by Patricia Grotenhuis
A musician who became a farmer seems like an unconventional path, but David Murray, a boy raised in small town Ontario, eventually found his dream job owning and milking a herd of cows.
He has embraced the industry, taking on a number of roles on local, provincial and national levels. With a background including music, retail and restaurant work, many people would question why Murray decided to farm.
“I liked milking the cows. I still do,” says Murray.
It is a simple answer, but a truthful one. His commitment to the industry has earned him a spot in the 2012 Faces of Farming Calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation. His page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative that David and his wife Annamarie have been members of for many years. The photo, one of the most unique ever taken in the calendar’s history, combines David’s love of music and cows and shows him out in a pasture field playing the piano while his cows appear to enjoy the concert.
Farmers like Murray, whether they are born into the farm, or find their way there later, love what they do. It is what motivates them for the long hours and hard work.
“You get used to it. You know you’re up at five in the morning and there’s work to be done,” says Murray.
Murray’s father owned a retail business and his mother was a piano teacher. Growing up, Murray worked in the family business selling clothing, shoes and groceries. He also inherited his mother’s love and talent for the piano which he still nurtures today.
After two years studying music at Wilfrid Laurier University, Murray left school to return to work. It was around this time that he met his future wife, Annamarie, who was raised on the farm they now own and operate. It was after their wedding, while living in Switzerland, that Murray decided he wanted to become more involved in his wife’s family business – announcing that he wanted to become a farmer.
He and Annamarie returned to Ontario where he enrolled in the Diploma in Agriculture program at the University of Guelph. After graduation, they both began working for his father-in-law and mother-in-law on their farm near Mitchell, Ontario.
“I think it was quite a shock to her parents that someone wanted to take over at all, especially when it was their daughter and her city boy husband,” says Murray.
Once the transition was complete, Murray says they updated the stalls in the barn and added additional stalls. They now milk 45 cows.
“I never had the urge to get bigger with the farm. Some farmers have the drive to expand and grow, but I never had that,” says Murray.
Murray is kept busy with his industry involvement and his hobbies. Murray is the vice chair of Dairy Farmers of Ontario (the organization that represents Ontario’s 4,120 dairy farmers). He’s also served on Dairy Farmers of Canada and Farm & Food Care Ontario, an organization that works to bridge the gap between farmers and the non-farming public.
He has slowed down on the amount of performing and accompaniment he does, but music is still a strong love of his. For many years, he was half of a musical duo called “Cow and Sow”. He was obviously the “Cow” of the group while his musical partner was a hog farmer/violinist. The two still perform together on occasion. For many years, David and Annamarie also hosted a classical music concert in their farm’s hay shed. The popular event often drew upwards of 200 to 300 neighbours, friends and community supporters, raising money for local groups like the Stratford symphony orchestra.
“I don’t miss the performing that much. Life comes in stages and I’m sure I will go back to that,” says Murray.
Murray and his wife have four children, and although none of them plan on returning to the farm at this point, Murray says it is still possible that one of them might. After all, he’s living proof of how one’s career path can change drastically.