P.E.I. musician switches focus to farm and giving back

·3 min read

Instead of his usual routine of traveling around P.E.I. playing ceilidhs and concerts, musician Kendall Docherty spent much of the past year at home in Hazelbrook, growing sunflowers on his family's farm.

As was the case for most musicians, the COVID-19 pandemic meant 2020 was a year of cancelled gigs and not much live performance for Docherty, but he said that was a great opportunity to switch focus and spend more time with his family.

"As a musician, you're an artist and you're out sharing your gifts. Well, everybody has different gifts and different talents. And one of my other passions is actually growing things," Docherty told guest host Angela Walker on CBC P.E.I.'s Mainstreet.

Instead of focusing on music, we focused more on grassroots things and working from home and inviting people to our property. - Kendall Docherty

His family's farm in Hazelbrook, Lil Farm on the Jib, began about 10 years ago through Kendall's children as a Junior Achievement project.

The family grows u-pick sunflowers as well as pumpkins and other vegetables and flowers.

Kendall Docherty/Facebook
Kendall Docherty/Facebook

Docherty said that at the beginning of 2020, he had a busy season of concerts planned.

"Once March hit, the dates started to get deleted from the calendar quicker than they're getting added. And by the end of the season, what would have been a fairly busy year turned out to be fairly quiet, and you kind of quickly change gears," he said.

More time to focus on home

For Docherty, that change of gears brought some benefits, including more time with his family, and time to simply focus on the little things.

"Something as simple as, I'd notice a flower in our flower beds. And I said [to my wife], 'When did you buy that?' And she said, 'We planted that when we built the house.' I had never seen the bloom cause I was never home," said Docherty.

We've always made sure that our music shows have always been tied to something that benefits others. - Kendall Docherty

Docherty said Islanders also supported their farm more than ever before.

"People really wanted to get out and support our farmers and our fishermen and, you know, our little operations that normally would have bustled because of tourism," he said.

"We kind of had to support each other this year and we've really seen that. It was the busiest season we've ever had with our sunflowers."

Sunflowers raise money for hospital foundation

For Docherty and his family, an important aspect of the farm is raising money for different charitable groups on P.E.I., including, in 2019, money towards a playground in nearby Stratford.

This year, the family donated 50 per cent of the sales of their u-pick sunflowers towards the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation and the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, for a total of $3,600.

"Instead of focusing on music, we focused more on grassroots things," said Docherty.

Supporting charitable causes have been a part of Docherty's life for a long time.

"My initial days of playing music were at local benefits and talent contests or talent shows that were, you know, raising money for something. And we've kind of always fostered that sort of mentality behind every show we've done," he said.

2020 was a 'unique experience'

Despite not being able to do any music shows, Docherty appreciated the things he had in 2020.

"This year we really had that time to spend on, you know, our property and our land and growing things and making them grow better because she had more time to take care of them," he said.

"It actually turned out to be kind of a unique experience, to be honest, this year."

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