By Kelly Daynard
Napanee – You may not have thought of celebrating Christmas with a herd of dairy cows but that’s just what residents of Napanee did last year when they were invited to a special holiday open house event at Ripplebrook Farm.
Ripplebrook Farm is a third generation family farm operated by Kevin MacLean, his parents Barton and Barbara and his step-son Taylor. The family milk 130 cows and crop 750 acres.
The family always embraces opportunities to showcase the farm and often host tours throughout the year. Last year, they decided to host a “Christmas with the Cows” event for their community. They had no idea how many people might attend and were both surprised and pleased when 200 showed up to watch their evening milking and spend the evening in the barn.
That’s just one example of Kevin’s work as an agricultural advocate – or agvocate. Youth groups, service groups and school trips all enjoy feeding the young calves and “helping” to milk the cows. A friendly member of their herd, nicknamed “Carrie the Curious Cow” is always a special hit with the visitors.
“We’re proud to show people where their milk, cheese and other dairy products come from,” he said.
Although he worked in feed sales after graduating from the University of Guelph’s agriculture program, Kevin always knew that he’d return home to the farm. “I never really considered doing anything else,” he said, adding that the family members work well together, each handling different key responsibilities on the farm.
Kevin’s also been an avid 4-H leader for the last three years, appreciating the importance that this rural organization played in his own childhood. “I love the passion of youth,” he said. “I love seeing those kids being excited about dairy farming. They keep me young.” His club has 17 4-H members between the ages of 12 and 21 who meet every two weeks between May and August.
He’s also a graduate of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, is an aspiring dairy judge with Ontario Holstein and is a director on his local milk committee and Holstein club.
Today, Kevin’s favourite barn helper is his eight year old daughter Adrianna who’s especially proud of her three horses – Oreo, Ricky and Spirit. Adrianna and her mom, Jo-Ann, spend much of their free time attending quarter horse shows. When Kevin gets a break from the farm, he’ll join his family at horse shows or take an afternoon to go fishing with Adrianna.
In 2014, Kevin is the face of June and Ontario dairy farmers in the ninth annual Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Adrianna joined him for the photo and appears in one of the calendar photos with him. Their page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative.
What does the future entail for Ripplebrook Farm? Hopefully more of the same. “Someday I’m going to run the farm,” Adrianna said confidently.
To see an interview with Kevin MacLean, visit – http://youtu.be/LBrld1OZRp8.