Friday, November 17, 2006

Odd lovely gems

Today work found me in Florenceville, NB. What a remarkable little town. It never ceases to amuse and impress me, and of all the communities I regulary visit in support of our member organizations, this one, along with Bathurst and Miramichi, is the most interesting.

It's tiny - a population of just 762 souls, nestled in the Upper Saint John River Valley, God's Country, which in New Brunswick means Potato Country. It looks more like a Norman Rockwell painting than anything else, with a distinctive New Brunswick bent; the covered bridge, the Loyalist-era mansions, the placid river winding through the town proper, feeding the mighty Saint John, sheltered by weeping willow trees.

This throwback to the idyllic days of pre-Loyalist New Brunswick, which actually began life as a garrison set up to guard against American invasion, and which originally had the charming name of "Buttermilk Creek", is also the home of the World Headquarters of McCain Food International.

That's right, that McCain. The frozen pizza in your freezer may or may not be able to trace its origin right to this charming village; the frozen french fries almost certainly may, and both spring from an international frozen food juggernaut that began with the local McCain family's potato farming business - they invented the frozen french fry, brothers and sisters, I kid you not - and which still has its roots, and its international headquarters, here.

(An interesting side note worth mentioning is that the founding family - the McCain family, which still owns the business - are highly-respected philanthropists with a history of public service to their province. They are considered to be "good people", if you know what I mean. They've reinvested their success in their province and their community - which helps explain why McCains' World Headquarters is still in Florenceville, pop. 762.)

McCain brings top talent from around the globe to run their operations from Florenceville. This has the remarkable effect of making this small village and the surrounding villages and towns by far the most ethnically diverse and multicultural part of the province per capita. It's a charming and fascinating effect - Norman Rockwell's version of small-town Canada as if Rockwell's own dreams of ethnic diversity and integration had come to full fruition.

The mix of people I know and work with there are amazing. Moroccan, Chinese, Cuban, Venezuelan, Dutch, Japanese, Indian, British, Honduran, Korean, Argentinian... and more. And more every day.

The village, and the surrounding villages, in response to this dichotomy of tiny, homogenous communities finding themselves hotbeds of local immigration, have responded with creativity, compassion and warmth. Some of their programs and policies should be - and have been - models for the rest of the province. They should be models for the rest of the country.

We're workin' on that.




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