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Top Ten Reasons It’s Great To Be A Farmer

Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2015 by Erin M

Being a farmer is a lot of work, it’s long days and physically and emotionally demanding and extremely unpredictable…but if you ask me…it’s also one of the greatest jobs you could ever be lucky enough to have. Here are my top ten reasons I love being a farmer!

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10) There are never two days that look even remotely the same.

There’s always a new challenge, a new adventure and something else to do. While certain elements of your day may be the same or similar from day to day, you’ve gotta make things be as efficient as possible which means juggling a bunch of things, multitasking and making things work…because when it’s busy on the farm you’ve got at least two days worth of work to fit into far less than that and there’s WAY more to do than just make hay while the sun shines. You’re always moving and doing something else, or at the very least – thinking about what you’ve gotta do next – and you’re always ready for something else to come along and interrupt your day and change everything up, and because of this you get really good at being ready to adapt to something new suddenly being a big part of your day and are always looking forward to the challenges, changes and rewards each new day brings.
9) Fresh air and sunshine are a regular part of your job.

There is nothing like walking outside and feeling the crisp morning air as you begin your day with the sun. When you’re a farmer you get to spend a big chunk of your life outdoors, and are rarely confined to a desk or an office for long periods of time. Your desk is the seat of a tractor, setting a farmers’ market display or out in a field where your crops are. Even if you should find yourself at a desk there are is always SOMETHING you can convince yourself you should check on – a field, a crop, an animal or anything else…because farmers just aren’t made for sitting behind desks…and we like it that way. Plus, the views from our desks aren’t too shabby, even when we have to do pesky things like pay the bills.

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My brother Ben takes a walk through a strawberry field checking on plant health.

 

8) You’re in good company.

Working as a farmer means your colleagues are often times family, and they’re the best people you can surround yourself with because they just get it. They usually have similar views, morals and objectives so you’re working towards the same goals and dreams. They’ve known you a long time which means they know when you need a break, when they can push you harder and they’re right there invested with their whole hearts and souls just as much as you, which means that there is a level of trust that is hard to reach with just about anyone else. They love you, and they love seeing you thrive so you work well together to make your combined dreams a reality (Even when they’re driving you insane. Because let’s be honest….they ARE still family.)

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My Dad, myself and my brother at a farmers market!

7) You’re your own weather man.

You always know when it’s sunny outside. Or when it’s raining. Or about to the rain. Or when you really NEED rain. Or when you wish it would just stop raining. Your livelihood depends entirely on your crops, and your crops depend so much on the weather that it becomes second nature to watch updates online, radar maps and the sky and put it all together to make your own weather report. My Dad has this art down to a science that he can say “it’s going to rain in 15 minutes, hard, for about half an hour” and 14 minutes later as I’m scrambling to get things ready for rain…I feel a drop and know exactly what we’re in for so that I can juggle my day and move things around while we adjust to the kink in the day the weather has thrown us.

6) You’re never bored.

The words “I’m bored” on a farm don’t exist – and if they are ever uttered – there are lists and lists and lists of things that can ALWAYS be done (my summer staff will vouch for that I’m sure…) There is always something that needs to be done, something new you’re thinking of putting into action or something just in awe of. Whether it’s a crop’s resilience, a bug’s determination, or an evening sunset – there is always something to be seeing, doing, improving or changing on a farm. And in those few rare moments where you’re not doing anything? You’re probably so glad to have a minute of down time without anything pressing to do that you soak it up and would never admit out loud of any semblance of being bored.

5) You’ve got “mad skillz”.

Being a farmer means you’ve gotta wear a lot of hats and do a lot of jobs. You have to be able to be able to grow and take care of your crops, whatever they may be. You’ve got to be able to sell those crops, being the face of your business. You need to be able to do the accounting and the bookwork, to pay the bills, do any advertising, deliver product, talk to the public, pick up supplies, fix a tractor, build something you need, answer the hard questions, and make it all of that and so much more work while still maintaining your sanity. If you had to list skills or abilities on a resume, you’d probably need at least a second page because you’ve got to be able to make everything and anything work the best you possibly can.

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My brother (Ben) putting straw down on strawberries and getting them ready for another winter!

 

4) You get really good at juggling.

At anyone one time you probably have at least 17 balls in the air at once and you do your best to not let (m)any of them hit the ground. Not only are you good at doing a lot of different jobs that may come up at any time, but you’re also great at juggling being able to do a lot of different things at once. Sure, juggling a lot at once is hard…but we learn, grow and do our best as we always try to do the best possible job we can, with everything that we do and when something crazy pops up that would usually stress someone out, we’re fairly use to being able to take it in stride, make sense of it and make a plan to fix it.
3) You get to live where the green grass grows. Living in the country means your driveway is it’s own long dirt road, you have too much land to ever think about raking the leaves and your neighbours are few and far between – but they’re the ones you can count on in a snow storm, when someone gets sick or you just need a helping hand. Farm life offers it’s own unique kind of peace and quiet, where hearing a car pass or another voice is rare, especially compared to the songs you’re sung by birds as you have dinner outside. You get to see the stars and the moon whenever you head outdoors at night and your backdrop is trees and fence lines, not sky scrappers or office buildings. Plus your commute to work is short, you know just about every nook, cranny, rock, branch and stream there is around and you always have a great place outdoors to go for a stroll after dinner.

2) You’re always learning something new.

With new technologies, new methods, experience and trial and error…you’re always changing and growing. As farmers we’re always going to conferences, workshops and meetings trying to better ourselves, our farms and our industries so that we can provide the highest quality of food on to peoples plates. We thrive on learning something new, finding a way to do something better. Whether it’s improving the way we grow something, harvest something or making sure that our land and our crops are in the best possible condition – we’re always going out of our way to read, learn, grow and change so that we can be the best we possibly can.

1) You get to put great food on people’s plates.

When it all boils down to it..that’s what we as farmers are doing every day, and the biggest reason why we love what we do. Whether you sell directly off your farm to the local communities, you sell to grocery stores, or you sell what you’ve farmed half way across the world…being a farmer means that you get to go to bed each night knowing that you have contributed to something that people need on a most basic level. We love being outside, we love who we work with, we love what we do….but we are so happy to be able to farm our farms each day, doing what we love, helping to feed the world. Nothing is quite as gratifying after a full days hard work knowing that you were a part of putting healthy, nutritious, delicious food on another family’s table.

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Our local community held a dinner cooked by local chefs who all used only local ingredients from various farms in the area. Getting to sit with and share a meal with friends, family and the other farmers of all of the things we’d collectively produced to make this delicious meal? Pretty awesome!

 

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So there you have it – The ten best reasons to be a farmer!

Any other reasons you absolutely LOVE being a farmer or think it would be awesome to be one?! Leave a comment and share them with us 🙂

Five Fabulous Maplicious Facts

Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 by Erin M

Spring in Ontario means a few things: Snow is beginning to melt while the mud appears, farm animals are prancing around enjoying warmer temperatures and all across the north eastern parts of North America…maple syrup producers are out in full force tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling it down to make it into the sweet delicacy that is fresh maple syrup!

On our farm we mix the goodness technology affords us with the knowledge from our past and this is definitely present in our sugarbush. On our farm we’re a little more old fashioned than some when it comes to making maple syrup. Our sugarbush has no pipeline, it is entirely buckets (around 1000 this year!). We collect everything by hand and bring it back to our evaporator – which is wood burning and sits down just outside of our sugarbush. This is the way we’ve always made maple syrup, and it works for us, so it’s the way that we continue to make it, enjoying the sweet smell of spring each year as the sap boils down into a golden liquid nectar.

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Our Sugarbush & Sugarshack in Buckhorn, Ontario.

 

 

Making maple syrup is actually a pretty fascinating and complex process…here are five of my favourite things you (probably) didn’t know about maple syrup!

5) There are different grades of maple syrup…most commonly light, medium and amber. Light has the most delicate maple flavour, is very light brown. Medium is a little stronger in maple flavour, and is slightly darker. Amber has the strongest maple flavour and is the darkest, with a deep brown colour. All grades actually all have the same sugar content and sweetness, it’s just the actual MAPLE flavour that changes. Here’s the kicker though: Maple syrup producers don’t get the choose what grade of syrup they get to make! Whatever the trees give them, is what they get! In the beginning of the season the sugar content of the sap is higher, so we don’t have to boil it as long and we make light maple syrup. As we continue throughthe season, the sugar content in the sap drops and we have to boil it longer to reach the same sugar content of syrup, which makes a different grade of syrup. All are equally delicious and great for eating, baking and enjoying in any way you can, though if you’re baking or cooking, I’d recommend using Amber syrup as the maple flavour comes through the best with it. Like a lot of things, that grades are actually on a spectrum, and not cut and dry…so you can have a very light light, a light that’s almost medium, or an medium that’s almost amber, an amber that’s lighter or an amber that’s very dark – it all just depends on the sap you started out with.

4) You can make a TON of things from pure maple syrup without adding anything to it! You can make hard candy, soft sugar, stirred sugar, toffee on snow, maple butter and so much more from maple syrup! You don’t have to add any fancy ingredients and all you need is a pot, a spoon, a candy thermometre, a willing taste tester and some pure maple syrup! By adding heat, removing more of the water from the syrup and adding movement and friction, we can create a TON of awesome maple products without using anything else! (Science is AWESOME!)

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By heating syrup and then cooling quickly on snow we can make soft gooey lollipops called toffee on snow!

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We made stirred sugar (similar to the consistency and look of a brown sugar..but MAPLE!) and then made maple candy floss…YUM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Tapping a tree and taking sap from it doesn’t hurt it! Like all things in farming, maple syrup producers take great care in making sure that their sugar bushes are healthy and well looked after. No matter what method they’re using…whether they have pipelines or buckets, a wood evaporator or an electric one, whether they choose to use reverse osmosis to remove some of the water before boiling or not – they take great care to ensure their sugar bush health. This means that each year special consideration is taken when tapping the tree to tap in a new location that hasn’t been tapped before, so that the tree can continue to heal any taps from previous years. Taps are put in a tree based on it’s size, to make sure that we’re not taking away too many of the nutrients that it needs in order to survive, and we take the taps out after each syrup season is over so that the tree can easily heal the hole where the spile once was. It’s actually a lot like donating blood – we don’t take away enough of the sap to hurt the tree, but can take a little bit and do something good with it! Like on every aspect of the farm, best management practices are used so that we can continue to farm and produce syrup for years to come!

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Buckets hanging on different sides of the tree and at different heights means that we are rotating tap locations to ensure our sugarbush health.

 

2) Sap flows UP. It goes against basically everything we’re taught about gravity in public school but it’s true! During the summer, the trees leaves use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into food and energy. It starts collecting these and storing them in it’s roots, where they are stored all winter long. In the spring, the stored nutrients begin to thaw, and the tree beings to come out of its dormancy and absorb water and take the nutrients it has up to the different branches and parts of the tree. When we have a warm spring day, the sap begins to make it’s way up the tree. (The ideal temperature for sap to flow is about -6C at night and +6C during the day.) As the temperature drops, the sap retreats. It is during this process of the sap going up and down the trunk of the tree all spring (attempting to get sap to the different parts of the tree so that it can take nutrients to different branches and start the process of making buds and leaves) that we can collect a small amount of sap from the maple tree. Once the sap has made it’s way all the way up and buds start to come out, you can’t collect sap anymore because the sap will be bitter.

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On warm sunny days, the sap (which is almost entirely water) drips from the spile in the tree.

1) Sap is almost ENTIRELY water when it comes from the maple tree. It’s usually about 97-99% water, with only around 1-3% sugar content. That’s why it’s clear and looks and tastes a lot like water…and that means we have to boil it A LOT to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar. You need approximately 40 litres of sap to make only 1 litre of syrup!

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Sap bucket partially filled with what looks like water, but is actually sap that will be boiled down into maple syrup!

Bedding The Cattle

Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 by Scott

Each morning loose straw gets moved from the mow into the cattle pen to provide them with a comfortable surface for the day and night. This process is repeated until the pen gets too full of biomass (manure and straw, this time varies depending on how many steers we have at the time). At this point we move the cattle into the feed alley and barnyard while we clean their pen. Following that, we line the pen with large round bales, cut all strings/net wrap from them, and let the cattle back in. This was my favorite part of working with cattle as a child, and is most certainly still every steer’s favorite activity! They know as soon as we let them in, it’s time for them to do their part and spread out the bales. They do this with surprising speed, running at the bales and breaking them apart with their powerful heads and hind legs.

I’ll get more into alternative types of bedding available in another post. The main focus of this one, I’m sure you will all agree, is the video that follows!

Bales Lined Up and Ready For the Cattle

Bales Lined Up and Ready For the Cattle

The Pen Once It's Scraped

The Pen Once It’s Scraped