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Rural businesses showcased during Neebing tour

A tour was organized to show what Neebing has to offer, highlighting several thriving local businesses

NEEBING — A rural setting south of Thunder Bay has a strong economic climate, business owners and municipal officials are emphasizing.

The Municipality of Neebing organized a tour for local media last week, showcasing places like Niibing Tribal Tours, Borderlands Farm and other gems like The Bakeshop on Boundary and Thunder Oak Cheese Farm.  

While viewed as a little off the beaten path for some residents within Thunder Bay's city limits, the business owners all indicated they have been consistently offered support from Neebing. 

"They've done a lot of promotion for us and mentioned [us in] all their brochures," Thunder Oak Cheese Farm co-owner Walter Shep said, noting the support is valuable. "It's important because we're a small municipality. We don't have a whole lot of businesses here."

There's also good business-to-business support for The Bakeshop on Boundary, which is located just up the hill from the cheese farm. 

The Bakeshop on Boundary, owned by Emily and Parker Smith, was established in 2016. Emily Smith said while local residents and tourists are drawn to the more established cheese shop, they do send many up the hill to visit their storefront. 

Smith also detailed that while the support from the municipality has been immeasurable, it's also made them as business owners feel secure. 

"It makes you feel more secure and more stable and more willing to take risks and spend some more money to build on what we are doing here," she said.

The homegrown bakery is working towards offering more outdoor seating for its summer season visitors and eventually hopes to have an enclosed three-season space available. 

Another stop on the municipal tour was Borderlands Farm, a first-generation farm located just 30 minutes from Thunder Bay that started in 2020. While they are a dual-purpose farm, selling lamb for meat and harvesting wool, they saw an opportunity to fill a gap by opening a wool mill. 

"When we started our farm up here in Northwestern Ontario, we sort of looked around and realized there wasn't any capacity for any of us, any of the fibre farmers to process our own wool," said Gwen Marsonet, one of four owners of the family farm.

"When we first started out here, Neebing has been very supportive. The municipality [is] asking what they can do to help us out and sort of increase our profile." 

While matriarch Beverly Barlow practices on the newly purchased machines, Borderlands Farm is hoping to start accepting wool from farmers in 2024. 

There are plenty of traditional retail shops in Neebing, but there are also experience-style businesses, including Niibing Tribal Tours. 

Cindy Crowe is the founder and owner, and as an elder and a lodge keeper, she reconnects the visitors with Mother Earth while delivering land-based learning. Crowe explained that visitors at the lodge are able to dictate how long their visit is so they can get the most out of their physical and spiritual tour. 

Further down Highway 61, there is a school that specializes in teaching traditional Indigenous languages, land-based survival skills, Seven Grandfather teachings and more.

"This school was built for our youth to realize what they have in their backyard." says the founder of the School of Indigenous Learning, Jeordie Pierre. 

Located in a rural area along Little Pigeon Bay Road, minutes from the U.S. border, the school rests on a 250-acre parcel of land. On the school's property, they are able to teach on the land using teepees, an outdoor kitchen, a prospector tent and other features the land has to offer, including a waterfall close by. 

In the end, these businesses are just some of the 33 (and growing) local gems that can be found when going off the usual path of the same-old-same-old. Businesses that have worked hard to start up or survive through a pandemic are endlessly supported by the Municipality of Neebing and work hard to be an inclusive business community. 

"Everything they're (customers) looking for really is out here and around them," the Bakeshop on Boundary's Emily Smith said. "It also helps to show what we have to offer. In the city of Thunder Bay, people don't know that there is this whole community, and sometimes that's out here."



Katie Nicholls, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Katie Nicholls, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Originally from central Ontario, Katie moved here to further her career in the media industry.
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