Tag Archives: farming

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 🙂

What do Farmers do in the Winter? (when we’re not doing chores, of course)

Posted on Monday, March 9, 2015 by Steph N

Have you ever wondered what farmers do in the winter? And I’m not saying we don’t have anything to do – we still check the barns, take care of our animals, gather eggs, clean and sweep, keep our records up to date, maintain equipment, grade eggs to sell to customers, and much more – but things are a little bit slower. There is a lot less outdoor work we can do and there are no crops in the fields to worry about, so we have a little bit of free time.

Many farmers will use some of this time to learn. From Soil and Crop to Dairy Expos to Farm Safety Training, there are many meetings that go on through the winter that help us farmers stay up to date on new technologies and new ideas that we can apply on our farms.

This past week I had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Young Farmers Forum. It is an event that takes place each year and is attended by young farmers ages 18 to 40. On the first day of the event I was able to meet with 13 other egg farmers from across the country to learn about how our industry interacts with the government and how different trade deals can affect eggs in Canada. It is amazing to see how much our industry does for us and Canadians. We also learned about Social Responsibility and how the Egg Farmers of Canada are doing their part. They are planning to build a chicken barn on a farm in Swaziland to help support an orphanage, and in turn help the local economy. This farm not only creates jobs for local people but also food and income for the orphanage.

The topics spoken about at the conference also included business planning, political predictions, new technologies and apps, and tips on agriculture education. While I learned a lot in each session that I attended, the most beneficial information I took away was from talking with other young farmers from across the country. I met dairy farmers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, potato farmers from PEI, grape growers from Niagara Falls, chicken and berry farmers from BC, grain farmers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and egg farmers from the North West Territories. Each farmer had a different story of how they got where they are, and also a different way of doing things. I gained a lot of new ideas from these conversations that I can apply on my farm, including things as simple as a new way to streamline record keeping in my barn.

Farmers are not afraid to share their ideas with each other, and it helps build a stronger agricultural sector throughout the country. The community that this creates is one of the many reasons I am so proud to be able to call myself a farmer 🙂

A speaker at the Canadian Young Farmers Forum talks about Best Management Practices

A speaker at the Canadian Young Farmers Forum talks about Best Management Practices

Snow Is A Good Thing

Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 by Erin M

As Canadians, we are good at many things – but one of the things we’re best at is talking about the weather. Especially our dislike of the weather. It always seems to be able to be too hot, too cold, too wet, too something. This is always extremely evident once we start getting snow and it’s been on the ground for a while. It’s wet, it’s cold and if you’re not tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing – most tend to find it more bothersome than exciting.

Unless of course, you’re a farmer.

If you’re a farmer like us? We love snow. Love love love it. 

For one? Snow has great insulating properties. It covers up perennial plants like strawberries and keeps them from being damaged by the cold weather, or short term changes we see between the warmth and the cold. It allows them to have a better winter, stay healthier and produce a better crop the following season. Every year we put strawberries “to bed” by covering them up with a layer of straw to help them survive the harsh Canadian winters filled with cold and wind. The plants are much healthier when this layer of straw is covered with healthy layer of snow. (And it’s the straw that helps collect the snow to keep on top of the plants!)  Years where there is little or no snow cover often means that the plants and the fruit will struggle to produce the next spring and summer because they exerted so much energy trying to survive the winter and build themselves back up into healthy plants once spring arrives. If there is not enough straw or snow cover, the crowns of the plants can be damaged both temporarily or permanently.  

 

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Spreading straw, trying to get it done before there’s too much snow cover!

 

Snow is also great for farmers because it adds moisture to the soil. As farmers, we rely a lot on mother nature to give us enough water in the soil to grow our crops. If there has been a lot of snow over the winter, then when that snow melts, the excess water will drain into the fields and add moisture to the ground. Starting off a season with a healthy amount of water in the soil means that plants and trees are better able to grow the next summer. For us on our farm, it also usually amounts to being able to harvest a better maple syrup crop, because the trees have more water that they are able to turn into sap.

And one of the biggest reasons we love snow though?  It gives us a little time to slow down, catch up on work, catch up with family, and possibly even get in a small vacation or two.

 

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                                                                         Vacations various family members have been able to take over the years in our off season!               

 

…When we’re lucky!   

Storing feed for cows

Posted on Thursday, June 27, 2013 by Justin

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Have you ever been driving down a country road and noticed the tall cylinders on many farms made of cement or steel. Those cylinders are called silos, and their purpose is to store feed for livestock. On my farm we have two silos used for feed storage one holds haylage and the other high moisture corn. Haylage is simply damp hay that is chopped into roughly 2.5cm pieces and put into the silos for storage and to ferment. In the first video I will show you how we transform our hay into silage and put it into the wagon for transportation to the silo. The second video shows you how we unload the wagons and blow it into the top of the silo for storage to be fed to the animals as needed.

Summer Family

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Erin M

Every spring, our summer family begins to arrive. It’s slow at first…a couple of guys now more like old friends. They arrive and there are welcomes, a mix of chatting through broken Spanish and English, grocery shopping…trips to the bank and most importantly – the purchase of long distance phone cards to call home. 
 
We get down to work quickly as there is lots to do. Sometimes we work side by side cleaning up after a busy spring, sometimes they’re out in the fields doing weeding, picking rocks or moving irrigation and sometimes we’re sitting on the back of a bumpy tractor planting acre after acre of strawberries. 
 
 
As the season moves on, another couple of guys join us in the daily tasks of farm life and then after that, usually a couple of more. 
 
By the time the middle of June arrives…our entire summer family is here catching up with each other as they speak in rapid Spanish, filling the farm with infectious laughter and song. 
 
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I’ve been asked a few times why we hire migrant workers – and my answer is fairly simple: 
 
We need reliable staff who show up every day and we need staff who will work when we ask them to and provide the quality and quantity we expect to be picked. Contrary to why a lot of people believe farms hire migrant workers – it’s not cheaper or easier….it’s actually is a lot more expensive and a lot more work for us to hire them than it would be to hire local staff. First – we’re required (as we are required to pay all of our staff) to pay them minimum wage. Some of our guys who have been returning year after year have earned increased wages like all of our staff does when they return year after year. Then – we have to pay for housing, a portion of their utilities, and a portion of their airfare to and from Mexico. We also spend countless hours taking them shopping for anything they need – from groceries to new clothes to take home for their kids…which is a tremendous amount of work, time and effort. But in the end…for us..it’s worth it. 
 
We hired local pickers for years…years and years and years – in fact – we still do to supplement our ‘summer family’ with them …but we could never find enough people who wanted to do the work. Or people who would stick it out the entire season. Or people who would show up when it was over 30 degrees, or raining, or whatever the day may bring. Regardless of the circumstance – we still needed to be able to harvest the crops we were planting…and before we started hiring migrant workers, we were never able to do this. Entire fields would go to waste because we simply couldn’t get them picked. 
 
We couldn’t get things harvested, keep things picked clean and the harvest suffered, the crops suffered, our customers suffered and we as farmers suffered. 
 
We hired four guys from Mexico originally, and have now expanded now to twelve great guys. Guys with wives, kids and lots of family back home. We have guys with toddlers, twins, teenagers, grandkids and everything in between. Guys who when they’re back in Mexico work on farms, as taxi drivers and even one as a DJ.  Guys who want to come to Canada to work temporarily, because they want to provide a better life for their families in whatever way they can. Guys who jump in to help whenever it is needed and are ready and willing to work with whatever has to be done. 
 
When we first had four guys it meant that we were able to start producing more and harvesting more of what we had produced. It meant we were able to hire more people to sell the things that we had grown, and expand our business – eventually buying a second farm and hiring even more guys who live on that farm for the summer. Since we started using the migrant workers program we’ve been able to create a vast amount of new jobs in the community that would have never been available if it weren’t for them. We’ve been able to expand from one full time employee (who as a business owner was rarely, if ever, actually paid) to four full time year round employees. We have also been able to expand from 3-4 seasonal employees, to almost 25 seasonal employees, not including migrant workers – which is an enormous increase. 
 
Our guys are one of the major backbones of the business. They are vital to our operations successes – we quite literally could not exist without them. From planting, to crop maintenance, to keeping the farm and fields in good working condition to harvesting and beyond – they do an immense amount of hard work. We have good friends, brothers and even a father and son who spend their summers side by side working with us – and we know how important they are and try to make sure they know how important they are whenever we can. Whether it’s taking them out for a nice Mexican meal they’ve been craving once we make it through our busiest season, grabbing some Chinese takeout after an unusually long and/or hot day so that no one has to cook, taking them to the lake to go swimming, having BBQ’s or Mexican feasts on the farm, having them at weddings, or just an evening soccer game in the backyard…going to Canada’s Wonderland or simply bringing them an ice cream, ice cold bottle of water or can of their drink of choice “coca” (coke!) to the field on a hot day – we want to make sure they know how big of a part of the business they are, and how much we value them. 
 
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Yes – they work long, hard days for us to put fresh local produce on your table. Yes, they may not be Canadian…. but to us…they’re “the guys” – and they’re our summer family. They’re salt of the earth people who we look forward to welcoming to work on the farm each summer. They’re the kind of people who smile encouragingly as you stumble over your Spanish and grab a heavy box to help you carry it, who laugh and joke and tell you about their “bambinos” and ‘bambinas’  as they show you a better way to harvest a certain crop. They are incredibly grateful for the job and we’re incredibly grateful for them, their work ethic and their determination to do the best job possible in everything that they do. 
 
No – It’s not the easiest job, but they work hard and come back year after year…happy to be working along side us helping to make our farm the best it can be… always welcomed with open arms to be part of our “summer family”.

Every Cow Has a Name – Why Not A Name Tag?

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by Andrew

When I say the word cow – what comes to mind?b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20120917_130548.jpg

A black & white one maybe?

Like you may have a German Shepard or a Miniature Schnauzer for a dog, farmers can have different breeds of cows. The most famous cow in books and cartoons, is also the most popular kind of dairy cow. Those black and white ones you see are ‘Holsteins’ and make up well over 90 percent of all the cows farmers raise for milk production. 

Here is another fun fact. Did you know that no two holsteins have the same spots? It is kind of like how no two people have the same fingerprint. But even when they all look different, sometimes we need help to remember who is who. That is why in our barn we keep cow name tags above each cow. These signs aren’t in all dairy barns, but we like having them to help us keep track of who-is-who, which cows belongs in which stall (don’t worry – there is a post coming soon about stalls) and remember which family tree she belongs to.

Here is an example of a sign, and what it says.

A cow's name tag!

The first line – Bellson Dolman Wonder is her full name. Bellson is our farm name, and shows which farm was responsible for breeding her mother. Dolman is her father’s name, and Wonder is her name.

Next line is her birthday followed by her beauty rating. That’s right – every cow in the herd gets a score for how pretty they are our of 100.

The next two lines show how much milk, fat and protein she has produced as a 2 year old and as a 3 year old. Those are all in kilograms. And in case you are wondering – that does mean that when she was 3 years old – she produced over 11 000 kilograms of milk!

 The next two lines are her parents’ full names (including the farms they come from). Sire is ‘Dad’ in cow language, and ‘Dam’ is mom.

Finally, the last #169 at the bottom is the number you will find on her ear tag. It is the last step to confirming that Wonder is who she says she is.

For the younger animals, we have signs with pictures to help us get familiar with which spots are on which animals. (Like below)

And now you know that cows have name tags!

Some signs even have their picture.

Spring-time Means Tractor-time!

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 by Stephanie K

It’s that time of the year again. Spring! Spring means it is time for farmers to get out on the land and start planting. This also means more equipment on the roadways when we go from field to field. It is important for everyone to be alert and safe around this equipment on the road. Here are some tips for drivers when they come across a tractor on the road.

– If you are following the equipment, keep a safe distance back- if you can’t see the operator, chances are they can’t see you!

– Watch for the lights near the top and sides of the tractor for turn signals- they are just like cars and have blinkers too.

– Most tractors have a top speed around 25-30 mph (~40 km/h) so be sure to slow down when approaching equipment.That is why farmers are required to have ‘slow moving vehicle’ signs on the back of their equipment (the orange triangle).

– It may be intimidating but there is lots of room on the road for both vehicles! Be courteous and move over safely when possible because the equipment operator is doing the same for you. 

– Be patient and think safely 🙂

Winter Harvest

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by Erin M

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If you’ve visited a grocery store lately, you’re probably well aware that there aren’t a lot of things for sale in the produce section that are ‘Product of Ontario’ this time of year. If you’re lucky you’ll find a few Ontario apples from last fall, though after last year’s spring frost that badly damaged a large percent of Ontario’s apple crop they’ve been harder to find this winter. Otherwise you might be able to scoop some of last year’s garlic harvest or some greenhouse tomatoes or cucumbers. On the whole this time of year though most of the produce that we as Canadians have access to during the winter months is from far and wide across the globe. 

Just because your local fruit and vegetable farmer isn’t necessarily milking cows, collecting eggs or feeding animals day and night doesn’t mean we get to slack off in the winter though – there’s still lots to do on the farm even when we’re not growing delicious fruits and vegetables!

Here are just few of the things we’ve gotten done in our “down time” this winter while we weren’t growing on our farm:

*Cleaning – Winter is a time when we’re able to give things a big thorough going over. From cleaning and organizing workshops, scrubbing ovens in the markets and washing walls and much more – we have time in our off season to be able to check all sorts of cleaning and organizing jobs off our to-do list. Making improvements around the farm to buildings, roads and cleaning up inside and outside all need to be done to keep the farm in tip top shape! 

*Fixing machinery – The guys took apart (and luckily put back together!) tractors and anything else that wasn’t running *just* right. They needed to repair, replace and make sure they’re running smoothly for when we need them the rest of the year.

*Accounting – Definitely not a favourite job on the farm..but to help us farm better we keep full records of what we grew and what we sold so we have a better idea of what we need to grow the next year – plus – we have to submit our taxes (we have to do those too!) sooner rather than later so we can get it out of the way and move on to what we’re really interested in – farming!

*Paperwork – Another low key task that takes up more time than you would believe. From updating staff manuals and training tools to creating new brochures, ensuring we’re up to date with necessary government postings and everything in between – we could probably fill up an entire winter just with catching up on paperwork!

*Planning ahead – We do lots of planning during the winter…from debriefing and talking about our festivals and events, talking about changes we want to make and new ideas we have for the farm – we’re always making lists and plans of things we want to do for the day, the week, the year and beyond.

*More planning – After looking at our records, our field rotations, and figuring out where we’re going to plant what next in future years (yep – we always have to be looking at LEAST a few years ahead!) we can finally order our seeds, containers and any other farming equipment or supplies we might need for the spring, summer and fall. 

*Building things – I’m finally getting new display cupboards in our farm market!!! After ten years of asking for this to be a winter project…I’m so excited that it finally made its way up the winter list and got accomplished! 

*Making syrup – We make lots of maple syrup every spring so this takes up a large portion of our time…from tapping the bush, to boiling the sap and bottling the syrup…and of course our MapleFest – there’s lots for everyone to do!

*Growing as farmers – Every year we attend various conferences throughout Ontario to talk and network with other farmers, learn from experts in the field and learn about everything from new technologies, nematodes or new ways to use marketing – all things we can learn to help make our farm the best it can be! We also attend lots of different meetings, AGM’s, community groups and workshops to learn how our farm can contribute back to the community, events and organizations around us.

Even though it may not seem like it…there’s lots to do on a fruit and vegetable farm when it’s too cold outside to actually grow anything. There is ALWAYS lots to do – and this is only a small portion of the things we’ve been able to get done this winter – our own version of a winter harvest! As always we’ve been super busy getting ready for another summer season…so busy in fact that I think I need a nap just thinking about it. Except that it’s spring – which means that the farm is ACTUALLY getting busy and there is even MORE work to do now!

Next up…planting, picking and preparing – oh my!