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.
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.
After Romy worked off the farm for a few years and after getting some farm experience, they decided to concentrate on sheep. The barn was rebuilt and set up to handle their new flock (the barn had originally housed beef cattle and pigs). They also have a flock of layer breeding chickens.
Currently, though, Romy’s the full time farmer – caring for her sheep and her children is actually much more than a full time job. Ryan works off farm for a local elevator and cash crop farm and helps with chores before and after work and on weekends. Romy said that the lessons she learned growing up on a dairy farm have transferred well to learning to care for the sheep.
They now have 300 ewes (female sheep) and hope to increase their herd size to 500 in the coming years. Their sheep are a combination o
f both commercial and purebred d stock. The sheep are marketed to other farmers for breeding stock or to the local auction ring for meat. They also sell some lamb meat and sheep products (wool, yarn, sheep skins) from the farm gate and at a few farmers markets.
Their herd participates in an accelerated lambing program which means that their ewes give birth to lambs about every eight months. In total, there are over 600 lambs born annually on the farm which can make for a busy schedule when many are arriving daily.
They also grow all of the crops that their sheep eat including hay, haylage, corn silage, and grain corn. This ensures that their sheep have a diet that is well balanced for optimal production and health. They also manage their farm land in an environmentally sustainable way by using crop rotations, manure and soil testing to provide the ideal amount of fertilizer for optimum crop production.
In their limited free time, the two are active in their community. Ryan’s a leader with a local 4-H beef cattle club while Romy serves on her local sheep board. They were also both active in the Junior Farmer Association of Ontario and as 4H leaders before they became parents and still volunteer at community fundraisers when time allows.
Romy’s hobbies include gardening and taking her kids on adventures. For Ryan, farming is both a hobby and a career.
Although their boys are still young (ages three and one), Ryan and Romy appreciate being able to raise them on a farm, the way they were both raised. And their agricultural education has already started. Romy chuckled when she said, “Cameron might not know how to spell his name yet, but he knows every type of farm equipment that there is.”
For Ryan, instilling a passion for food and farming is also the reason he became a 4-H leader. “I like working with the members and seeing how proud they are raising a calf all on their own.”
The tenth annual “Faces of Farming” calendar, featuring the theme of Home Grown and Hand Made, is designed to introduce the public to a few of Ontario’s passionate and hardworking farmers – the people who produce food in this province. Copies can be ordered online at www.farmfoodcare.org. A list of retailers selling the calendar is also located on that website.
To learn more about this farm family visit Circle R Livestock or follow Romy (the Modern Shepherdess) on Twitter at @RomySchill