Born to Ranch
BY JESS CAMPBELL
Lexie Young is an excellent example of what the future of Canadian cattle ranching looks like.
There are a myriad of reasons why Lexie Young of Preeceville, Saskatchewan, has always known she wanted to become a rancher when she grew up. She loves cows and horses and crops and open spaces. She loves the outdoors and working with animals. And she has one particular woman in her life who has set an excellent example for what she can expect of her life on the range.
“My mom is the farmer,” says Lexie. “It was her dream to farm and she was determined this was what she wanted to do, so that’s what she’s done. She’s part time at the school in town and full time at the farm, so she works her butt off to have this farm!”
With 100 head of cattle and 2000 acres, there are, thankfully, a few more family members willing to help balance the workload around the farm. “My dad has a part time job and farms, basically doing whatever my mum tells him to do after work. (laughs) Both of my brothers have full time jobs so over the past few years, their roles on the farm have slowed down quite a bit. And my grandparents also help out, too.”
To make sure her dream of coming home to the ranch becomes a reality, Lexie decided to pursue post secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan’s Agronomy department. She’ll graduate in the spring of 2022, and then come home to the farm—but already has big plans in the works.
“I know where I want to take the farm and I’ve talked to my mum about it quite a bit,” Lexie says. “I think the biggest thing with our farm is that we’ve got a really good set up on our home quarter. We’ve redone our entire barn for calving season; it’s just for cows and for calving. There’s a lot of space to keep hay. But one of our biggest things right now is making sure we have enough pasture land for all of our cows. Our plan is to continue to get as much pasture land as we can to sustain more cows and then grow our herd.”
While the farm started with an open herd, Lexie says they’ve worked hard to build their breeding bloodlines and keep the herd closed, which is also something Lexie looks forward to continuing once she’s home full time. But to grow your herd, you need to make sure you have the land base and the hay to feed your animals, especially through the often harsh Saskatchewan winters. “In my opinion, hay land is very important because that’s what sustains your cows throughout the winter,” says Lexie. “Having good nutrients in your hay is really what your cows need, especially through the really cold months. My biggest expansion plan is getting more hay land and growing really high quality hay – the best for our cows to get them through the winter as healthy and happy as possible.”
It’s making sure the herd is healthy, happy and comfortable that drives Lexie to do her best, not only in her Agronomy studies but also in learning everything she can from her mom about managing the ranch. While Lexie certainly benefits from all that knowledge, the hard work is for something else entirely. “It’s all for the cows!” Lexie laughs. “Sometimes the cows are the biggest headache, but really, everything we do is for them. To be able to see your cows go through the auction and get the highest price, or to see that your cows are the best looking out of all the cows at auction, it’s just really rewarding as a cattle farmer. The lifestyle they give you is really amazing. Sometimes, the hours are long and the work is really hard, but at the end of the day, every time you go into the house, there’s a huge feeling of satisfaction.”
Lexie’s intrinsic love of farming is what she hopes other people can see, both in herself and in other Canadian cattle farmers and ranchers. “We care about those cows more than anything; everything we do is for them,” says Lexie. “We’re feeding the people we care about. We’re sustaining the world with top quality beef, and that’s why I continue to do this. Agriculture is just continually growing. Animal husbandry and animal welfare is just getting so much better. I really love being part of all those big changes. I’m really excited to see where the beef industry in Canada goes, because we have all these really awesome farmers and ranches who are always working together to improve the industry. I just love that feeling of accomplishment, knowing that we’re giving the cows the best life they can have while also providing the world with the best beef we possibly can. I just love farming! I think I was born to love it.”
“Sometimes, the hours are long and the work is really hard, but at the end of the day, every time you go into the house, there’s a huge feeling of satisfaction.”
Andrew and Jolene Karanfilis
The Best of a Sticky Situation
BY JESS CAMPBELL
When faced with the most challenging time in their lives, Andrew and Jolene Karanfilis dug deep – and came up with maple syrup.
No one could argue that the pandemic hasn’t been hard. Everyone, on some level, has experienced loss, grief, fear and uncertainty, among other things. But as we turn the calendar on another year, there is great hope that maybe this will be the year the pandemic will finally end, and things will finally change for the better.
Andrew and Jolene Karanfilis know this tide of change; they also know fear and uncertainty well. When the pandemic hit, they were working as children’s entertainers in the Niagara region of Ontario. Now, over a year later, they’re beginning something entirely new and different, yet couldn’t be more excited about where their lives are going. “We had such a good thing going with the world,” says Jolene. “But then the pandemic hit, and a lot of people suffered consequences; we were on the bad end. Our business was decimated. Andrew was laid off from his part time job and I was pregnant and couldn’t work. So we really had to go back to the drawing board and redefine what we thought we wanted for ourselves. We dug deep into what we really wanted out of life. We combined our ideas and realized that our all-time goal, individually and together, was to own a farm of some sort.”
People come to farming in a myriad of ways, and Jolene and Andrew are no different. Neither of them were raised on a farm, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their dream of owning one. “We owned a home and decided to sell it,” says Andrew. “We purchased a sugar bush, a two acre maple syrup farm here in Niagara. This is an origin story. We’re meeting what the market is demanding. There’s still an opportunity for us to do children’s entertainment but we’re integrating it with this sugar bush by getting involved with agri-tourism and education.”
February 2022 will hopefully be Andrew and Jolene’s first maple sap season. Although their sugar bush isn’t currently set up with the infrastructure to produce maple syrup, they have immersed themselves in the maple syrup industry in Ontario, meeting many existing maple syrup producers and even gaining some interest from producers in need of their sap. While Andrew and Jolene wanted to get involved in something “authentically Canadian,” they also wanted something that many other farmers want, too: to build a family legacy.
“We’re doing this for our son,” says Jolene. “This will be an opportunity for him. He has a very different upbringing than I did or than Andrew did. We’re creating a ball that we can pass to him, and he can improve the world as he pleases.”
Out of all the entrepreneurial ideas they could have chased down on behalf of their son, it just so happens that Andrew and Jolene have chosen an agri-tourism opportunity that works well with their existing skills. “I thought, maybe we could make this into something that we could not only pass down to our son but also bring our children’s entertainment business into,” Andrew says. “We want to tie the fantastical to the authenticity and the local feel of it, creating a little space to teach people where maple syrup comes from and how it’s made.”
While there are still uncertainties in their lives, Jolene and Andrew are determinedly looking forward to building their business over the next year, and beyond. “It’s very important to me to let people know that they can build something from nothing,” says Jolene. “With a little observation, you can make all the difference in your life.
My husband and I were put into a very stressful situation where we had to sell our home; it was a very scary time for us. But what gave us clarity were the moments we allowed ourselves to sit back and observe our life, and think about who we are as people and what we want to do with our life. In a way, we have the pandemic to thank for that. We were able to sit at home together and take that deep dive and make the necessary changes we needed to in order to fulfill our dreams.”
“We dug deep into what we really wanted out of life. We combined our ideas and realized that our all-time goal, individually and together, was to own a farm of some sort.”
From the Ground, Up
BY JESS CAMPBELL
Starting something from nothing isn’t for the faint of heart, but Janna Quesnel can handle it.
If there’s one thing that is very clear about young farmers across Canada, it’s that everyone comes to farming in their own, unique way. For some, they are proud to be part of a multi-generational operation, working the land and caring for livestock alongside one, two or even three generations of family members. But for others, like Janna Quesnel and her husband, Jason, of Lumby, British Columbia, a big source of their pride comes from striking out on their own and starting something from nothing, perhaps with the goal of someday being a multi-generational farm.
“Having started our commercial cow-calf herd in 2011, we bought our farm in 2013,” says Janna. “The farm was completely run down. There was nothing usable, so we’ve been working at building it up since then. Now, we have 150 head of cattle and 425 acres. We also have four kids now, so it’s busy!”
As with any farm, there are a number of challenges that Janna and Jason need to manage, whether on a daily basis or to achieve their long-term vision for their operation. But with challenge comes opportunity. “I would definitely say that in BC, land costs are huge,” Janna says. “At the time we purchased our farm, the cost seemed crazy, but now it’s even more. So, we’re fortunate to have purchased it when we did. Grass is a big challenge, too. The cost of land rental is a lot. We’ve secured some Crown range, which is good, but it’s also not enough for what we need. So, we’ve built some relationships with other farmers and are working together, and we’ve got some nice rental land and have some great people we’re working with on that. But honestly, our biggest challenge has just been building it from nothing. Blood, sweat and tears really applies!”
It’s likely that most farmers would agree that the challenging days are the hardest to get through and can easily make you feel like you want to throw in the proverbial towel entirely. However, the drive to keep moving forward is often the same, no matter how a farmer may have gotten started. “We’re doing this for our family and for our kids,” Janna says. “Raising our kids here and having them be able to run outside is great. We have 425 acres, so they can run and be free. I love that I get to raise my kids on a farm. For the most part, they see the joyful side, not the stressful side. And they’re just little helpers; they love to learn. Even my three year old, shovelling out the stock trailer, he loves it! Most people would think that’s a terrible job, but he enjoys it.”
While farmers generally take pride in their work, Janna finds that seeing the farm grow into what it is today has been extra satisfying. “Seeing our progress and experiencing tangible results has been quite nice. We’re pretty proud of our animals, too. We take good care of them and do our best to provide a really good environment for them, with the best possible care and good herd health programs. Canadian agriculture has some pretty good standards, too, and that makes me proud. We have really high standards for ourselves and our product, and we’re proud that we’re doing the best we can, as are most Canadian farmers, I would imagine. I haven’t met too many Canadian farmers who don’t take pride in their product.”
In fact, that’s a message Janna believes to be a very important one for consumers to understand, that despite how a farmer got started with their farm, they take great pride in producing food for Canadians. “Anyone who owns livestock cares about their livestock. They care whether they’re healthy and taken care of. Farmers in general are passionate about their product, and their livelihood. Consumers can have faith that farmers are doing their best and providing you with the best possible product they can.”
“… we’re proud that we’re doing the best we can, as are most Canadian farmers, I would imagine. I haven’t met too many Canadian farmers who don’t take pride in their product.”
Catching the Farming Buzz
BY JESS CAMPBELL
Amanda Henderson went from milking cows to raising bees, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Farming isn’t an easy endeavor to start, especially if you’re not from a farming family. Amanda Henderson, owner and operator of Henderson Apiaries in Brant County, Ontario, grew up on a dairy farm. For many dairy farm kids, the assumption is that they’ll one day take over the farm, carrying on the multi-generational legacy a farm can bring.
That wasn’t the case for Amanda, as her parents sold the cows and quota when she was in high school. It was while attending university that Amanda started keeping bees on her parents farm as a hobby. “It’s been 11 years now,” says Amanda. “I started with just a few hives, but grew it into a side business. I work full time for a commercial beekeeper that’s about half an hour from home. I’ve been there for seven and a half years now. We focus on breeding queens and selling bees to other beekeepers.”
While Amanda also raises queens, her focus at Henderson Apiaries is producing honey, beeswax candles and other products. Amanda is quick to say that beekeeping wasn’t really on her radar as something she wanted to do with her life, let alone raising the coveted queen. “If I’m being honest, I stumbled into queen rearing a little bit,” Amanda says. “I was at university and was really getting into beekeeping. We’d had our hives for three or four years by that point. I wanted a job in beekeeping but a lot of those jobs, especially entry level, are seasonal. I was hesitant to quit my year-round part-time job, but I started looking around for where I could get a job in beekeeping. Half an hour from home is a queen breeding operation. My boss had worked for the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association for years and eventually left that job and started her own queen rearing operation. She was about four years in and working on expanding when I was looking for a job. I ran into her at a beekeeping meeting and told her I was looking. And I’ve worked for her ever since.”
When asked what she loves about beekeeping and raising queens, it’s very clear Amanda loves pretty much everything about it, including working with larvae (yes, larvae). “I love the seasonality of it. The queen rearing season is relatively short; we usually start grafting larvae in late April and go until late July. When we’re raising queens, we’re selecting our stock for the genetic traits we want. Once we have our mother lines selected, we start grafting larvae out of those breeder hives and take them into a cell builder hive. We’ll raise the larvae into a queen cell, then 10 days later, that cell is ready to harvest. We can either sell the cell to another beekeeper or use it ourselves by letting it hatch out into a mating unit where that queen will mate with the drones, which are male bees. At that point, we can sell her as a mated queen or use her ourselves for expansion or replacing older stock.”
Amanda says she loves all the different aspects of beekeeping and queen rearing, such as paying close attention to the blooming schedule of flowers to understand what the bees are pollinating, when. But just like any other type of farming, there are always challenges as well as consumer misconceptions about beekeeping and apiaries. “It’s so tough. There’s a lot of fanfare around honey bees. People don’t realize there are, like, over 400 native species of bees here in Ontario. A lot of the bee populations that are under threat are actually some of the native bees. We’ve got the European honey bee. They’re living in a lot of the world and are pretty adaptable in terms of pests and diseases. But some of the bees that people aren’t reliant on for income get overlooked, and I think that gets mixed up in the media sometimes. Plus, there’s different management practices, there’s micro climates, there’s so many factors that make beekeeping difficult. I mean, they just go fly! We can’t tell them where to go! (laughs) They will go for three miles from wherever their hives are, and I can’t control what happens within a three mile radius of all my hives.”
Even with all of the challenges of beekeeping, Amanda is truly passionate about her work and her business, especially when she’s able to foster a connection between agriculture and the consumer. “To be able to meet my customers and say, ‘this is local, the bees made it.’ To provide that connection for people, I think they really value that.”
“… there’s different management practices, there’s micro climates, there’s so many factors that make beekeeping difficult. I mean, they just go fly! We can’t tell them where to go!”
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Stephanie Lipp grew up in one of the biggest cities in Canada. Now, she’s a mushroom farmer in one of the smallest.
BY JESS CAMPBELL
It’s not very often that you meet a young farmer who was raised in Mississauga, Ontario, the sixth largest city in Canada. Now living and farming gourmet mushrooms in Bonavista, Newfoundland, Stephanie Lipp is that person and, sometimes, even she still can’t believe it. “My previous life is pretty much opposite to agriculture,” Stephanie laughs. “I come from a background of graphic design and photography, and grew up in a different world in the city. I’m definitely more comfortable on the TTC subway than I am calling myself a farmer!”
But a farmer is exactly what she and her partner, Leo Gillis, are. Two years ago, Stephanie and Leo were living in the city and not enjoying their lives. “Leo is originally from the West Coast of Newfoundland but moved to Ontario when he was really young. Six months into our relationship, I visited Newfoundland for the first time and loved it, but never thought I’d live there. Leo’s mom had recently got a new apartment. The price she was paying was so unbelievable that, on a whim, I looked online for housing listings in Newfoundland. I saw how affordable the houses were; it was unbelievable! You could get a whole house for the same price of a condo parking space or a storage locker in Mississauga.”
The drastic difference in the cost of living was enough that Stephanie couldn’t quite let it go. “Totally joking, I was like, maybe we should just move to Newfoundland! And then I Googled moving to Newfoundland to see if there was anything online about people who had moved there. All these articles came up about Bonavista and all the entrepreneurs who were moving here. So, we kind of started to think that maybe we could actually do this. There was an established artisan community, it was by the ocean, and we could afford a house. So what started as a joke in September turned into our house closing in January. And then we moved at the end of April.”
Stephanie and Leo knew they couldn’t move to Bonavista and live the same kind of life they’d been living in the city. They both had talent and a taste for adventure, so started thinking about what kind of work they would love to do. Having already been frequenters of their local farmer’s market in the city, they came across someone growing and selling gourmet mushrooms. And the rest is history. Well, sort of.
“I actually hated mushrooms at the time!” Stephanie admits. “I just never ate them, and cringed if I had to. But when I started eating these gourmet varieties, I was like, okay, I understand now why people love these. They were so delicious, had all different flavours and textures, and were just beautiful to look at. We started researching how to grow mushrooms, and Leo just dove into it. Suddenly, our whole life was mushrooms and mushroom farming and mycology. By the time we got to Bonavista, we’d practiced with some basic lab skills and had our first fruiting bags. It just really quickly became our passion.”
Right now, Stephanie and Leo have everything they need set up in their home in Bonavista. But if things continue to go as planned, it won’t be like that for very long. “We’re doing plans to create an actual farm premises; we have to have a certified farm to be able to sell to grocery stores and restaurants. We also want to have a space for education and engagement for not only tourists but also the local community. Cooking classes, healthy eating and also fun things, like a space for local artisans to have workshops and supper clubs. We really want it to be centered around local food and community.”
Their desire to support the community that has supported them comes from wanting to help improve food security in the province as a whole. “There was a report released a couple of years ago that said there’s only about 72 hours worth of food on the island at any given time. If flights can’t come in or the ferry doesn’t run, that could put people in very precarious situations, especially people who have socioeconomic factors related to their access to food. So, even though we’re on a small scale, starting this type of agriculture that’s year-round, requires a small footprint, has less water consumption and then produces a biodegradable byproduct is helping to alleviate food security issues.”
Stephanie says she and Leo love their new life as Newfoundland mushroom farmers, but that they are even more grateful for the Canadian agriculture industry and other young farmers they’ve met. “We kind of feel like imposters because we’ve met so many young farmers who work really, really hard—I mean, we work hard too! But it’s not quite the same as getting up at 5 AM to be out in the barn or the field, and owning land. It’s just really increased our appreciation and admiration for the people who are feeding us. We are proud to call ourselves farmers, but it’s still a little bit surreal.”
Butcher and vegetable farmer, Newfoundland
BY JESS CAMPBELL
Being a successful farmer often means closely managing a daily To Do list. Farming keeps you present and in the moment, whether it’s filling a tractor with fuel before heading out for spring planting or waking up in the middle of the night to check a cow that’s calving.
What people don’t often realize is that farming is also about looking forward. For many young farmers across the country, farming isn’t just about what they’re doing today. It’s also about what you’ll be doing – how you’ll continue your farm and everything it provides for your family and community – down the road.
Nelson Fagan is a 5th generation farmer and butcher from Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. And although he grew up around farming, he didn’t always think about it the way he does now. “I work alongside my father, Nelson Sr., at N.Fagan Meats and Vegetables. For years, I worked a full time job off the farm and still came home to work on the farm in the evenings and weekends. I always said I would just wait for dad to retire and then step in. I quickly realized that dad will never fully retire and if I want to make this my life, I’d have to branch out on my own so that’s what I did. For seven years now, I have expanded my business to not only selling meat and vegetables on the farm but also to travelling across the province and selling from my freezer trailer. I’ve attended countless markets as well just trying to get my name and product around. I’ve also started retailing my products at markets and stores in the last few years.”
A big advantage of living in Newfoundland is Nelson’s ability to offer a variety of products to communities all across the island. “We are a licensed abattoir and butcher shop so we sell anything and everything that comes from a cow! Our biggest seller is definitely our meatballs. We have chickens throughout the year and we also have a few pigs yearly, too. We grow turkeys every year for Christmas, and we have grown savoury for Mount Scio Savoury Farm for the last eight years and plan to continue. My father grows all the vegetables on our farm which include carrot, potato, cabbage, rutabaga, parsnip, beet, onion and kale which is then sold to Sobeys or locally at the farm.”
Nelson has definitely made some changes since he made the decision to farm full time. Then again, that’s the nature of being a farmer in Canada: you need to be comfortable with change, because things are always changing. The most important thing about that change, though, is to understand that it’s necessary in order to continue doing what you love, a point that’s top of mind for Nelson as he discusses the future of his farm. “I’ve recently acquired 10 Charolais cows from a Beef Genetic Enhancement Program with the Government of Newfoundland and I am the first member of the Canadian Charolais Association and first registered Charolais breeder in Newfoundland. I plan on building on that to have a 40 head cow-calf operation in 5 years, and hopefully bring that number up to 100 in 10 years. This is besides my feeder cattle that I have ready for market all year round. I also plan to have my beef sold in more stores in the next few years and by 10 years, I will have my own storefront market opened up, relocating from the original homestead to our other piece of ground where my cattle are now being housed.”
No one can predict the future, but you can certainly plan for it, just as Nelson has. Perhaps that’s a little easier to do when the future you’re planning for is all you’ve ever wanted to do, anyway. If anything, continuing to look forward makes managing the daily To Do list just a little bit easier. “Farming is a way of life. Growing up on a farm, I always knew I didn’t want to do anything but that. I don’t feel like this is a job and although each season brings on its own set of tasks and it never gives us time to slow down, it’s always right where I want to be.”
Annapolis Valley, NS
BY JESS CAMPBELL
Counting yourself as a young farmer in Canada is pretty exciting; after all, you’re part of how Canada will continue to feed not only its own citizens but also citizens throughout the rest of the world, producing high-quality, safe and healthy food year after year.
At least, that’s the plan.
Vanessa Junkin is a brand new farmer who, within the last 10 months, has purchased 71 acres just on the edge of the Annapolis Valley in the heart of Nova Scotia. While she has only just begun her farming adventure alongside her husband, Will, Vanessa already has a passion for Canadian agriculture and for being part of something bigger – even on a smaller scale.
Of the 71 acres they own, just 11 are workable. And working they are. “We’ve designed this process to have the first season on the farm to just get ready because you need that time when you’re starting with a cabbage farm that hasn’t been farmed in 35 years. You need time to get that ready for it to be functional again. The vision we have for the farm is to control as many of our inputs and outputs as possible to make it a full circle operation. So, trying to grow our feed for our animals then using our animals to fertilize our soil to grow our vegetables. It’s like homesteading on steroids because we want to sell our surplus to our neighbours so we can keep doing what we’re doing on the farm.”
Vanessa is also passionate about education and helping people learn about where their food comes from through sharing what she’s learned on her blog, honeywwoofers.wordpress.com. “I know there’s somewhere in this process for me that revolves around sharing and education. It’s starting with the blog. I can see in the future, running seminars on the farm to help other people who are starting from scratch. First generation farmers who maybe have little to no experience or maybe just a little bit of volunteer farming experience like us, who really want to get their wheels spinning on their own property.”
Vanessa and Will got most of their farming experience by WWOOFing – which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms – where farmers offer room and board to travellers and those wanting to learn more about farming in exchange for farm labour, an experience that worked as a catalyst to get started on their own farming dream. “We knew we wanted to have a farm but when you don’t inherit land or animals or machinery, it takes a lot of start up to get things going. It blows my mind. We’ve been here for six months and the amount of effort – and money! – that we’ve put into this is crazy. And we’re still pre-sales. We still don’t know if this will be a viable business or if this just ends up being a really expensive hobby.” (laughs)
And what, exactly, does this viable business/potential expensive hobby consist of? “In terms of livestock, we’ve started with ducks, quail and we have alpacas that just sort of fell into our laps. So yes, really common livestock!” (laughs)
Vanessa says they have breeding plans for the ducks and quail along with egg sales. The alpaca are an agri-tourism draw but with a useful twist. “Alpaca manure is a cold manure; you can put it in your garden right away as an amendment. We’re new to this community and people want to come up to see us because they want to see the alpacas. So, making those connections has been great. Plus, I can use alpaca fibre to barter or sell.”
Vanessa says everything on the farm is multi-purpose; the ducks help with pest control (“We have a lot of ticks around here!”) and the quail can be harvested for meat after just eight weeks (“I’m not so sure but my husband says we’re eating them.”). As they dive into their prep for spring planting, they also need to prepare for the arrival of a few new, multi-purpose residents. “I have my pig order in so we’ll be getting pigs this spring. They’ll be helping with our land management. We have a really old field in our forest; you can barely tell it was a field, it’s so scraggly and overgrown. So, I’m going to be using my pigs to reclaim that piece of land. We’ll be harvesting them in the fall but also considering a breeding program for them.”
Even though she’s a brand new farmer, Vanessa says she and Will have already felt the weight of farm business overwhelm. But they’re trying their best to use it as a tool in the planning process. “I worked for 10 years as a paramedic so I have a lot of anxiety around going from being a salaried employee to hoping someone will buy my carrots so I can pay my electricity bill. It’s a complete shift in thinking and mindset, and it’s very hard because it’s challenging what we are taught to believe success means. But the way we’re trying to mitigate those risks somewhat is by being diverse. Not so diverse that we get lost in our mission but diverse enough that it’s not devastating if we lose a crop or some animals. But that equates to having a lot of balls in the air at once, which can be really difficult to manage at times. So, there’s always a trade off.”
No matter how much you’re juggling as a young farmer, it’s difficult to look at your operation and your efforts and say it isn’t worth it. You are, after all, working to feed the future – and yourself – and even after the hardest days, there’s something to be said about that. “We always tell people that if we won the lottery, this is what we’d be doing. This is how I would spend my time. I love being in sync with the sunrise and sunset, and the rhythms of animal care and the seasons. This is how we’re supposed to be spending our days: with our community and with the animals that support our lifestyle and on the land we’re caring for. It’s a soul’s purpose kind of work, and that’s important to me.”
Ann & Cody Legge
Blomidon, Nova Scotia
BY JESS CAMPBELL
What do flower farming, raising cow-calf pairs, milking cows, running a feedlot, working as a veterinary technician and growing grain crops have in common?
If you’re not sure, you’d better ask Ann Legge of Blomidon, Nova Scotia. Between she and her husband, Cody, that list of work is how they make their living.
“I work full time at Patterson Farms Limited, a local dairy farm milking 50 cows,” says Ann. “I also run my own farm, Petal & Bay Flower Farm, growing cut flowers for wholesale or to order. Cody works full time at K.B. Kinsman & Sons Limited, a local feedlot, raising 400-500 feeders and also runs his own farm, Cody Legge Farms, growing hay and grain crops. And together, we help on Cody’s family farm, Legge Farms, raising 40 cow-calf pairs. And on Saturday mornings, I work as a Veterinary Technician at Glooscap Veterinary Clinic.”
If you think that sounds like a ton of work, you’re correct. But these newlyweds – married in October 2018 – wouldn’t have it any other way. “We both love keeping busy and especially the variety that comes with farming. Every day is the same but different. We work in acres, not hours!”
Cody is a third-generation beef farmer so farming is not only their livelihood but their lifestyle. Ann admits that farming isn’t always easy – but it isn’t something they’d ever give up on. “There can be really long days. But (we’re) thankful for rainy days when we can catch up on house chores or get in the shop, fixing things. At the end of the day, as we wipe the sweat – or tears – from our faces and watch a sick cow get better, a tiny seed grow into a quality product after so much work… to fail some days but be able to get back up the next morning and try again with determination makes it all worth it and we wouldn’t change it for anything!”
Ann and Cody’s farm is right on the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia. The Basin “plays an integral part in agriculture in the area” adding a unique soil mixture, temperature and weather fluctuations. Plus, the tides rise between 46 and 52 feet every day! Their opportunity to farm within such an extraordinary location isn’t lost on Ann or Cody yet their community and the many partnerships they have which help them do what they do is equally important to them. “We are grateful for all our fellow farmers, nutritionists, veterinarians, supporters and consumers for helping us along the way, and encouraging us to grow with experience and knowledge to be the best we can! In fact, we don’t really consider this a ‘job’ – it’s simply how we have chosen to spend our lives.”
Being members of the Canadian Young Farmers Forum is another meaningful opportunity for Ann and Cody. “It has allowed us to meet so many farmers and members of the agriculture industry with so much knowledge and experience to share, allowing us to grow and innovate. It’s so helpful to have a whole support group alongside us!”
Having so many things to accomplish in a day may seem overwhelming to some. But to Ann and Cody Legge, it’s about building a beautiful legacy.