By Matt McIntosh for Farm & Food Care
(Leamington) – It was in the midst of the Great Depression in 1935 that Scott Douglas’ grandparents first purchased 50 acres of farmland on a small concession road just north of Leamington, Ontario. Now, after 80 years, two generations and several major farm changes, the Douglas family farm is going stronger than ever.
The now 1,800 acre farm, known as Cloverview Farms, produces corn, soybeans and wheat, and features a small hobby operation usually containing a couple of beef cows, a few pigs and some chickens. Scott farms alongside Jennifer and parents, Harold and Linda. Scott and Jennifer also have three children – nine year old Graydon, seven year old Shannon and five year old Cameron – who help with the small number of animals.
“I originally went to Ridgetown College in 1995, then farmed and worked part time before making the switch to farming full time in 2002,” says Douglas.
“It really is a family operation. My parents helped me get started and they still help out a lot.”
Prior to Douglas taking the lead, his family farm was focused strictly on field crop production. After deciding to farm full-time, though, Douglas thought he should diversify the family business, and that meant adding pigs. He built a new farrow-to-wean hog barn, then in two major stages over the next few years, increased the number of hogs in the barn. As of 2001, Scott and his family were farming 600 sows in addition to field crops.
Unfortuately, though, it was only a few years later that hog prices started dropping, making his investment harder to sustain. By 2010, the Douglas family made the decision to return once again, almost exclusively, to producing corn, soybeans and wheat. It was a decision, says Douglas, that made sense for the future of his family’s farm but was still a tough one to make.
In changing their focus to grains, however, the Douglases had to decide what to do with their large, now empty pig barn. Having expanded the number of acres under the Cloverview banner over the previous ten years, the farm equipment used by the family also increased in size and number; consequently, that equipment requires more storage area, and the pig barn seemed like just the thing to provide that space.
One of the pieces of farm machinery now residing in the newly renovated barn is a large variable rate sprayer, which allows Douglas to measure and apply fertilizer and crop protection products much more precisely. Douglas also compiles data from every part of each field in order to determine what nutrients or crop protection products are needed where, and in what amounts. By taking samples and using the data in conjunction with his sprayer’s variable rate technology, Douglas says he is able to save time and reduce waste.
The family also purchased a new, larger combine last year in an effort to save time and energy when harvesting their crops. And, over the last five years, they added to their on-farm grain storage structures, bringing their total storage capacity to 130,000 bushels.
Overall, Douglas says he is happy with the direction his farm has been taking, and he plans on continuing to improve the family business as best he can.
“I think farming is just in you, really,” he says. “The freedom of being your own boss and working with the land is really at the centre of it.”
This article is one in a series produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. The stories highlight innovative initiatives in the areas of animal welfare and environmental stewardship in Ontario agriculture.