Team Bio (Alumni)
*Amanda left Lee & Maria’s to continue her travels across Canada in July 2020.
A love of adventure drives Amanda Cacilhas, a market specialist at Lee & Maria’s.
The Harrow native has travelled the world, visiting places like Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland and Cuba. Amanda hit the road after graduating from the University of Toronto and Humber College with degrees in psychology and international development.
Her first stop was Indonesia, where she interned for an organization that helped new graduates find work and help youth interested in entrepreneurship. “It was definitely a culture shock being in Asia for the first time, especially the most populated island in the world,” said Amanda. “There were some difficult adjustments, especially the language barrier, but it was certainly a life-changing experience.”
She ended up falling in love with the energy that Asia gives off, and last year got up the courage to go to Thailand by herself. “Backpacking alone in a very foreign country was probably the best adventure I’ve had, and I always try to encourage others to solo travel.” For Amanda, Thailand was attractive because of the balance between city life and beautiful beaches. She could get up close to monkeys and elephants, and of course, the food! She’s now back home and working at Lee & Maria’s, but also likes to visit Ontario parks like the Bruce Peninsula or Bon Echo, chasing one of her favourite animals, the Loon.
Backpacking alone in a foreign country was probably the best adventure I've had.
In her spare time, she enjoys anything outdoors, especially camping, hiking, fishing, ice fishing, canoeing and kayaking. She also loves photography, cooking and baking.
For Amanda, it’s all about blueberries when it comes to the fruits and vegetables at Lee & Maria’s. “I’ll basically eat anything that’s blueberry flavoured, or that has blueberries in it. I love the taste, but they’re also my favourite colour. I often used to go blueberry picking when I was a kid, and I remember doing a lot more eating than picking!” Just don’t feed her okra. She isn’t a fan of the slimy texture in the middle. “Maybe I haven’t had it in a really good recipe?” she says.
Amanda didn’t grow up on a farm, so she’s learning the ropes while working at Lee & Maria’s. “I’ve learned more about what’s grown locally in this area and the different businesses we partner with,” she says. “I’ve gotten more interested in learning about where our food comes from and the farm-to-table process.” She’s also learned what “heirloom” means and why heirloom carrots are different colours and “that asparagus and rhubarb are VERY popular items in May and June.”
The best part of working at Lee & Maria’s is the team, Amanda says. “Being around people who are friendly, encouraging, supportive and funny make any kind of day a better day. The donuts, ice cream, butter tarts, and pop shoppe are also pretty nice!”
Amanda began at Lee & Maria’s during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says since the first day, she has had lots of customers show appreciation for not only the store continuing to serve the community but also thanking her personally for continuing to work during the difficult times. “Those small ‘thank-yous’ have gone a long way for me.”
Learn More About the People, Crops & Products that make Lee & Maria’s Special
Working at Lee & Maria’s was a dream come true for Chelsea, literally. “I was a delivery customer for a long time and always dreamed of working here. I would tell my husband about it all the time, to the point where he’d get annoyed.”
By Rylee Wallace - Growing up in a sugar shack sounds like every kid’s dream! As a young girl, Diane Rivard, co-owner of Giffin’s Maple Syrup Products, remembers helping her parents, Jean and Don Giffin, make maple syrup. Diane, a 3rd generation maple syrup expert, would sit and watch as her parents tapped their Blenheim sugar bush trees. They would collect the sap and boil it down into that deliciously sweet syrup.
Kaylee Pillon is not a big fan of celery, “it hates me, I hate it, it’s a mutual understanding.” Kaylee, a market specialist and delivery packing lead, calls celery annoying to eat, requiring too much chewing with little taste payoff. “What’s even the point?” Kaylee, a Harrow native, has worked at Lee & Maria’s off-and-on since she was a young high school student in 2016. She’s now studying Social Work and Disability Studies at the University of Windsor.
By Rylee Wallace - It’s not every day that you hear about businesses created by teens, but for Russell House BBQ Sauce, that is precisely what happened! Alexis Russell, now 14 years old, whipped up her first barbecue sauce in the third grade as a Father’s Day project for school. When she brought the gift home for her family to try, it was an instant hit, and she knew she wanted to start making barbecue sauce herself!
By Rylee Wallace - Just outside of Harrow, Ontario lives the 300-acre Wrightland Farm. Year after year, they grow some of the tastiest asparagus in the county. If there is one way to prove this point, it’s by the line-up of cars outside the farm on the opening day of the season!