Flower’s Cove, NL. It operated for a number of years under the Dot’s Pantry “franchise”, to later be operated as Sweets & Eats. As a youth, I did not appreciate the business as a venue to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee; however, they never really promoted themselves as a coffee shop in the traditional sense.
For me, it was really more of the bakery, a place to get a cake for a birthday or other special occasion. One could also get freshly baked bread, pies, squares and other desserts, as well as a limited variety of lunch choices, which included jigs dinner, soups, sandwiches and chili. However, the coffee was limited to just basic brewed. Additionally, there were only two small tables with a couple of chairs.

Espresso and Latte in Paris, France

A coffee shop in rural parts of Europe have a variety of good java. One can get a selection of freshly brewed coffee with flavours to choose. There is also mocha, cappuccino, latte and espresso. I certainly love a good espresso! As well, there is an array of teas, herbal, chai teas, decaffeinated teas, coffees and of course hot chocolate. Tim Horton’s has even adapted a number of these products to their menu, but offers them at a low-cost price. This is reflective of quality, as Tim Horton’s  is less generous with whip creams and syrups.  European coffee shops exhibit a nice relaxing and inviting atmosphere, versus the cafeteria or institutional/fast food stylings of Tim Horton’s.
There is an opportunity for more  social space in Rural Newfoundland and Labrador, with the decline of the local lounges. The social commons is changing from the local wharves and the kitchen tables, as we have become more integrated into larger regional communities. We need a fitting space for those to mingle and discuss events of the day. We require a space that is senior, seasonal employee, family, youth, tourist, handicap and professional friendly to survive and thrive in a sparsely populated rural setting.
Gros Morne National Park has a gem of a coffee shop in Java Jacks! I highly recommend it. Only time will tell if there is room for a coffee shop in the Strait of Belle Isle region and if it can fill the need of creating a social space that is acceptable by those living and passing through our rural region.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore

The Giant’s Causeway…part III


Pillers 12 meters high

In mid-November Live Rural NL author, Christopher Mitchelmore spent two weeks on vacation with some time in Ireland exploring Irish roots.  The Giant’s Causeway is a magnificent space to spend the day. I recommend to plan ahead and bring a snack to have a picnic by the sea.          

Posing on the trail with the hills and water in the background

Posing on the trail with the hills and water in the backgroundthe hillside green and beautiful orange glow, takes me back to a simpler time – a time when nature ruled and development was from human interference was far away.

A lonely walker on the trail at sunset

We stayed almost until sunset, climbing to the top to get a great aerial view of the 37,000 basalt columns.


The View from Above

Upon reaching our car, we decided to stop by a coffee shop in a small neighbouring village before driving to Dublin, Ireland to meet Marcel. The Giant’s Causeway has been a big highlight of my last European vacation.

Find your highlight here –

Live Rural NL 0 Christopher Mitchelmore 


Giant’s Causeway…Part Two

The three amigos by the basalt pillars

 The Giant’s Causeway is a natural wonder formed millions of years ago. The image to the left illustrates the sheer height of some of the pillars.

David, myself and Tobias look quite miniscule in comparison. We pretended to blend in and be part of the causeway.

An up close view of the basalt pillars at the Giant’s Causeway.

 We have been to the edge….and back! The formations combined with the powerful waves presented a very unique feeling of experiencing a natural wonder.

 The crashing waves.

The image to the left shows Tobias “The Navigator”  jumping ahead while I use the opportunity to take some more photos.

I probably took 300+ pictures at the Giant’s Causeway. Certainly enough to make our fourth friend, Marcel jealous for missing it. Sorry Marcel.

I am quite familiar with WORLD UNESCO HERITAGE SITES as I live in between two on the Great Northern Peninsula, that is L’Anse Aux Meadows World UNESCO Heritage Site (the site of the Norse, who re-discovered North American more than 1,000 years ago) and The Tablelands at Gros Morne National Park. This comment reminds me of one Sarah Palin made during her 2008 ticket for vice-present when McCain claimed she was an expert in foreign policy. She backed this statement by noting Canada was next to Alaska and that she practically could see Russia from her window.

On a serious note, the Tableland experience near the Discovery Center, between Woody Point and Trout River, NL provided a similar feeling of awe.  I participated in a guided tour and walked the trail during the summer with my friend Benoit (who I also met while studying at the University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic). Parks Canada has done a fabulous job!

Newfoundland and Ireland have many connections. World UNESCO Heritage Sites are another link.

I’ll post some additional photos of the Causeway.  The farther I walked the more I loved taking it all in, just like Gros Morne National Park.

Live Rural NL 0

Christopher Mitchelmore

The Giant’s Causeway…

The Giant’s Causeway was declared a World UNESCO Heritage Site. It is a scenic wonder of almost 40,000 basalt pillars that are a result of an ancient volcanic reaction.

The National Trust manages the Giant's Causeway

We were fortunate to miss out on this wonder the day prior, as it rained early evening. During our visit Friday afternoon we were greeted with many rays of sunshine.

The walk to the Causeway

We opted to walk to the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, versus take the trolley bus.

Looking back...

As we look back we see some fisher people in their little outboard boat.

A boat out to sea

The walked was certainly worth seeing the thousands of hexagonal pillars ranging in varying heights.

Part of the Giant's Causeway

We spent awhile admiring the nature’s beauty. Stay tuned for additional posts relating to the Giant’s Causeway.

It is a must see in Northern Ireland!

Live Rural NL 0

Christopher Mitchelmore

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