Diverse Prince Edward County Farm Featured as September Faces of Farming

By Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care 

If there’s one example of a diversified farm business, Sandy Vader and her family are it. From their farm near Picton, they grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and other crops for a local farmers’ market, raise sheep for wool and meat, and have even diversified into seasonal decorative arrangements.

Sandy Vader's page is sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. She is joined in the photo by daughters Kelsey and Kaitlyn

Sandy Vader’s page is sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. She is joined in the photo by daughters Kelsey and Kaitlyn

Sandy and her daughters are the faces for September in the 2016 Faces of Farming Calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario.

“We are always trying to diversify,” says Sandy Vader, mother of three and avid market gardener. “I like the animals, and the people from the market. It’s a very family oriented business.”

Sandy started farming with her father-in-law in 1987. At that time, she says, they were growing about 180 acres of crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat, and producing vegetables and fruits for canning companies, “but those companies eventually left Prince Edward County,” she says. The loss of the local processing meant she had to make some major changes to the family business.

Since taking over most of the market-garden side of the farm in 2000, Sandy has expanded her crop portfolio to include — take a deep breath — asparagus, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, beets, and various varieties of flowers, among other crops. All the produce generated by Sandy and her family is sold at the Belleville farmers’ market.

“We used to go to more farmers’ markets, but it can be pretty tiring. We like to stick with one that we enjoy and works for us best,” she says.

Sandy’s youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, has been actively helping run the business since she was five years old. She helps Sandy on a regular basis, and in addition, keeps a small number of sheep and goats. Sandy’s other daughter, Kelsey, has also been involved on the farm from a very early age, and continues to help on occasion despite working full-time at an off-farm job.

Kaitlyn and Kelsey’s brother, Cody, has a farm of his own where he keeps 200 ewes. When required, though, he does help in the day-to-day operations of the farm, the market, as well as any other task that “needs to be done.”

Several years ago, Sandy also began creating a kind of value-added product for sale at her market stand. Using some of the flowers produced in her greenhouse, she creates centre pieces and other seasonal decorative arrangements for Thanksgiving and other occasions. So far, she says, they have proven to be quite popular, and have done a lot for the business when vegetables and fruits are not in season. Consequently, she plans on expanding that side of her business.

“The decorations help make going to market in the winter useful, plus there’s something about working in a greenhouse that makes the winter shorter,” she says.

With the exception of flowers and a select few others, says Sandy, all their crops are started in a greenhouse before being moved to a field to finish growing. Lettuce and sweet corn, she says, are their most popular crops, with fresh-cut lettuce being available from April to December. That two-step process works well for them, but it is labour intensive and one of the reasons Sandy values the help she receives from her family.

In her limited spare time – and she does emphasize limited – Sandy enjoys sports of all kinds, but says she is particularly happy that she had the privilege of playing hockey with her girls when they were younger. She was also an active volunteer when Cody, Kelsey, and Kaitlyn were still in school.

Whether sports or farming, though, the key theme that repeatedly crops up in Sandy’s mind is her family. For her, working with her son, two daughters is the most rewarding career she could have, and it’s the cornerstone of their success.

“The farm is a team effort,” she says. “That’s a farm family – we’re always helping each other out.”

Yes, There’s an App for Farm Animal Care

By Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

The days of carrying a notepad around the farm still exist, but there’s a new kid in the barn and field that carries a lot more functionality than a farmer’s well-worn pad of paper.

Farmers love technology and have embraced it willingly, from GPS-equipped tractors, to radio frequency eartags, to robotic milking machines. Maybe some generations have adopted it faster than others, and certainly some forms more than others, but farming and technology go hand-in-hand.

Thinking back to where mobile tech was just a few years ago when I picked up my first cell phone. I was a late bloomer for a millennial. I distinctly remember a conversation with my dad about texting that went something like this…

“Why would you text anyone? If I want something I’m going to pick up the phone and talk to a person. Who needs texting?” My siblings and I just shook our heads thinking that dad will never get it.

Fast forward to today, most of my communications with dad are through text messaging. We kids had it wrong. Now dad sends me pictures from the farm, uses abbreviations like lol (properly!) and populates his messages with emojis. And I love it.

Usually he has a newer phone than me, carries it everywhere with him and is always asking me if I’ve downloaded the latest app. But the guy doesn’t use Facebook. Or that tweetagram thing, as he calls it. But, like many other farmers, he recognizes that some apps have made farming more innovative, efficient, informed, and sometimes even easier.  

IMPACT 2Whatever you can dream up, there is probably an app for that. And now with Farm & Food Care’s IMPACT program there’s an app for animal care information.

Accessing info on animal care has never been easier from the barn, field or beside the chute.

The multi-species app offers information on euthanasia, procedures, handling, transport and other general care. Videos, articles, decision trees, loading density calculator are all at your fingertips and in your pocket. It’s not your grandpa’s factsheet!

Don’t want to read an article or watch a video on your phone screen? You can email it to yourself and watch it later. You can also bookmark what is important to you and share it between your employees, colleagues, and fellow farmers.

The app is available for download for Apple and Android devices, and is free. Have a new employee starting on your farm? Use it as part of your training program or implement it into on-going training.

Download it today. If you don’t have a smart phone, not to worry. IMPACT resources are available online by visiting www.farmIMPACT.ca.

Technology can be great but if you regularly experience a slow internet, let the Farm & Food Care office know. A USB stick with videos and content can be sent to your farm. There are options, no matter your circumstances.

Regardless of how you prefer to access information today — apps, websites, carrier pigeons — there is no doubt that we live in the age of endless information and technology has played a large roll in this. Farmers know the value of continually learning the best practices for today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Schill family model for “January” in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Floradale – Ryan Schill is a fourth generation farmer. He and his wife Romy, both 28, are raising their two young sons, Cameron and Emerson as well as 300 sheep on their farm in Wellington County. Both of their families have been in farming for many generations. Their farm has been in the Schill family for 94 years.

The 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Fourth-generation farmer Ryan Schill with one of the lambs.

In 2015, the family appears in the tenth anniversary Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Ryan’s photo is also on the cover – the first sheep farmer in Ontario to appear in that prestigious position. Their page is sponsored by AdFarm.

Sheep have been an interest of Ryan’s for many years. Raised on a mixed farm (producing crops, pigs, beef cattle, chickens and more), he had 25 sheep when he was much younger while helping his grandfather.

Romy was raised on a dairy farm near Moorefield. The two met through Ontario’s 4-H program and when they married in 2008, they knew that they wanted to farm. Romy had studied at the University of Guelph receiving her degree in Agricultural Science, while Ryan travelled to Alberta for his post secondary education, receiving an Agricultural Certificate from Lakeland College. Continue reading

Northern Ontario beef farmer following her grandma’s career path

Meet our September Faces of Farming calendar model: Kim Jo Bliss

By Kelly Daynard

Kim Jo Bliss spent her youth on her grandma's farm, and today farms that land, raising beef cattle and sheep  in the Northern Ontario District of Rainy River.

Kim Jo Bliss spent her youth on her grandma’s farm, and today farms that land, raising beef cattle and sheep in the Northern Ontario District of Rainy River.

Emo –Kim Jo Bliss spent much of her childhood on her grandmother’s beef cattle farm. Her grandma lived around the

corner and Kim Jo’s parents always knew where to find her if she wasn’t at home.

Fast forward 40 years and Kim Jo is now managing her great uncle’s farm. “I always wanted to be a farmer,” she said in a recent interview. “I really never wanted to do anything else.”

With a herd of 50 beef cows and some sheep, Bliss continues to value both the advice from and her relationship with her grandmother. “She’s not as active as she once was,” Bliss explained, adding, “But she’s still quick to offer advice and she’ll leave me messages telling when she thinks I need to move cows to another pasture.”

Bliss also works off the farm at the Emo Agricultural Research Station, operated by the University of Guelph. The station focuses on research primarily in the areas of crop and forages.

Today, Kim Jo is an active member of the Ontario beef industry and a strong proponent of agriculture in Northern Ontario. “Northern Ontario has a lot to offer,” she explained, adding that she often drives the 3.5 hour trip to Winnipeg to fly to southern Ontario for meetings. She represents the District of Rainy River on the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association and volunteers with a lot of agricultural and community organizations. Continue reading

Farm tweets land Ontario sheep farmer steady business

By Jeanine Moyer

(Sebringville) – “What’s trending” is what launched Erbcroft Farms into the food market. Combining consumer

Luann stands in the barn with her flock of sheep – and her well used smart phone.

Luann stands in the barn with her flock of sheep – and her well used smart phone.

interest in local food and social media made a successful marketing strategy for one Ontario sheep farmer. Luann Erb, of Erbcroft Farms, says her twitter account as one of her most effective marketing tools.

Fourth generation farmers in Sebringville, ON, Luann and Tim Erb, along with their two sons, farm 300 acres, raising sheep, pigs, ducks and chicken. Faced with a career change in 2009, Luann chose to stay at home on the farm full-time to diversify the family income. “I needed to be able to manage the livestock on my own,” says Erb who decided sheep were just the right size for her. She quickly saw that the value of her sheep wasn’t realized through traditional markets and set out to create her own savvy marketing approach through social media. “Like any business I wanted to maximize my profits,” says Erb who recognized local food trends and social media as her best business opportunities. Continue reading

Even Livestock are Getting in on the Tech Craze

Jean L Clavelle

RFID 2 PICAccording to StatsCan as of January 1, 2014 there are over 12 million beef and dairy cattle, almost 900,000 sheep and lambs, and nearly 250,000 bison in Canada.   Which is a lot of animals.  Bet you didn’t know that each and every one of those animals can be identified by its own unique number (much like our own Social Insurance Number).  The next question might be why…?  Why would livestock need to have their own number?

Well it is simple really.  With individual animal numbers we are able to easily track where any one animal came from in Canada.  The ability to identify animals and their origins during an animal health or food safety emergency is paramount to the success of the response operation and the protection of human and animal health.  Meaning it gives us the ability to prevent the spread of disease and further, to eradicate disease as it arises – to protect not only Canadian livestock but consumers and customers as well.

It was initiated in 1998 by beef and dairy industry leaders who recognized the importance of protecting our national herd and assuring consumer confidence which lead to the establishment of a national identification program.  On January 1, 2001 the Government of Canada passed regulations for compulsory animal identification for both cattle and bison. The Canadian Sheep Identification Program (CSIP) followed suit with its own industry-led trace-back system introduced in 2004 applicable to all ovine animals in Canada. Continue reading

Meet the faces of January in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

Sarah Brien is a farm girl at heart. Raised on a sheep farm in Ridgetown, ON, she is a fourth generation farmer who naturally inherited her love for the land and animals as well as her sense of community spirit and involvement from her parents.

Erin McLean’s family moved to a farm north of Peterborough when she was five years old. Today, the farm’s offerings include strawberries, peas and raspberries, squash and potatoes, maple syrup and jams and more. They also sell at at local farmers markets and their own two stores.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

And, while these two come from different types of farms in different parts of Ontario, they share a common passion for farming – and for sharing their farm stories with the public.

Both are members of a group of 10 young Ontario farmers sharing day to day experiences from their farms through the newly created Dinner Starts Here on-line initiative (www.dinnerstartshere.ca) And, they share a page in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. They appear on the month of January, 2014 on a page sponsored by the Farmers Feed Cities program.

You can watch a video interview with the two women at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hb5SVBRXxs&list=PLxl8ycqu125dgviFG5XoLXP_QPJTJD3IN or follow them on twitter @Mcleanberryfarm and @sarahlee516

Continue reading

Livestock on the road – how you can help in an accident

By Jean Clavelle

Wtransport PICell, it’s that time of year.  Cattle are coming home from pasture, calves are being weaned and sent to feedlot and horse enthusiasts are enjoying the last few pleasant riding days left of the season.  No one plans to have one, but accidents do happen especially when animals are involved.  And whether you are the one involved in a motor vehicle accident or an innocent bystander it’s important to know what to do and how you can help when livestock are on the loose.

The top 5 things you need to know about livestock in an emergency:

  1. Livestock do not understand lights and sirens mean pullover.  This will definitely not make them stop.
  2. When an animal feels cornered, it will fight or try to run.
  3. Livestock view us as predators and their natural instinct is to flee from predators.
  4. Prey animals are herd animals and become extremely agitated when isolated or separated from other animals.  Single animals are extremely dangerous animals.
  5. Once livestock are excited or scared it will take at least 20 to 30 minutes to calm them back down. Continue reading

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan pleased with the success of another ‘We Care’ Billboard Campaign!

By Jean Clavelle

TBillboard campaign June 16his year marks another triumph for the “We Care” billboard campaign initiated by the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS).  The program, which began in 1996, feature beef, bison, horse, chicken, egg and swine producers with their animals and are posted around busy thoroughfares of Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

Continue reading

When you're a farmer, sick days aren't really an option

Guest blog by Brent Royce, Ontario turkey and sheep farmer

Recently, a local woman ran 108 km in two days to raise money for Ronald McDonald house of London. Great job!   I found myself wondering why someone would put themselves through that much pain and agony.  Suddenly the question turned around to me and I asked why have I pushed myself past that point of pain.

We raise turkeys and sheep along with about 500 acres of crops.  About a year ago, I started having chest and arm pains, which resulted from three bad discs in my neck and several pinched nerves. So why have I made my family suffer by watching me work myself into more and more pain? Why wasn’t I smart enough to stop and walk away from it?  The bottom line was that I have livestock that need cared for and fields that need planted and maintained.  I have committed myself to contributing to the food chain at the primary level as a farmer. Farming is my dream, my passion, and my drive.  Pain and discomfort came second.

Ronald McDonald house gave this runner a home and a place of comfort when she most needed it.  I get that. The fields, the barns, the animals reward me all the time and provide a place to put life in perspective.  I see life created and given. I see death and sickness which I can treat, but most of all at the end of the day I know I have done my best to provide families with good quality affordable food.

To make my family suffer watching me work through my pain is something I didn’t realize I was doing at the time and isn’t fair, but they know the animals must be cared for.
As of now I wait to see a surgeon; trying to fill my days while someone else does my work for me.  The truth is slowly sinking in to us all that, in my early 40’s, I could be limited to what I will be able to do for the rest of my life.

We have been lucky enough to sell the sheep and all their feeding equipment to someone that is passionate about the livestock and has the same commitment to agriculture as we do. The sheep have yet to leave our farm and that will be a real reality check.  We also have had to sell our combine due to the fact I won’t be able to operate it again without creating undue pain.

We have been fortunate enough to do what we love for 20 plus years and hope to be able to carry on by next spring.

A family that I respect very much has put me up to the challenge of blogging about farming as I know it. So this is my first attempt at it and perhaps we will have more to come on the challenges that have happened and will happen on this farm.

The one thing I can guarantee is that long term injuries in a self-employed business bring with them a lot of emotional rides. Thankfully we have great neighbours and friends that are willing to help out to get things done. After all, that is what rural Ontario is about.