Food unites us, but how much do we know about the people who work hard day-in and day-out to ensure Canadians have access to fresh, safe, nutritious, and delicious food? With a food supply chain as diverse and plentiful as ours – it really does take a village. Faces Behind Food will capture the passion behind the food that we love, one person at a time.
If you are interested in being featured on Faces Behind Food, view the form below or email email@example.com
Les produits alimentaires nous unissent. Mais que savons-nous des personnes qui travaillent dur au quotidien pour que les Canadiens aient accès à des aliments frais, salubres, nutritifs et succulents? Avec une chaîne d’approvisionnement aussi diverse et abondante que la nôtre… c’est tout un village qui est nécessaire. L’initiative « Derrière la nourriture… des visages » capture la passion à l’œuvre derrière la nourriture que nous aimons… une personne à la fois.
Si vous souhaitez être présenté sur de cette initiative consultez le formulaire ci-dessous ou envoyez-nous un courriel à: firstname.lastname@example.org
The business was started by my great grandfather and I grew up working in our family’s duck barns alongside my grandparents, mom and aunts, siblings and cousins. In high school, I got a co-op placement working in the kitchens at a nearby retirement home. Cooking wasn’t ever a thing I’d considered but after that placement, I realized the endless possibilities that come from food.
I studied to be a chef at Fleming College and for the past 10 years, have worked in high end restaurants across the country from the East coast to the West coast.
When COVID hit, I came home to help my family on the farm and in the processing plant through the initial pandemic challenge. I knew, however, that I needed to get back to my passion. So, I rebuilt my business: 6FT Apart – a gourmet food truck business. The last 18 months have been go, go, go.
This year, I’ve got 18 weddings booked. I bring gourmet food to the streets serving corporate staff lunches, street festivals and private dinner parties that feature between four and 10 courses. It’s a cool way of combining my fine dining roots in a food truck way.
My specialities include duck wings that are cooked low and slow for four hours; I’ve also got an amazing lamb specialty with product from a local farmer that’s roasted for 15 hours. We do Thai bowls and gourmet tacos – things with cool flavours. When I’m not on the road, I’ll do a pop up restaurant at the family business.
I work a lot. I like to be super busy – that’s just my personality – but I’ll also take any chance I can get to be outdoors snowboarding in the winter or golfing in the summer.
COVID’s made me rethink my career and I want to thrive through this. Now, I can’t see myself ever going back to working in a restaurant.
-Chef Mike, 6 Feet Apart, Gourmet Food Truck
I am the Human Resources Manager for this mushroom farm. We have about 2,200 employees across several farms that I am ultimately responsible for. I was raised in Leamington and worked in the automotive sector before coming here. It’s great to have a good employer like this in the area.
COVID has brought with it a whole new level of challenges and a lot of extra work but I’m so proud that we haven’t missed a day of production during the pandemic. We’re still growing beautiful mushrooms for our consumers.
Our employees have been great at adopting new public health protocols. We have implemented a lot of new precautions because of COVID and have to do a lot of coaching with them, as needed. With people from about 21 different nations working here, there’s a big need for translation services too to make sure everyone understands the new health screening and safety protocols and the reasons for them.
-Boula, Highline Mushrooms, Human Resources Manager
I’ve been the manager on this turkey farm for four and a half years. My wife works here too. I was raised on a farm and like working with the animals. Turkeys are curious creatures. They’re always wanting to know what you’re doing!
It’s my job to make sure that our birds are well cared for. That means making sure feed and water lines are working properly, that fans are working too. Three times each day, I walk through the barn to check on the birds and make sure everything’s good.
-Keith, turkey farm manager
I’ve worked at this butcher shop and meat processing facility for seven years. I’m an Order Picker/Shipper. So daily, I put together orders that are going out to grocery stores, restaurants and neighbourhood shops across the province, package them, scan them and get them ready for shipping.
I really like this job. The owners respect their staff. I took a food safety handling course at the University of Guelph and that taught me so much.
My favourite product is definitely the bacon. It’s unreal. I also really love the Gypsy Salami. Sliced on pizza, sandwiches or with cheeses and crackers, it’s wonderful.
When I’m not working, I spend time with my 14 year old son and 9 year old daughter. We like going to our trailer and hiking and swimming.
In Jamaica, I’m known as an All-Rounder. I’m in construction. I can build houses and do furniture too. I can even make cupboards for you for your kitchen. I grew up in a rural area. My mom was a tobacco farmer. We also grew yams and potatoes and things like that.
I started coming to Canada in 2001. When it came to the financial crisis, you just have to deal with it. You’ll do whatever it takes to survive. My children are 30 and 23. I talk to them every day.
On this farm we grow grapes, peaches, cherries and apricots. We start with pruning when we come in the winter and then after pruning, tie the grapes on the wires. These grapes are going to be harvested in October or November. I like to eat them all but my favourite is the apricots. Maybe if I say that, my boss will stop me from picking them!
It was cold when I started coming but it was nothing to worry about. The deal with it is that you know you’re coming to a different country. You’ve got to be prepared for whatever there is.
They say you should live each day as if it’s your last. You’ve got to be happy when you rise and see the sun in the morning. I appreciate each day for whatever it is and whatever might come.
I like to play dominoes and listen to music. My favourite music? I have so many and am confused about that right now. I like any one where I listen and I gain wisdom from that song. Any one of them can teach you something.
-Jeremiah, fruit orchard employee and Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Jamaica
My grandparents sold our family farm when I was young but that never stopped me from reaching out to neighbours when I was 11 to help on their farms. My uncle is also a vet so you could say that a job in veterinary medicine might be in my future. I also really love law and social justice too!
I love coming here to the farm and helping with chores. I enjoy the routine of all the jobs that need to be done and also helping anywhere I can. When I go to school, I help teach all my classmates about agriculture and answer their questions.
One of my friends introduced me to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program. I’ve been coming from Jamaica to work on this peach farm since 2009. Back home, I also do some farming. We raise chickens and I plant crops like yams. When I’m away, my brother looks after it for me.
I’ll be 50 in December and I have three sons age 22, 21 and 19. I also have a two year old grandson. When I first started coming here, my sons were very young. I was nervous leaving them but my mother and father looked after them. Me working here helps them. I talk to them every day.
I remember the first time I saw snow in Canada. That was exciting. For fun, I like to play football.
-Coralee, Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Jamaica
I first came to Canada 23 years ago and have always worked on this flower farm.
Two years ago, my status here changed from seasonal worker to refugee. For some reason, I was targeted by the Mexican cartel who threatened my life if I was to come home. I am not sure why me – we lived in a quiet community - but I think they didn’t like me coming to Canada to make money and support my family.
The farm family that I work for helped me apply for refugee status and then helped my family to come here too. My wife, daughter and granddaughter arrived in October, 2019. My son-in-law finally got here in August of 2020. It was such a stressful time waiting for them to come. I lost so much weight with worry. And then it was such a relief when they came and I knew they were safe. We left our house and everything behind in Mexico. My wife now works here too.
I mostly work in shipping but like all jobs because I like to stay busy. When I’m not working, I go to church and love spending time with my family.
-Carlos, Seasonal Agriculture Worker turned refugee from Mexico
I’m a third generation egg farmer and the fifth generation of my family to live and work on this farm. But I never thought I’d reach celebrity status! Egg Farmers of Ontario asked me last year if I’d be one of the faces of their Real Farmers. Real Eggs. campaign. And as a result, my picture was on billboards, buses and transit shelters across Ontario. At that time, there was a constant flurry of emails from friends and family telling me that they’d seen my face on a bus! That was a fun thing to do.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a farmer. That’s what I always said as a kid, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. A lot has changed in egg farming since then. We’d get off the school bus at the end of the day and collect eggs by hand. Now, that’s all done automatically. Feeding the birds is also done automatically. That allows for better quality control and better care of the birds.
It gives me a lot of pride that our three kids, ages 5 to 9, are now showing interest in the farm too. They help with chores on weekends and during school closures. Sometimes, there’s three generations of our family all working together – my parents, us and our children.
When I’m not farming, I love fishing and cooking. Omelettes are my absolute favourite way to eat eggs.
-Ian, Egg Farmer
I was born in Hertfordshire, England and emigrated with my family in 1974. We lived in town so I didn’t have a lot of farm experience until I met my future husband Pete who was a local farmer. We met playing pool. I could always beat him!
We took over the farm when Pete’s parents retired and have raised our four daughters – Allyson, Amanda, Katie and Jess - here. They grew up helping pack watermelons and still take an avid interest in the family business, helping with paperwork, packing and other jobs.
On our farm, we grow watermelons and butternut squash. The watermelons are sold seasonally in local grocery stores and the squash is processed into baby food and other products. They’re labour intensive crops. Everything is done by hand – planting, weeding and harvesting.
During COVID, when we weren’t able to sell all of our products because of market disruptions, we created a squash mountain and offered them free on Facebook. People were driving from as far away as Toronto to get them. So many people were so grateful. And we were also able to take care of the local foodbanks too, donating fresh squash to them.
-Tracy, Watermelon and butternut squash grower
I got the nickname Peaches when I was young – so it was a surprise, when I first came to Canada in 2000, that I found myself working on this peach farm!
I’m from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. There we have the best food, beautiful beaches and good entertainment. When I’m not here, I run a bar there. I’d welcome anyone to come and enjoy the hospitality.
I’ve worked on this same farm for the last 21 years. I learned about the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program from my MP and I went to the Ministry of Labour in Kingston to apply.
Back home, I’ve got five children ranging in age from 34 to 14 and now I have grandchildren. My mom and my sister help to look after them when I was away. Now we video chat every day but when I first started coming, that technology wasn’t available and we’d only have one phone call every week, on Fridays.
Last year was hectic and worrying with COVID. We didn’t leave the farm to stay safe. This year is safer. We got our first vaccination when we arrived at the airport. That was good.
-Yvonne (Peaches), Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Jamaica
My grandfather, Peter, was born in the Netherlands and came to Canada, purchasing the home farm in Niagara on the Lake in 1952. My dad (also named Peter) started managing the farm at a young age. Originally the farm was a mixed operation but over time it has evolved to strictly tender fruit and grapes with a focus on high quality. This land is suitable to these crops. Now we grow about nine varieties of grapes which we sell to local wineries as well as tender fruit such as cherries, peaches, apricots and plums. Our fruit market, which has been operating since 1952, is a well-known destination.
I wasn’t always sure that this is what I wanted to do. After university, this industry was on shaky ground so I took a job at a bank and had a very successful career there. But, a combination of factors brought me home. Our oldest son, Andrew, passed away from a rare neurological disease in late 2000 and a few years later, my dad decided he wanted to retire. I’d just been offered a big promotion at the bank but decided to give that up to come back to my roots, so to speak. That was a good family decision we don’t regret. My high school sweetheart and wife, Laura and I bought the farm in 2005 and we have since expanded by purchasing additional farms.
Our daughter, Erica is a lawyer and son-in-law, Phil, recently gave up a career as a chef to help us in the business. Our 16-year-old son, Nathan, helps out daily with all tasks and is starting to think about a future career here too. It’s fantastic to have our family close and to know that they enjoy being part of this business too. We also have a team of six Jamaican employees that are like family to us and they come seasonally to help. They’re a big part of our success.
I was named the 2018 Grape King by my peers in the industry. That was a huge honour and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We met a lot of wonderful people and tasted a lot of amazing world class 100 per cent Ontario grown wines. It was great to follow in the footsteps of my father, who was Grape King in 1985.
My favourite variety is the Merlot. It’s a challenging grape to grow in a cold climate. We really make some truly outstanding wines in this area so picking a favourite is tough. ¬¬
-Chris, grape and tender fruit grower
My name is Salvadore and I’ve been coming to Canada for 20 years. I like the work. I like Canada too. Growing watermelon is hard work. Today, we’re hoeing the fields for the weeds. I think we’ll start picking melons in about three days.
When I’m finished working here for the year, I go home to Mexico and my family – my brothers and everyone are there.
In Canada, in October when I’m working here, it’s too cold! And then I go home to Mexico where it’s always hot! It’s nice to be home then.
When I was young, every Sunday I’d play football (soccer). Sometimes the guys here play soccer. Of the 12 of us, nine or ten play soccer.
-Salvadore, Seasonal Agriculture Worker from Mexico, working on a watermelon farm
I grew up in Toronto but always had a passion for animals. My first taste of agriculture was spending time with the horses at my aunt’s. I loved riding and being in barns outside of the city.
When it was time for university, I moved to Guelph and never looked back. I attended the Ontario Veterinary College and graduated as a large animal veterinarian. My interest is in calf health, production medicine, and research. Providing emergency services can be very rewarding as a veterinarian, but I also like working with farmers to set goals and see herd improvements. Sometimes a few small changes can make a big difference.
It was also while at university that I met my beef farmer husband. We’re now living on the farm that he grew up on and raising our young daughter Annika here too.
I love to travel. After finishing my Master’s Degree, I had the chance to travel to the Galapagos Islands. I was also able to travel around Switzerland after presenting at a conference during my Doctor of Veterinary Science degree. It was great to walk through some milking Simmental cattle on a dairy farm there and talk about breeding Simmental for beef at home. Some of my other hobbies include archery, hockey (although I play badly), and running.
-Taika, veterinarian and beef farmer
“I had been a grocery store manager and had never worked in a greenhouse in my life. But after I met my husband, I started looking for a local job and have now been working here for 11 years. We grow about 12 different types of herbs. I started working in the propagation area and am now the Distribution Centre supervisor with a terrific team of about 30 employees.
We’re really busy from April to August shipping orders out to everywhere from garden centres to grocery stores where you can buy a fresh pot of herbs to take home for your cooking. Some of the daily orders we process may only be two trays in size. Others could be 17 carts. It’s always important that we make sure we’re sending our best products out. If you wouldn’t buy it as a customer, I don’t want it leaving here.
I love how this company is all about family because family is so important to me. We’ve got six children and five grandchildren of our own. We’ve got an amazing team of offshore employees from Mexico and other countries too that come in to work here for part of the year.”
-Jennifer, Distribution Centre supervisor, herb greenhouse
“I just graduated from high school and this is my first summer working at this farm market. I knew the farm family so asked if they needed help – and here I am. I’d like to get into farming when I’m older so this is good experience.
I love working outside and breathing in the fresh air. It’s also fun helping people pick their favourite pumpkins.
When I’m not working, I’m a big hockey guy. It’s great to be playing again – we couldn’t play last year due to Covid. I also like hanging out with my friends and playing board games with my family.”
-Colton, Employee, Laura’s Farm Stand
“My wife and I live in the house that I grew up in and now our five month old daughter is the fourth generation on this family farm. Our family’s been farming in this area since the 1830’s. Even our barn’s over 100 years old. If walls could talk, it would have a lot to say.
I farm with my father and my brother. I was always interested in the farm. After all, I’d been around tractors my whole life. But for a while I contemplated a different career and studied International Development at university, also taking a minor in agriculture. In addition to farming, I work for a local company as a feed salesman, helping other livestock farmers determine the feed and diets that will be best for their animals.
We used to have dairy cows but for the last few years, we have been raising veal cattle as well as growing crops like wheat, corn, soybeans and cranberry beans. I really watching them grow up as healthy, content animals. That’s the most rewarding thing.
For fun, I really enjoy camping and trips to the cottage. I play baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter..”
-Dylan, Veal and crop farmer
“I used to shop here all the time and so when the accounting job came open, I jumped at it. It’s a family-owned business and they treat me like family. I’m like another daughter that just comes to work every day! I’m currently on maternity leave - my son Austin was born last October. But I still come in a day a week because I like the job and my coworkers. It’s important that you love your job. You spend more time at work than you do at home so you’ve got to be happy there.
My favourite product? Well the bacon, obviously. It’s the best bacon in town! I also love the pepperettes and the Hungarian sausage. And we have a real smokehouse. So when the meat is described as being smoked, that’s genuine, not a flavour that’s been added.
When I’m not at work, my family and I spend a lot of time at the beach. I also dabble a bit in photography.”
-Maurie, Accounting Manager, Butcher Shop
“I have early memories of getting up at two in the morning to go to the Ontario Food Terminal with my dad and grandpa to sell our flowers. I also remember, as a child, carrying bunches of flowers out of the fields to the end of the rows during harvest. I think I always planned to come back to the family business but after school, I first worked off the farm in construction.
Our schedule is a busy one. We start planting our greenhouses from January to March and then in May, we’re working full out until after Thanksgiving. Once November comes, it’s quieter and we can have a break after a busy year before it starts all over again. We have about 400 acres of cut flowers and also do planters for the spring and fall seasons. I think sunflowers are my favourite – they’re the favourite of a lot of people.
We have a crew of about 42 seasonal workers that come from Mexico. Labour is our biggest issue and last year showed how absolutely dependent we are on our employees. When COVID hit in 2020, many of them couldn’t get here as scheduled. It was so stressful – it was a disaster because we can’t harvest without them. This year is better. They’re arriving in a staggered schedule and spending two weeks in quarantine before they can start work. I’m so grateful to them.
My wife and I are parents to 9-year-old quadruplets – two boys and two girls. We’re also caring for a wonderful four month old foster baby boy. It’s nice to see my kids starting to take some interest in our flower business. They’re also really into sports. In the winter, we build a big rink on the farm for them to skate on..”
-Mike, Flower farmer
“Jill: My earliest memories growing up on my dairy farm include watching my mom and Nanny prepare many preserves during summer months, baking and making lunches to be delivered to the men working in the fields.
I had the big dream of wanting to save the world, as I enjoyed working with children, and continued my education in social work and then became an Educational Assistant.
Doug has been full-time here on the farm since he was 18 years old and the farm became his in 1994. This farm has been in the family for over a century!
It was when I met Doug that I returned to my roots. In 2019, we were selected for the Farm Credit Canada Customer Spotlight Award. We continue to have big dreams for our farm which one day may include a creamery.
As farmers, we’ve always known that we must involve everyone - from our vets, to accountant - to accomplish the many dreams we have. Most importantly we have always included our two boys in all our decisions and from the time they were young, they’ve owned cows and since have been able to both have their own little herd.
Family is our number one priority and we enjoy much deserved vacation time together even if it's just a night away at our favourite place, Lake Placid, in New York.
We want to encourage others in the community to explore options for local growers and producers in your community and where the products can be purchased. They support those local distributors as well.
Jill & Doug, Dairy Farmers”
-Jill & Doug, Dairy Farmers
“’I've always been interested in architecture and design. I love watching documentaries on the Discovery Channel about building things like bridges, skyscrapers and dams. I studied architecture at university and always thought about coming home to our family farm. I didn’t think I could afford to but here I am. We raise chickens and grow crops and I helped to design our new barn.
It was on Twitter that I got interested in doing some experimentation with our crops after I started following other farmers who are working to improve their land. I’m now growing corn that’s got wider spaces between the rows than most farms do. And then, in between the rows, I grow cover crops. In doing so, I’m trying to create a better ecosystem with my land and my soil.
The cover crops that you see here are not there to be harvested. The roots from the cover crops help hold the structure of the soil and prevent erosion and compaction. It’s all about everything working together – water, air, sun and nutrients.
I like to follow people on social media like Jason Mauck, Tim Boring and others that promote a regenerative type of philosophy”
-Patrick, chicken and grain farmer
“I’ve been coming to Canada from Mexico to work in this herb greenhouse for six years. I like to work with the plants and the employment is very good. The company treats its employees very well. There is a lot of satisfaction from seeing the plants grow.
I have a son and a daughter, age 22 and 25. When I first started coming, it was very hard to leave them even though there was good employment here. My sister helped to look after them. I talk to them every day through What’s App which is good.
When I’m not working, I like to go for walks or watch movies.
I like Canada very much. If I could, I would move here.
-Cristina, herb greenhouse employee and Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Mexico
“My grandfather started this farm so I’m the third generation of our family to work on it. We raise turkeys to be sold to grocery stores and butcher shops across the GTA and Niagara Region. We sell into about 75 outlets at different times of the year.
I actually don’t live on the farm anymore – I live in Toronto with my wife and three children. My role in the business is focused more on selling our products and I really enjoy the conversations that I have with our customers about turkeys. It’s always interesting to answer their questions like how long it takes to raise a turkey (they reach market weight between 11 and 17 weeks); whether they are free to roam in a barn (yes), whether we use growth hormones (no – that’s illegal in Canada) and other typical questions.
I really want people to know that Canadian turkey is the best turkey in the world. We’ve got such high standards for cleanliness and food safety. I’m proud of that.
My favourite way to eat turkey is in soup. I love turkey soup..”
-Murray – turkey farmer
“I’ve been coming to Canada for 17 years from Jamaica. I used to work on an apple farm and then a greenhouse. I’ve been on this farm for 12 years. I like the grapes.
My family back home are farmers. I live near to the Blue Mountains. We grow coffee. I grew up in farming. Some Canadian coffees are nice but we have the real stuff. I had some people back in Jamaica tell me about the seasonal agricultural worker program and they asked if I wanted to try it. I said yes. I do farming back home and I heard that it was farming here and I wanted to try it.
What’s different about Canada? We have no snow in Jamaica! When I first saw snow, I wondered what was going on because I’d never seen this before. I’d just seen snow on television and stuff like that. But I came to experience it so it was good.
Each year I come in February and go home in September or October. Back home, I still farm – growing sweet potatoes, yams, cocoas, pumpkins and stuff like that. I also drive a taxi. I like to keep working and keep going.
I have a common law wife and three kids. My daughter is 22 and my sons are 17 and 10. I talk to them every minute and every second that I can. Pay checks here help my family. It made me have a house. It made me have my car. It does everything for me so I respect my job..”
-Aubrey, fruit orchard employee and Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Jamaica
“I was 16 years old when I immigrated to Canada with my parents and brothers. We raised dairy cows and pigs in Holland and started with a chicken farm when we got here. My husband also immigrated with his family and we met here.
We bought our first herd of 100 goats in 2007. We had no clue what we were looking for in terms of genetics and when I look back on photos of those animals, I wonder why we bought them! We started milking in 2008, have increased our herd annually ever since and we’ve learned so much! Our milk is used to make goat cheese and other products.
On our farm, having good data is really important. It helps us constantly improve. We designed an app to help track goat and kid health. Our employees all have tablets so that they can import information such as how much a kid drinks and whether medications have been used. In 2019, we were named Outstanding Young Farmers for the year in Ontario. That was a real honour for us.
I love working with the goats. They’re such interesting animals. My favourite time of the year is kidding season – with all of the new births. Each birth represents a new life which is the future for our farm. I always have my camera with me, capturing photos of the animals.
We have four children – Julian, Joanna, Janine and Jessica, aged 10 to 5 who all help in the barn with the animals. For fun, I have a huge vegetable garden and I love canning all of the products we grow. I think I’m addicted to it.”
-Jony, Dairy goat farmer
“I started working here as a part time job. I attended university in Germany, Quebec and Ontario. Languages really interested me so I studied French and German just for my own interest. My inlaws are German and I remember going to a dinner party where everyone spoke German – even though they could speak English. I saw there hearing my name from time to time with no one actually talking to me. It only took an hour before I decided I should learn to speak German! I also learned French because I thought my children should learn French and me understanding it would be useful.
I spent some time living in Europe before settling back home. I didn’t have any background in the meat industry but my father-in-law is a master butcher sand master sausage maker so my wife’s background in meat production is deep.
Education, in this industry, is very hands-on and apprenticeship-driven. I learned to do what I did beside people who had been doing it for years.
It’s always interesting to watch the market change. Products that sold really well for years will start to fall off and new ones will replace them. My favourite products that we process and sell are our bacon, salami and Hungarian sausage. I really like what I do. I love the Research & Development side of things, creating new products for our customers.
COVID was challenging for us – like everyone else. But our staff were on board with our new safety protocols and we were able to keep everyone safe and working.”
“As teenagers, both of my parents and their families immigrated to Canada from Holland after the war. I grew up helping in my dad’s greenhouse. 36 years ago, my wife Elaine and I decided to go out on our own, starting a cut flower farm. We had met when we were young – we went to school and church together. It was very humble beginnings and we had a rough start because we didn’t know what we were doing!
In our early years, we marketed everything at the food terminal and it was only later that we started selling into grocery stores and other places too. We now grow about 400 acres of about 12 different varieties of flowers from Celosia to strawflowers to sunflowers. We also grow planter boxes for spring gardeners and fall décor as well. Everything is handpicked and assembled into bouquets before being shipped across Canada and as far away as Florida. Sometimes our bouquets are travelling on trucks for two days so we’ve got to pick them and ship them as quickly as possible.
Today, my son Mike is running the business. I’m still going to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto twice a week to sell our products and love it when my grandchildren come along to keep me company on those trips”
-Ed, Flower farmer
“I’ve worked for this herb greenhouse for three years. I used to work in a floral greenhouse, and then tried the hospitality industry but I keep coming back to greenhouses. When I was young, I worked picking tomatoes for my mom at five cents per bushel. I also had a summer job on a tobacco farm.
It’s a labour intensive job for sure. It took me about three weeks of sore feet before I was used to it. And I’ve learned to dress in layers because the temperature varies so much in the greenhouses from day to day.
When I started, I was oblivious to what a basil plant was, let alone the fact that there are so many different varieties. I like it when friends or family members tell me that they’ve seen our fresh herbs for sale at their grocery store. It’s nice when they say that. Now I love to garden and have six raised beds of herbs and vegetables at home. My favourite herb is a Wild Magic Basil plant. It’s got a sweet, black licorice taste.
I’m a supervisor here. My job entails anything that is being planted or harvested. I really enjoy working with our team of seasonal workers. They’re great people and so hard working.
When I’m not at work, I love to spend time with my family including our son and new three month old grandson. He’s gorgeous!”
-Tamara, herb greenhouse employee
“I came to Canada from the Ukraine 16 months ago to work as a mushroom harvester on this farm. I didn’t speak any English but now do a bit. (Editor’s note – she speaks it very well!)
Back home, I worked in Poland in a car factory and in Finland harvesting strawberries, blueberries and mushrooms. When I was in Finland, my friend Nicholaz told me about the program and about a contract available in Canada and asked if I wanted to try it or not. I thought about it for six months and then applied.
I like living here but miss my mom and brother back home. We talk on the phone but there is seven hours difference between there and here. The weather here is the same as the Ukraine and everybody is so friendly. I have made good friends.
I am starting to see some of Canada and I like it. I have been to Niagara Falls twice and to Toronto..”
-Olha, Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program .
“I’m a shipping manager at this duck processing plant. Each day, we handle orders of both fresh and frozen orders going out around the world – from Toronto to Tahiti, Los Angeles, Chicago and across Asia. I’ve always been tempted to follow the product to Tahiti to make sure it gets there OK!
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated here with my family when I was little. I have a lot of relatives still over there and have been back many times. In my free time, I love spending time fishing at our family cottage on the French River. I also play soccer in a men’s league. Our first baby is due in December so that may limit my fishing and soccer time for a while!”
-Kevin, shipping manager, King Cole Ducks
“The two biggest pieces of advice I have for those looking to buy a farm or property is to respect your parents’ advice but challenge the status quo.
My farm journey began when I started on the home dairy farm where I would help with pushing in feed and feeding calves with my grandparents. Then working during the summer with the Traveling Farmer, a local farmer who has designed a professional exhibit and visits local fairs, answering questions about our industry. I remember answering so many questions over the summer months. From there I went on to attend the University of Dalhousie with a focus in research. Now I work with an animal nutrition company. My favourite thing about my career is being able to help solve problems for farmers, like why a cow, for example, might not be producing enough milk. Three years ago, my wife, Steph, and I bought our families farm. We knew that when we bought the property, we wanted to launch a project that brought something new and unique to Eastern Ontario!
We planted 20 acres of sunflowers with a goal of hosting up to up to 1,000 people this summer. We can’t wait to see where this adventure leads us and are excited to meet the people that will come through our farm gate. We have big dreams for this business but for now we know that good things take time and patience.”
-Jakob Vogel, Animal nutritionist and part owner of Fields of Gold
“Bobby; My favourite time here on the farm is probably spring or fall. There is nothing like planting time and then seeing the final crop harvested in the fall. I’m still in high school right now but one day I hope to also go off farm and get my welding license.
I want Canadians to know that farming is much more than a “horse and plow''. There is so much great technology out there that has helped make advancements.
Off the farm, I enjoy community sports including hockey and of course fixing motors. Our current project is to build a lawn mower that can go up to 100km/hr!
Dougie : My advice for any high schooler is to look for a career that will always be in demand and never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! This year I am excited to be attending college to become a licenced mechanic.
My future goal is to come back home to the farm and maybe open up my own shop here. As a kid, I remember always fixing things, the first thing I ever worked on was my wooden train set and my parents always joke about how excited I was to fix it. From there I went on to compete in Lego Robotics competitions with a local group and working on equipment here on the farm.
This year I am also a 4-H ambassador, I have always been active in 4-H which is a program for youth, predominantly from rural communities. I wanted to help tell others about agriculture opportunities. I love meeting others that share the same passion.
I would say the best part of growing up on a farm is that you have the freedom to explore, make mistakes and enjoy the land.
-Bobby & Dougie, Dairy Farming brothers
“I’ve worked in this egg processing company for three years. I operate the shrink wrap machine or help to pack the eggs. I like my coworkers a lot and I like the job.
My friends often ask me questions about eggs and about my work here. The question I get often is are the eggs fresh. They really are. This is also a scent free facility because eggs absorb scents so we’ve got to be very careful to prevent that from happening.
I’m known at work as the girl that makes Scotch eggs – and I’m often asked to make batches for my coworkers. Dipped in mustard, they’re the best!
When I’m not at work, I love camping and floating on a tube on the river. That’s such a relaxing thing to do..”
-Charlene, Machine Operator, Egg Processing company
“I want people to know that farmers aren’t all men and that women play an important role as well. I am constantly explaining that yes, I do indeed plan to take over my farm.
I took a year off after high school. From there, I went to McGill College in Montreal where I met some of my lifelong friends who shared the same passion for agriculture as I did. I really enjoyed the hands-on learning aspect and graduated in 2020 with a diploma in Farm Management and Technology.
I now work on the farm full time and hope to continue improving and growing our farm. My earliest memory on the farm was after chores were done my grandpa and dad would join us for snacks and play with all the kittens.
I would say the best part of farming is the feeling when hard work pays off, there's nothing like washing all the cows in the barn and looking back at how healthy and content they are. My goal is to continue to show Canadians that their food is safe and we work hard to produce it!.”
-Cassidy, Dairy Farmer
“I’m the oldest of the fourth generation working at this duck company that was started by my great grandfather in 1951. He used to sell poultry at a local farmers’ market. The other vendors typically sold chickens and geese but no one had ventured into ducks so he began to build his business to meet that market’s demand.
From the age of seven, I was helping in the barns. I think we were all raised into this lifestyle. It’s simply in our blood.
In college, I studied business and trained as a chef. I chose this education route because I wanted to be able to “talk shop” with chefs in restaurants we were selling to. Given my background on the farm combined with my education, I am able to talk about the entire process, from egg to plate and everything in between.
I am now in charge of sales for western Canada. Pre-COVID, I spent a lot of time meeting with customers in Alberta and British Columbia. Duck is a niche product in North America. Selling it – and promoting the product - requires a face to face conversation. I always say that we’re convincing consumers one mouth at a time. But once people try it, they love it. We have a strong market with new Canadians of Asian heritage. They grew up eating duck and like to be able to buy it here.
The fifth generation of our family is now on the way. My cousin, who also works here, just had his first baby and my wife and I are expecting our first in a few months. The flock is growing quickly.
-Chris, Western Sales & Business Development, King Cole Ducks King Cole Ducks
“I used to shop here and I saw how fresh all of their products were so when I saw that they were hiring, I applied. I’d worked in warehouse logistics for most of my career and while this is different, working with food, the concepts are the same.
I work in a central distribution facility. Our team is loading and sending trucks all day every day to deliver products to Longo’s stores. In the morning, we’re sending out trucks filled with fresh produce and in the afternoon with other products like sugar, spices and non-perishables. Teams work around the clock to fill orders from Longo’s stores. I love working with people and getting to know them. That’s why I always wanted to be a supervisor. We’re always working together to deal with any situation or address any problem as it comes up.
When COVID hit, we adjusted to the new safety protocols really quickly because we knew how important it was for us to stay safe as essential workers – and also to keep product moving. People were panic shopping so we were going through large volumes of key items like water, toilet paper and more.
If I’m taking home dinner on a Friday night, I’m going to pick up some good steaks or salmon. When I’m not working or spending time with my family, I golf as much as I possibly can!"
-Denis, Senior Supervisor, Logistics, Grocery Distribution Centre
“The Gambia, where I come from, is called the “smiling coast of Africa”. It’s a really nice place and I do miss it. I was working as a hotel manager in The Gambia when I met my wife. She’s Canadian and came there on a yoga retreat.
My whole career has been in hospitality, with a goal of always making my hotel guests happy. That’s what I did my whole life. So moving here permanently last year and finding work at this egg processing facility was a big change. But life is full of transition every day. That’s what makes you strong. Whatever I do, I have to do well. I like the diversity of this company. My coworkers are from many different backgrounds and are extremely hardworking. I really like meeting new people - it’s very important to me.
My wife works for the United Nations so was based in other countries before moving home to Canada. Our sons, aged 13 and 10, attended an international school in The Gambia but are now also starting a new life here and are doing great..”
-Mutarr Bah, egg processing company
“I started here, working in this duck processing company, as a line worker when I was 22. My dad also used to work here as a plant manager. At the time, no other jobs were really grabbing me and after only a few days, I remember thinking, “I think this can be something.” I was really nervous on my first day of work but the job intrigued me. I remember thinking, “So this is where our food comes from. Now it all makes sense.” It’s amazing the work that goes into producing one product.
I’m now a Food Safety Coordinator, and have been in this role since 1999. I’m here to make sure your food is safe and clean. I’m really proud of the protocols we have to ensure food safety - from hand washing to the cleanliness of the equipment. Every night, there’s a sanitation crew working for eight hours to ensure the plant is ready for the next day’s production.
When COVID hit, we all moved fast to ensure that staff were kept safe and the company kept running. Overnight, there were new protocols for PPE and temperature checks. We rotated shifts, divided crews up and quickly implemented the new systems. We didn’t miss a day of work and I feel blessed for that.
I was raised in a small family, living in a small town so I like working for this family business. In my free time, I like anything nature based like hiking, walking and kayaking. I bought a new kayak recently and I love it.
When I was little, I wanted to be a vet when I grew up. Now I want to be a race car driver although I’ve never been in one! I love cars and I drive fast.
-Sarah, Food Safety Coordinator, King Cole Ducks
“I came to Canada eight years ago and the best part about Canada is that I met my husband! He also works at this mushroom farm. We were married in 2018 and now have a baby girl.
I am a harvester here. It is hard work but it is good work. Each day, we pick the mushrooms in these rooms. You want nice, big, round mushrooms. Depending on how good they grow, I can pick up to 1,000 pounds of them in one day. We start at 5:30 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. When I’m not working, I love playing with my daughter.”
-Sri - Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
I have cooked all over the world, England, Belgium, France, North Africa, and the Pacific North West. One cool experience was working at the 2010 Olympics, I was in the Vancouver club cooking for the IOC executive. It was a lot of work, but it was mind-blowing, the other chefs I got to work with, the quality of the food all sourced from Canada and on display.
I have owned my own restaurants and taught at other culinary schools. When this job came up, I had never heard of this place and wasn’t familiar with it or nonprofits. I started one day a week teaching a class in the back of Pizza Pizza kitchen and then when we moved in here, it progressed into what it is today.
The program is meant to awaken people to where their food comes from, healthy eating and build their sense of confidence around food. We try to demystify skills such as using a knife, to make cooking seem more attainable. I love that every day when you are cooking is a blank canvas, which is why I have stayed in cooking as long as I have.
-Steve, Program Manager, Chef and Instructor
“I started helping my grandpa Leo in his gardens in the Ukraine when I was a kid. We’d spend the whole weekend together, just me and him. He had a little bit of everything – raspberries, black currents, cherries and vegetables. Making jam was a three day process but he’s the reason I love fresh fruits and vegetables.
My family emigrated here when I was 11 years old. My mom was an English teacher so that was a big bonus because we knew how to speak the language. I remember seeing my first Canadian grocery store. The selection was overwhelming and there were fruits like bananas and clementines that were totally out of this world for me.
I started working in the produce department of a grocery store when I was a student and fell in love with it the first week. I especially like the variety and the seasonality of it all. I’m now the produce manager with a team of 16. I love answering questions like ‘When will asparagus be in season?’ or ‘How do I pick the best watermelon?’
I think COVID changed the way that people look at grocery store employees. All of a sudden, we were essential and important. I even had people I haven’t seen since high school contacting me asking for help in finding flour and toilet paper. But there wasn’t any!
For fun, I enjoy getting to know the farmers that are growing food for our stores. I’ve toured farms and really enjoy going to farmer’s markets as well. There’s a growing appreciation for local food and in Ontario, we’ve got such a great variety so close to home.
My grandpa is now 86 years old and still living in the Ukraine. We’re in contact a lot and I think he’s pleased with the career path I followed”
-Andrew, Produce Manager
“Our family came to Canada from Kenya – via the United States. We had lived in Ohio for several years and I was 19 when we moved here. It was a tough age to leave my friends and a place that was so comfortable. Longo’s was the first grocery store we ever set foot in when we first arrived in Ontario. Our family was having a tough time that day and the Customer Service Representatives noticed us and overwhelmed us with love and their warm hearts. They were so welcoming and even gave us a $50 grocery voucher to use in the store. I never forgot that. Later, I went back to try and find them and thank them but wasn’t successful. If they see this, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
It was my mom who saw that the local store was hiring and asked for an application for me and now I’m a Customer Service Representative too, like those who helped our family.
Early days of COVID were so scary and so unfamiliar for everyone. One of my coworkers did get sick and then I also had to isolate for two weeks. That was hard. And we knew our guests were all scared too. It was important to listen them as they share their concerns. I’d tell them that we’re all worried but we’re going to get through this and we’re here for you and here to help you get your groceries safely. I remember one new mom coming in to shop. She was tired. She was scared. You could see it in her eyes. Her husband was working and she needed groceries for her family. I told her about our Grocery Gateway option so that she could order groceries online. Sometimes people just need a friendly face.
I think COVID made people more aware of people like me. We’re all on the same earth when disaster hits, it hits us all no matter our race, background, religion, orientation or IQ. Our team has become so much stronger together. I love my coworkers. A year later, things are so much calmer now and the store is safe.
For fun I host a podcast called “Hey, let’s catch up.” I give a bit of life advice. We talk about different challenges. I post every other week. My favourite guest so far was my mom giving advice for people like me in our 20’s. Her main advice? Relax. Don’t overstress yourself; enjoy your 20s!””
“The most influential advice I have received was from my dad when he started teaching me how to combine; He said, “Never look back at your last pass, always look ahead down your rows just like you're looking forward to your future” and I continue to live by this today!
My journey in agriculture started when I took on my own herd of sheep. From there one job led to the next helping around the farm. We grow corn, wheat and soybeans and in 2018 I started my own operation Graceland Farms. I was able to buy my first farm in 2019 and in 2020 I purchased my second. I completed my Bachelor in Commerce at the University of Guelph majoring in Food and Agriculture Business. After University I accepted a position with the Royal Bank of Canada. My current position as an Agriculture Account Manager with RBC allows me to help farmers expand and grow their farming operation. I would say the most challenging part of my job is helping a farmer understand that there are those “not right now” situations when their operation does not have enough cash flow for what they are looking to do. I know with the proper advice and guidance they can get to the point where their plan would be financially feasible. It is incredibly rewarding to learn all about other operations and helping farmers grow their business.
Outside of agriculture I love traveling and photography. I hope to share with other Canadians how many countless hours it takes to farm and how much passion farmers put into their work to feed the world.”
-Grace, Farmer and Agriculture Account Manager
“I grew up in the greenhouses and learned by watching my parents, who started it all in 1978 with 17,00 ft2 of hybrid tea roses. I remember playing under the grading tables as they sorted and bunched the roses. If my dad saw us messing around, we’d get to clean up the rose clippings.
Today, 43 years later, we operate over 45 acres of greenhouse grown fresh cut flowers in Dunnville. While we now grow large and mini gerbera, snapdragons, and lisianthus, rather than roses, we remain focused on floral quality, freshness, and customer service.
My husband and I are a team at work and at home, raising our four children. Ralph grew up on a dairy farm and has a degree in engineering, which is useful with the operation and production of our greenhouses. I went to school for philosophy and then turned to human resources. Yet no education was wasted, as learning how to read and think logically is good for all avenues of life. Ralph and I both enjoy cycling, volunteering at our church and children’s schools, and being involved with our industry associations. We enjoy stopping to smell the roses whenever we can!
Arielle DeBoer, Owner Rosa Flora LTD.
-Arielle DeBoer, Owner Rosa Flora LTD.
“They say that the way you were as a child forecasts your true identity as an adult- and since I was young, I’ve always been asking a thousand questions.
My curiosity has opened up opportunities for me, including my master’s degree at the University of Guelph’s Department of Animal Biosciences and my current role with the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council (CAYC).
At the CAYC, we have an ongoing dialogue on food-related challenges and opportunities, and we work to improve programs related to the agriculture and agri-food sectors. My goal with my involvement in CAYC is to unite agriculture and education together and discuss how youth can have more access to agriculture in their classrooms.
I love that this group is all about taking action and creating change within Canadian agriculture. Each meeting, my views are challenged and I get to hear from different perspectives.
In my free time, I am preparing to finish my first triathlon that is scheduled for later this summer. My biggest advice to those around me is have fun, don't worry too much about the future. I live by the mantra of “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
-Vicki Brisson, M. Sc. Student at the University of Guelph and Member of the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council
“My parents were born in Pakistan and moved to Saudi Arabia, where I was born, after they were married. My grandfather encouraged my dad to explore the world so they also lived in Denmark before putting in immigration applications to both Canada and Australia. They had decided that they’d go to the country which approved their application first – and that was Canada.
My mother was a nurse in Saudi Arabia and my dad worked for a hydro company sand the only farming experience they had was farming rice and a few cows back in their village in Pakistan. But after they moved to Canada, they became friends with a farmer who gave them an opportunity to lease his egg farm. After leasing it for a year, they ended up buying it. Dad continued to work in a factory job to help pay for it while my mom, siblings and I looked after farm jobs like cleaning out manure and gathering eggs.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a farmer so went to Louisiana to work in the oil fields. But there realized that if I’m going to work hard, I might as well work hard at home, for myself.
The lifestyle of farming is incredible. We walk to work and I can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner together with my family. My mother has passed but dad only lives 20 minutes away and is still active in the farm.
What’s my favourite way to eat eggs? My mom used to make the best, spicy omelettes wrapped in a deep fried bread called parata. They’re the best.”
-Imran – egg farmer
“I came to Canada from Mexico two years ago to work on this farm. I wanted to have a new experience and to work in another country. I also wanted to learn a new language and I wanted to learn more about Canada. It’s a very different culture here from my home. I had never seen snow. We don’t have snow at home.
My family at home grows agave (a succulent crop) which is used to make tequila. The money I make here goes home to help my parents. They have been able to expand their business because I am working here.
I am a mushroom harvester. When I am cutting mushrooms, I often think about the customer that will be buying them. Because without our customers, our company has nothing.
I am really happy here in Canada. I believe that if you work hard, you will be rewarded and for that, I give thanks to God.”
-Fernando, Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
I was born and raised in South Africa and immigrated to Cambridge, Ontario with my family when I was 16. What’s a teenage African kid to do for a summer job after moving to Canada? I got a job at the African Lion Safari and I worked there off and on for about 15 years. My primary role was that of an elephant handler although I worked with cheetahs and camels too. So much care goes into looking after the animals that live there. My wife, who’s now a veterinarian, also worked there. That’s how we met.
Today, I’m a livestock nutritionist at this feed mill. My specialty is in formulating diets for ruminant animals (those with four chambered stomachs like cattle, goats and sheep). There’s a lot of differences between feeding and caring for elephants as compared to farm animals. For livestock, you’re trying to provide them with the most nutritional feed possible while elephants do well on a very basic diet.
Elephants are also extremely intelligent and each has such a unique personality. All of your communication with them is verbal. Cattle are more creatures of habit and have a real herd mentality.
I still go back to visit the elephants regularly. Some that were born when I worked there now have calves of their own. It’s always great to see them.”
-Stephan – Livestock Nutritionist and former elephant handler
“I was raised in a small town, worked as a purchaser for a manufacturing company, and knew nothing about farming before I met Imran. In fact, being a huge animal lover, I had some negative thoughts about how farm animals are raised. Wow, was I wrong!
I started joining Imran in the barn to help out – learning how to do cleaning, collecting eggs and other jobs. What I realized was that everything I had thought about farming was wrong – and my perceptions completely changed.
The lifestyle is also great. We used to live in a townhouse with neighbours on either side. Now, we live on a farm with no neighbours close by. And now, I don’t ever want to leave here. It’s the perfect place to be, especially during COVID.
It’s funny because when I said I was moving to a farm and leaving my purchasing job to work in the barns,, my parents, siblings and friends were shocked and asked me, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
Now, I really enjoy volunteering with other farmers at events like the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Since moving here, I’ve learned a lot and can now answer questions myself about our hens and egg production.
What’s my favourite way to eat eggs? Every way, really. Fried. Scrambled. In omelets - they’re all great.”
-Lisa – egg farmer
“I’ve owned small restaurants and worked for corporations with hundreds of employees. I’ve gone from beer and chicken wings right through to world class dining and through all of that, I’ve always carried my appreciation for food.
When I moved back to London on a research project some friends introduced me to the London Training Center. Initially we helped people develop skills for jobs in restaurants, but now we are branching out and doing more training in processing and food production. Any sector that is attached to food, people can come through here and establish skills and interests and we help direct them towards different jobs and careers.
We are Canadian Red Cross trainers and we work with three regional health units to deliver a safe food handling course, but that generates revenues for us. The money we make from that, we use to fund our own three week food skills program and contribute to environmentalist practices, among other things. Since 2006, we have granted almost $30 000 to post-secondary students going into food related programs. I am pretty excited about it and proud of it! We are a little non-profit, but we make money to support our work and then we support others in the community too. .”
-David, Executive Director at the London Training Centre
“I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario, so when I married my husband Dirk in 2017 and moved to the dairy farm first started by his Opa in 1967, I was well aware of the hard work and dedication it takes to be a farmer.
Long days and late nights are all part of it; nevertheless, there are so many life lessons learned on the farm and that is something you can't put a value on...it's priceless! I am so thankful for and thrilled that I have the opportunity to raise our son on the farm as well.
In addition to working on the dairy farm, I am an Ontario Certified Teacher and work with AgScape. It has been rewarding blending my love of agriculture with my love of teaching.
I believe it is very important for people to connect with those that produce their food. All food has a story and sharing my part of the story with students and teachers, helping them make farm to table connections is something I take pride in. I want people to know about the time, care, dedication and love that went into producing the food that they enjoy..”
-Cassi, Dairy Farmer & AgScape Program and Resource Assistant
“Stuart knows the value of diversity both on and off the farm. As a gay man working in agriculture, he is aware of the stereotypes that are placed on farmers and rural communities. “Just like there is no one way to farm, there is no one way to be a farmer,” said Stuart.
He raises sheep and cattle on his farm near Killaly, Saskatchewan, but if you ask him what he farms, he would tell you it’s ‘soil’. He practices regenerative agriculture, which focuses on soil health, something that Stuart believes is vital to raising healthy animals and producing high quality protein.
His animals graze a mix of forage species including oats, turnips, millet, radishes, clovers and sunflowers. But regenerative agriculture isn’t about a specific set of rules says Stuart, “It’s a way of thinking that focuses on soil health as a complex system, and how plant and livestock species have an important role to play in that system.”
Stuart believes that diversity in agriculture will make it more resilient and better positioned to attract new people to the industry. “In my experience, rural people and farmers make world-class neighbours and allies”
-Stuart, Sheep & Beef Farmer
“I was born in Trinidad and Tobago and was about 20 when I first came to Canada to work through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. For me, it was a new experience. I wanted to get out and experience the world.
My family are farmers in Trinidad, growing cocoa beans, rice and plantains (cooking bananas). As soon as I could walk, I was working on the farm, planting rice all day in my bare feet in the water. You had to watch out for snakes. When I came to Canada I thought it seemed easy because you could wear shoes while you farmed!
I worked on the same farm for many years and after a few years here, I knew that this is where I wanted to live permanently. The farmer I worked for retired in 2010, and I took over his farm. He still comes to visit me daily. Advice is good coming from him.
I now have two sons aged 15 and 17 who are both showing a lot of interest in the farm. Last March when schools closed because of Covid, they were both up every morning at 5 a.m. to work on the farm with me and with our employees who come from Trinidad and Mexico. We wouldn’t be able to farm without all of them. We did hire some local people during Covid but most didn’t last more than a few days or a month because the work is hard and they didn’t like it and we struggled to get the help we needed. Each acre of celery produces about 24,000 bunches. Each of those bunches has to be cut by hand, trimmed and packed into cases – all while still in the field.
Celery is a very difficult crop to grow but it’s what I know. You’ve got to be able to see into the future and think about what the crop will need two weeks from now and what threats it might be facing from insects or diseases. This year, we have also affected by hail, snow, drought, frost and flooding all in the same season. But I knew about those challenges before buying the farm because I’d worked here.
I still go home to Trinidad to visit my family every year. I have a house there that I built while I was on the Seasonal Agriculture Worker program.”
-Sooruj, Celery Farmer
“When I graduated from university and started job hunting, it occurred to me to look for a job in an industry that will always be needed and that, as such, will need me. For the last eight years, I have installed equipment into barns that will house laying hens, chickens and turkeys.
Our projects include things like assembling housing solutions, ventilation systems, conveyor belts for eggs and service of barns and their equipment. Often we’re working on a project for up to 14 weeks at a time – and that’s on top of the manufacturing and planning that went into the barn and its equipment.
As a kid, I loved taking stuff apart and putting it back together again. It was always fun to get a new toy and see how it worked so my career is like my childhood toy projects but on a much bigger scale.
I enjoy tangible and visual work. As a project is coming together day after day, it is highly rewarding to see its progress. Once a barn’s completed, it’s special to come back and see it when there are birds in it. I really appreciate knowing how far we have come in farming. Technology will continue to allow us to reduce the amount of labour needed and find ways to improve bird comfort – while remaining sustainable.
What do I do for fun? Well, I work a lot. But I also love swimming and used to swim competitively. My favourite event is the 200 metre free style. COVID has prevented me from swimming but I can’t wait to get back in a pool when this is all over..”
-Diego, supervisor, barn equipment installer
“I have three children aged 13, 11 and 7. They are living with my mom back home in the Ukraine while I work in Canada as a mushroom harvester. At home I worked as a barista before applying to come here through the Temporary Foreign Worker program. My mom has a strawberry farm. We have a video call every day and I do really miss them but I like my job here. The work isn’t too hard. You have to be patient and you have to develop speed to harvest the mushrooms quickly.
I like Canada because there are lots of Ukrainian people living here and the weather is the same. I didn’t know anyone from our work group before I came but they are all very good people.
So far, I have seen Toronto, Niagara Falls and Windsor and hope to see more of Canada..”
-Iryna – Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
“ssad: I first came to Canada as a Seasonal Agricultural Worker in 2011. Back home in Trinidad, there was a shortage of work. I am a chef by profession and worked on oil and gas rigs as a chef supervisor. When the oil industry crashed, I was out of work.
Fassad: Our dad and brother used to come to Canada as Seasonal Agricultural Workers too. I started coming here in 2012 with my brother. We grew up together and we still stick together.
Assad: At home, my wife is caring for our two boys – one is three and one is two months old. I won’t get to meet the baby until I hopefully get home later this year.
Fassad: We talk to our families using video chat almost every day. I have a 12 year old at home with my wife. It is a lot different than when our dad was here as a worker. Back then, he would write letters and make one phone call each week.
Assad: Even before we came last summer, we talked to our wives about the possibility that we would not make it home in the fall because of restrictions due to COVID. They were still supportive of us coming here.
Fassad: It was obvious at the end of the season that we would not get home and that we would be spending our first winter in Canada. We really appreciate the local community and all who came out to support us as farm workers. Christmas was OK and we`ve enjoyed the snow.
Assad and Fassad, Identical twin brothers and Seasonal Agricultural Workers from Trinidad and Tobago
Editor’s Note: Thousands of Seasonal Agricultural Workers come to Canada from countries like Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Barbados each year to help prune fruit trees, plant and harvest crops. Last year, due to COVID-19, many of these workers had problems getting to Canada. And then at the end of the season, some did not make it home because borders were shut and planes weren’t flying. Eighty of them have spent the winter on a farm in Norfolk County. When word got out that these workers were stranded in Canada over the holiday season, both the local community and broader groups of Trinidadian Canadians rallied together to make sure they had winter clothing, Christmas trees and donated decorations, gifts, ingredients for traditional Trinidad.”
-Assad and Fassad, Identical twin brothers and Seasonal Agricultural Workers from Trinidad and Tobago
“I credit a career as a beef farmer to a number of different factors – all stemming from the way I was raised. My parents had what was called a mixed farm – with a variety of livestock and crops. They produced enough to feed our family and then sold the extra. I then attended a one-room school where my teachers had a huge impact on my future. Then, I went to the Ontario Agriculture College where my professors and my classmates helped to broaden my outlook on life.
Along this journey, I was exposed to many lessons that I couldn’t fully comprehend at the time. Key to me are to always tell the truth and to recognize the value of team work. I think of pulling a cross-cut saw or driving a team of horses – they can’t be done alone.
After university, I was hired to work as farm manager at Onondaga Farms – which has since been donated to be a Tim Horton’s Foundation summer camp for youth. Back then, though, it was a successful purebred beef farm. It was there, that the owners built my confidence that I could do things and that I could farm on my own.
My wife and I have been farming in Bruce County since 1971. I’ve been lucky enough to hold leadership roles in both the Ontario and Canadian beef cattle industries and have made some wonderful friends and great contacts over the years. Even after all this time, I still love working with cattle. My son has now taken over this farm but I’m here to help every day.”
-Stan, Beef farmer and 2021 inductee into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame
“I came to Canada from India in January of 2019 to try and build a better life for my family. My family farmed in India so I knew about cows before coming here. That is why I applied to work on a dairy farm. Here, I help care for the animals and milk the cows.
Canada is cold but it is good working here. There are better opportunities in Canada and I hope that someday my family will be able to live here permanently.
My wife and two year old son have now come to live with me which makes me very happy..”
-Manpreet, dairy farm employee
“Denver and I were high school sweethearts. Our journey together started when we purchased land north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. I had grown up on a grain farm and always knew that I wanted to farm.
Establishing a bison herd in partnership with the family grain farm seemed like the perfect fit. Since Denver works off-farm as a firefighter, the bisons’ ability to be independent is a benefit. Bison are resilient animals, and while they're naturally grazing, they are depositing nutrients (manure) back onto the land which feeds the soil.
I love talking about bison and answering questions about our animals. Our dream is to someday offer a farm to table experience complete with a farm tour.
It has been a steep learning curve, but we love it. Although it comes with challenges, my favourite part is the joys of raising my family here. We now have three little ones ages five, three and two. It's important to us to teach our children the importance of respecting the land and the animals and creating a sustainable future. After Sunday chores, we always make sure to take a break and enjoy some much-needed family time before the new week. On the farm, we believe a little bit of hard work and lots of fun can go a long way!”
-Becky, Bison Farmer
“When I was a kid, if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said a farmer. And that’s never changed in all the years since.
I’m the fourth generation of my family to farm in the Holland Marsh and I work closely with my dad and our fabulous team of seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico. We grow beets, carrots, onions and parsnips.
I went to Ridgetown College to study agriculture but my heart was always back on the farm and I drove some long distances to get back and forth between school and home during harvest and exam times.
My favourite vegetable? Parsnips and carrots – served with a good steak, of course!
When I’m not farming (which is hardly ever), I do love to snowmobile in the winter.”
-Brad, Vegetable farmer
“I was raised on a dairy farm that my brother now farms. 43 years ago, I was asked if I wanted a job for a couple of weeks. I’ve been here ever since so it’s been a long two weeks!
I’m now the lead supervisor for a company that installs equipment into poultry and pig barns – things like housing units, feed and water lines, perches, misting systems, conveyor belts for eggs, etc. I think I’ve worked in every small community in Ontario. I don’t need a map to know where I’m going.
I’ve sure seen a lot of changes in the equipment and technology in my years here. Things are so more modern and I can’t believe the enrichments that go into making the barns better for the animals. In some cases, I’ve gone back to a farm that we installed 20 or 30 years ago to give it a total upgrade. That’s fun to do – and now I’m also working with the second and third generation of some farm families which is also great.
In my free time, I love hunting, fishing and spending time with wife of 36 years, my three kids and my six grandchildren, ages five up to 12.”
-Bob, lead supervisor, barn equipment installer
“I worked in a spa in Indonesia before coming to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker program. That was eight years ago. I met my husband here working on this mushroom farm. He’s from Mexico. I work as a harvester here. We now have a baby girl.
I remember the first time I saw snow here. It was so exciting. My country doesn’t have snow. Canada is a very nice place and everyone is friendly. I have made a lot of friends here. Eight of us work together on a team.”
-Kadek, Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
I come from a family of truck drivers. My grandfather and my dad were both truckers and I always wanted to do that too. I’ve been driving truck now for 19 years and started driving livestock trucks and trailers two years ago. I like it because it’s more specialized and there’s more variety in the work. Drivers really help each other in this industry, more so than I’ve found in others. Everyone works together because they know how important it is to care for the animals that we’re carrying. There’s a stigmatism that we don’t care about them at all and it’s the total opposite. We wouldn’t work in this industry if we didn’t.What do I love about it? That nomadic life. I love the freedom of being out on the road. My biggest frustration comes from people who don’t know how to drive in traffic alongside our trucks. They can cut us off and stop too fast. We’re carrying animals so we can’t just stop on a dime.
My favourite thing to do when I’m not on the road is spending time with my daughter doing family things like going to the beach.”
-Chris – Livestock Transporter
I was four years old when my parents bought this chicken farm. At the time, they also had a poultry processing plant so you could say that I really grew up in this business. There were always other farmers visiting and I loved the way that everyone in this industry helps each other out. Now that I’m more involved, that’s how I want to be too – helping other farmers if I can.
After high school, I went to hair dressing school and at nights when I came home, I’d put my barn clothes back on and go and do chores. I started working for my dad in 2007 and soon knew that I wanted to take over the business.
My husband didn’t grow up on a farm but he picked up this business like you wouldn’t believe. We make a fantastic team. When our daughters were born, they were always in the barn with us, sitting in their strollers while we looked after the birds.
I’m also involved in the Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s CFO Cares program which is a program that helps farmers like me donate fresh chicken to local food banks. I think that’s such a meaningful way to give back to our community.
My favourite things about my career? I love raising a good chicken and learning new things from other farmers and the industry.”
-Melissa, Chicken Farmer
“I was raised in Toronto originally. I got the job at this dairy a year ago. I work in the production area, helping to bottle milk.
This property has it all - from farm to finished product. In the barn behind here are the cows that produce the milk that we process. It’s really good – everything’s here. Honestly, before coming here, I’d never even gone up to a cow before so that was super cool. They’re so big.
I think one thing people don’t know about their milk is how clean the processing facilities are. It’s crazy clean. We spent almost all day cleaning and washing.
My favourite way to drink milk is straight up, in coffee. We also do flavoured milk here and my favourite is the Irish Cream.
When I’m not at work, I love spending time with our new baby boy. He was born five months ago and takes up a lot of time.
Damien, Production Employee, Sheldon Creek Dairy.”
-Damien, Production Employee, Sheldon Creek Dairy
“I was raised on this farm and always knew that I wanted to be a farmer. As a young kid, I think my earliest job involved counting cattle in the pens. That’s how I learned to count – and why my parents told me I had to go to school, to learn to count cattle!
What do I like the most? I love the joy of being my own boss and the daily challenges and opportunities that Mother Nature presents.
I’ve also had the privilege of raising my two daughters on the same farm that I grew up on. They also came to the barn with me when they were kids to help with chores. Rachel is now a veterinary technician and Lauren works in rural economic development so while they may not be farmers, they are still involved in the industry which makes me proud.
It’s important to our community of beef farmers to answer questions by consumers about farming. In normal years, we have a huge beef barbecue which attracts hundreds. Last year, we never even considered cancelling it; we knew that we still wanted to find a way to hold it, even with the restrictions caused by COVID. A great volunteer team put a drive-through event together and we sold out with meals for 500 carloads! This year will be our 50th annual beef barbecue in July. We hope we’ll be able to hold it in person – but we’ll wait and see if that’s possible."
-Steve, Beef Farmer
”My grandparents emigrated here from Holland more than 60 years ago. They’d had greenhouses there. My mum’s family came from England where they also had a similar background.
I began working here with my brothers and father when I was a kid. In the early days, we grew carnations, then other crops and switched to Gerbera daisies in about 1995. We grow year round and blossoms are harvested daily. A plant will grow for about three years. We cut about 50 blooms off the large Gerbera plants and about 110 off of the minis in a year. They’re all grown hydroponically grown in a coconut fibre mixture and sold across Ontario, Eastern Canada and the US. The business is always changing as new varieties come along that might feature different colours or qualities like stronger stems. This year, we’re growing about 10 new varieties.
Flowers have often been described as food for the soul and that’s one of the reasons I like this business so much. We’re providing a beautiful product that makes people happy.
Our busiest time of the year, by far, for Mother’s Day weekend. Last year, after COVID hit, it was a tough time for flower growers. With stores closed and no events happening, sales dropped drastically – but of course, the flowers kept growing and needing harvested. We gave a lot of flowers away – asking for donations to a local food bank in return for the free bouquets. But as the market opened again, demand for local product grow as people wanted to support local companies.
While we sell all colours year-round, people often want seasonal colours – orange at Thanksgiving, red at Christmas. Our biggest competition is imported flowers from South America – like Columbia and Ecuador.
-Bryan – Gerbera daisy grower
“I met Cody in high school but we didn’t date until years after we graduated. I wasn’t from a farm but it didn’t take much convincing on his part that we should buy a farm near where we grew up and start raising turkeys. I also work off the farm for a wastewater maintenance company but love this new aspect of our life.
Soon after our first birds arrived, Cody had to be away on a business trip. I was nervous but with the help of his dad, we had no problem looking after the birds. I was proud of that. I really love working with animals and it’s so rewarding to see them grow up and be really healthy.
I have urban friends who are really interested in our turkeys and how we care for them. Everybody’s really eager to learn about them.
In non-COVID times, I’m also an avid country music fan and love going to festivals. I also love traveling. Some of our best trips have been to Hawaii, Spain, and Texas”
-Deanna, turkey farmer
I first came to Canada from Indonesia eight years ago. At home, I was working as a receptionist in a hotel when a friend told me about the Temporary Foreign Worker program in Canada. I first worked on a tomato farm for two years before starting here as a mushroom harvester. I’ve really enjoyed working at this place. That’s why I’m still here. There are people from so many countries working here – Vietnam, Cambodia, Jamaica, the Philippines, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala.
My family is all back home but we keep in touch regularly. I might want to go back home someday and the money I make here will help me. While I am here though I am seeing Canada. I went to Niagara Falls and really liked that. I try to go home to visit every year but can’t do that this year because of COVID.
-Pawarti, Mushroom Harvester with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Making maple syrup on our farm is a tradition that goes back at least five generations, maybe more. My dad talks about how he and his dad would gather sap pails using a horse and sleigh. When I was a kid, it was a 24/7 job for about three weeks in March, gathering the pails by hand, hauling the sap up to the sugar shack and boiling the sap overnight. When my dad was on a late night shift in the shack, I’d come down to keep him company. It was one of the few nights when I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime.
We installed a vacuum system in our sugar bushes in about 2017 and that has made a massive difference to our workload and production. Instead of collecting in pails on each tree, the sap now travels from the trees through a series of lines and up to a central area and then to our new sugar shack. That’s allowed us to increase the amount of trees we’re tapping to about 6,500 because we’re not spending hours and hours hand collecting from individual pails. On average, we get enough sap to make one to two litres of syrup per tree.
The ideal weather to produce sap is when it’s below 0 Celsius at night and warmer during the day. About -3 to -5 Celsius at night and +3 to +5 during the day is good. If it warms up above 10 or 15 degrees for more than a day or two in a row and there aren’t cold nights, the season can end because the sap has dried up.
My favourite colour of syrup is amber. Syrup is graded by colour with the lighter syrup coming in the spring and the darker at the end of the season. I think amber’s got more flavour and colour. My favourite way to eat it is on cereal or pancakes. Dad uses it to sweeten his coffee instead of sugar.
-Tom, Maple syrup producer
I used to be a dairy farmer and then raised beef cattle. I just love cattle and still miss them. We sold the farm a few years ago and now live in town.
I’ve always liked walking. I’m not a TV fan or a guy that could sit in the house all day. I’d rather be walking.
I was diagnosed with glaucoma about 12 years ago and my right eye is now completely blind. I have about half vision in the left eye. I can see a bit though – enough to be able to walk from one end of town to the other. I walk between six and eight kilometres a day. I’m also a diabetic but walking helps with my health.
Over the years, I had lots of appointments at hospitals in Ottawa and I had been at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). I saw the children that are patients there and that really bothered me. I have nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
So last September, at age 82, I decided to walk the 125 km from my house to CHEO to raise money for the kids. A few people told me I was crazy – I couldn’t walk that far. I said, “Try me”! I’ve always been the kind of guy that if I said I was going to do something, I’d do it.
My children were my coaches. They helped plan the project, set out the route, and walked 12 km with me every day. We weren’t allowed to walk on major highways so we walked on sidewalks, trails, and on roads through smaller towns.
The response was unreal. I just couldn’t believe it. So many people came out of their houses to donate and watch and get their picture taken with me. Andy, a local Tim Hortons manager, came to find us several days to bring coffee. And many people came to join me along the route – my family, police officers, fellow farmers, neighbours, and friends. They’d all cheer “Go Papa Go”. It made me feel like I was doing something important.
We set out to raise $25,000 – I donated the first $5,000 myself - and then the number kept climbing and climbing to $120,000. I met a lot of nice people and I know that money will do a lot of good.
What’s next? I have a few ideas for other walks that I’d like to do.
-Russell, retired dairy and beef farmer and walker
My love of food definitely came from my mom and dad. I grew up in Vancouver and we had an enormous vegetable garden. We ate what we grew and we ate seasonally. So, I guess that was a mini, mini version of us being farmers. My parents taught us that growing our own food made sense from an economic perspective – and it just tasted better. I learned a ton about growing vegetables from my dad and then branched out and grew potatoes one year. That endeavour earned me the Gardening Badge from Girl Guides.
I went to UBC and continued my food journey. I was a vegetarian for a time and then over time became what I call an inclusive eater, I eat everything. Through my appearances on Breakfast TV and my social media platforms, people started to find me and ask me to speak on eating local, seasonal and the importance of fibre. My first farm tour was at a beef farm. I thought I was farm savvy but that tour was exponentially mind blowing! It was there that I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about farming. That farm tour was eye opening. In the years since, I’ve worked hard to learn more about Canadian farming.
I’ve always enjoyed performing too. My family is very funny and every night at the dinner table was an exercise in improvising. It was while I was living in Vancouver, teaching home economics and drama, that I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a full time actor. I came to Toronto, got an agent, auditioned for The Second City Comedy Troupe and miraculously got a job. And that moment changed the trajectory of my career.
Today, I try to combine my two passions: comedy and healthy eating. I’m the self-proclaimed funniest Professional Home Economist (P.H.Ec.) in the entire world! Through my appearances on TV and social media, I try to mix learning with laughter. Most people don’t think that nutrition isn’t necessarily entertaining, but my goal is to change that and to be a voice of reality about healthy eating. I want to share the science about healthy eating and help people make informed decisions about the food they eat because those decisions affect their long term health.
Mairlyn Smith (P.H.Ec.) is the author of eight cookbooks and will be a keynote speaker at Farm & Food Care Ontario’s annual conference on April 6 with a presentation entitled “Peace, Love and Fibre”
-Mairlyn Smith (P.H.Ec.)and cookbook author
I’ve been working in this Gerbera daisy greenhouse for almost 40 years, since I came to Canada from St. Lucia. I like working here. It’s a nice job, especially in the winter. You can work inside and forget the snow. My favorite colors? All of them.
-Rose – Gerbera daisy greenhouse employee
I am the owner and founder of Alexiou Farms, a cash crop and potato farm in Beeton and Cobden, Ontario where we grow, package and ship our own potatoes.
The hardest part with owning the farm would have to be finding the proper work to pleasure ratio! Once you’re able to find that balance, you can really appreciate what goes into growing quality crops and building a name and reputation.
I was once told that ‘dreams don’t work unless you do’ and in farming, I’ve never found it to be more true. I bought my first 100-acre farm at the age of 18 and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. If I couldn’t farm, I would be totally lost.
When I watch that potato bag roll down the line, I’m proud to know the hard work that went into getting it to a consumers’ table
-John, Potato and Crop Farmer
Two years ago year I was chosen to be an Ontario 4-H Ambassador which meant that I spent much of the year networking and representing the 4-H youth program at a national level. I’d never gotten to do anything like that before. I even got to represent 4-H at a conference in Chicago. Over 12 years, I took about 95 4-H clubs and am now a 4-H leader. Some of my favourite clubs are sheep and the maple syrup club that my dad helps to lead. I loved showing the sheep at the local fairs and at the Royal.
Some of my earliest memories involve helping grandpa tap trees and helping my parents collecting sap on the farm. We’d ride on the back of the wagons that were collecting the sap pails. Later, we got promoted to carrying sap pails but we still weren’t strong enough to lift them into the collection tanks.
One thing that people often don’t know about syrup is that it is graded according to its colour and taste. The first syrup of the year is often golden and then it gets darker and stronger as the season progresses.
-Michaella, age 23, sixth generation farmer and maple
I’ve been coming to Canada from Trinidad since 2013. I saw an advertisement looking for farm workers and applied. Usually, I arrive in April but last year it was July 6 before I got here because borders were closed due to Covid.
Back home, I have two children – a girl age 16 and a boy age 13. They live with my mother when I’m here. I miss them a lot. I wasn’t able to get home after last year’s season because there were no flights going back to Trinidad. In July, it’ll have been a year since I saw my kids.
I hope someday to immigrate here with my family. That’s my intention. I want my kids to grow up to have the opportunity to do anything they want to do. That’s why I’m here.
Christmas in Trinidad is really festive so we tried to make it the same here. My house mates and I got a tree and decorated it with donated Christmas decorations. People in the community heard our story and donated presents and winter clothes for us and some even brought traditional Trinidadian groceries so that we could have a good Christmas. It’s been fun to see all the snow and to try some Canadian activities like ice fishing.
-Felena, farm employee from Trinidad and Tobago
All I wanted to do when I was little was to be a teacher so this career came out of left field. After high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I had worked for a local dairy farmer part time and found that to be a lot of fun. I started working here about four years ago and liked it so much I went to college to take a dairy herd apprenticeship program. It was a two year program that I attended for a week every month. I found it super helpful because it taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned because I didn’t grow up on a farm.
The cows moved into this new barn about two years ago. This barn uses robot technology which means that the cows choose when they get milked. It’s a lovely barn to work in and it’s so rewarding to see how comfortable they are here. I love working with cows. It’s always cool to see their different personalities.
-Hayleigh, dairy farm herdsperson
“Hopeton: My son Denroy was three years old when I started coming from Jamaica to work on this farm. That was 33 years ago. It was a big decision for my wife, Angela, and I to take this job. But it’s not really easy sometimes to get a job back home. She and I met when we were 16 years old so we’ve been together almost 50 years. She raised our children while I came here to work. Both of us had to work hard in different places.
Denroy: I’ve been coming here with my dad for 14 years. I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like from hearing his stories and now, my life is much like his was I was young. I have two children. We’ve had a baby girl born since I came here this year. I can’t wait to meet her when I get home.
Hopeton: I’ve enjoyed working in Canada. I never had any farm experience before but learning how to farm here has kept me really active. That’s why I’ve been coming here so long even though it can be hard work – especially picking apples when the weather gets cold. At home, it’s always warm.
Denroy: I talk to my family back home as much as I can. Things are different now. When I was little, it was expensive for my dad to call home. There was no internet either. Now, I can talk to my family most days.”
-Hopeton and Denroy, a father/son team of Seasonal Agricultural Workers from Jamaica
“IMy grandpa, Alvin, bought this auction barn in 1950. It had formerly been a horse barn for the local church. He’d come home from World War 11 and felt that farmers weren’t getting enough value for the animals they were selling through private buyers. We’ve expanded many times since and, in a normal year without Covid, we also run a weekly outdoor farmers’ market.
My great-grandpa was the first auctioneer in our family. I grew up around the business and went to auctioneering school in Iowa when I was about 18 years old. I’ve been working here ever since. My 21-year-old daughter has also now gone to auctioneering school and is interested in the business.
What do I like best about this line of work? I like seeing a satisfied seller and a satisfied buyer.
There’s been a lot of changes to the business since I started. The number of farms has decreased; the age of farmers has increased. The internet has been a game-changer and during Covid, cause we have to limit our attendance we now offer sellers and spectators the option to watch the sale online from home.
One of my favourite things to do is to work with our show cattle and take them out to compete at the fall fairs and the Royal Winter Fair”
-Scott, Livestock auctioneer and beef farmer
“I was raised on a crop and chicken farm near here and started working in this very mushroom packing room when I was in high school. I was 16 years old. Later, I went to college to study electronics and continued to work here part-time. I even met my wife here because she also worked here in high school and college. In fact, there are a lot of couples that have met by working here.
"I was first promoted to packing room supervisor and was named Farm Manager three years ago. In total, we have 390 employees working here from more than 20 countries. We produce about 420,000 lbs of mushrooms per week. The diversity in our workforce is incredible, really. One year, we held a summer picnic and people were encouraged to bring a dish or wear an outfit from their native country – whether it be Cambodia, Sudan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Mexico or other countries. It was amazing to be part of it. I really like how people-focused this company is.
The mushroom business has changed so much since when I started here 30 years ago. There’s such an incredible focus on quality now – both in the raw ingredients that are used for the substrate (compost) that we grow mushrooms in right through to the product going out the door to our customers. Everything we put into the growing process and that we ship out has to be top quality.
When I’m not here, I can often be found in the arena with our 10-year-old son or playing with our seven-year-old daughter. I hope that when they’re 16, they’ll want a summer job here as I had.”
-Jason, Farm Manager, Highline Mushrooms
“I met my wife when I was living in Toronto and I guess you could say that I married the farmers’ daughter. At the time, I was working in construction but would help at the dairy when needed. It was after our second child was born that I decided to join the family business and it’s been a good fit. We’re growing fast – and have just put on our second addition. The new plant will increase our processing capacity and make everything run quicker and more efficiently. In my role as Production Manager, I’m responsible for all aspects of the milk from the time it arrives from the barn into a bulk tank until it goes out of our store in a bottle.
When Covid hit, our business was significantly affected. We supply milk to a lot of restaurants in Toronto and of course, that dropped off when places were closed. But our retail store business has picked up amazingly. People like buying from local farms. Chocolate milk has been one of our biggest sellers. With families spending more time at home, kids love chocolate milk.
Our top priority is food safety and ensuring the cleanliness of the processing plant. It’s a lot of work. The process is probably 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent making the product.
When I’m not at work, I love to play hockey and spend time with our kids. Wyatt is four; Walt is two and a half and we have another one on the way.”
-Mike, Production Manager, Sheldon Creek Dairy
“I have lived here on this chicken farm my entire life. I’m in grade ten and there aren’t too many kids in my school that are from farms. I help my mom in the barn, primarily setting it up before each new flock of chicks arrive. That includes putting out shavings for bedding, rolling out paper for under the feeders and putting down the feed and water lines to the height of the day-old chicks so that they can find them easily.
When I grow up, I’d really like to be a crime investigator – I’ve always been interested in crime stuff. I’d also like to drive a truck for my dad’s company. I love to ride horses too. I have a mare named Molly. She’s eight years old and is pretty crazy.
I like living on a farm. It’s private and there’s lots of space to move around.”
-Olivia, Chicken Farmer
"There’s nothing better than being recognized by one’s peers so when I was nominated and selected as Ontario Grape King in 2019, it was such an honour. In this role, I’m an ambassador for the Ontario grape industry – an industry that I’ve been involved in for 20 years. The Grape King represents a 60+ year tradition in Ontario’s grape and wine industry.
I was raised on a farm that grew peaches, pears, plums and cherries and went to university to study horticulture and agribusiness.
I started farming in 1984 when I bought an old property where the buildings were really in disrepair. I’ve put a lot of work into it. At first, I had a pick-your-own business, growing strawberries, raspberries and apples. I also did a lot of school tours and had as many as 2,500 students here each fall. There were a few old grape vineyards on the farm at the time – but ones that made terrible wine. We also grew peaches and pears for the processing industry for several years.
In about 2000, we began planting more grapevines and that’s now our primary focus – growing the best grapes possible to make the best possible wine. We grow about eight varieties.
My favourite? I really like a bold red wine – like a Bordeaux-style blend which is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. But in the summer, a Sauvignon Blanc or a Semillon blend is just great.
2020 has been a really great year for grape growers. It was a hot and dry summer and then the combination of warm days and cool nights in September and October were perfect for finishing them. I think 2020 is going to be a good year for wine. If you find a 2020 bottle in the store, I’d be taking a serious look at it”
-John, Ontario’s Grape King, Grape Grower
"I immigrated to Canada from Vietnam in 1979 after the Vietnam War was over. My family was sponsored to come to Canada by a local church. I didn’t speak any English at the time, so I took night classes at the local school, while I worked during the day. I was hired to work at this greenhouse in 1981 – about 40 years ago, to cut flowers. I have only taken leaves of absences when my two daughters were born.
I used to cut and harvest the flowers but now my job consists of sorting and packaging the flowers for our distributors. The flowers are sorted by size, into bundles, before being sent out across the province.
I love flowers and this is a beautiful place to work. We used to grow chrysanthemums (mums) but now only grow Gerbera daisies. My favourites colours of gerberas are oranges, yellows and hot pinks!”
-Luyen, Gerbera daisy greenhouse employee
"I was raised on a chicken and turkey farm right around the corner from where we live now. I started raising my own turkeys in high school. It was a great way to learn the economics of farming and the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for animals.
I went to university to study technology with a focus on automation and have spent the last few years travelling the world helping with transformation projects. It’s always been my intent though to come back to farm, I guess you can say that farming is in my blood.
I like working with turkeys. They’re really social animals. You can see how they’re all around me in this photo because they’re used to me and interested in what’s going on. These are hens – female turkeys. They live on our farm for nine to ten weeks before they go to market.
If I could tell consumers one thing that they should know about raising turkeys, it’s about how much care and time goes into it. But I love it. I like caring for animals, being my own boss and I like that I can tangibly see the results of my work as a bird grows healthy and well cared for.
Coming from the technology sector, I also see strong connections with the farm. In the next few years, advances in technology are going to exponentially change the way we farm. That will be good for both farmers and animal welfare.”
-Cody, Turkey Farmer
"My dad worked for a livestock transportation company and from the time I was really little, I loved going to work with him. I wanted to be a mechanic and took a high school co-op placement internship as a heavy diesel mechanic. I enjoyed working on the trucks and wondered what it would be like to drive them. After all, a good mechanic’s got to know how to drive them.
When I was 18, I got my AZ licence and have now been driving a livestock truck for five years. I bought my own truck three years ago and drive across Canada and the USA, delivering livestock to their locations. On long trips, my dog Ember often comes along to keep me company. I named my truck Angus after Angus Young of AC/DC fame.
I really consider livestock drivers to be the kings of the road. We have to be great drivers because we’re carrying live animals who need to arrive at their final destination in good shape. Livestock transporters also have a great work ethic and help each other out whenever needed. No one’s going to leave each other stranded – and my coworkers don’t treat me any different because I’m female.
People often do double takes when they see me getting out of my truck – because I may not look like what they expect a trucker to look like. One of my biggest frustrations comes from people that underestimate me – like farmers or processing plant employees or other drivers that haven’t met me yet and think I don’t know what I’m doing. It motivates me to prove them wrong!
What do I do for fun? I do barrel riding with a horse I bought four years ago and I love taking road trips with my fiancé on my Harley Sportster."
-Sara, Livestock Transporter
“We started this retail store on our family’s beef farm 10 years ago. Originally, we were only open two days each week but we’re now open four days a week and since COVID hit, our business has really improved.
I think it’s because people were stuck at home and were more focused on cooking for themselves and on buying local. They like coming here and knowing that the beef was raised on our farm. And once they try our products, many tell us that they’re hooked for life.
We’ve always been interested in agricultural education. Most people aren’t lucky enough to live on a farm so they have questions about where their food comes from. In normal years, we have open houses on the farm where people can come and meet our cattle. We’ve hosted elementary school groups and college students too. We also have a road side sign that tells how many calves have been born on our farm. During COVID, we heard of families driving by a few times a week for something to do just to see if the sign had changed. And then they’d try to see if they could spot the newborn calves in the field with the cows.
Meeting with customers in our store gives us the opportunity to have a lot of good conversations about beef farming. We’re always happy to answer any questions people might have.”
-Joanne and Matthew, Buis Beef
“I was born in Nottingham, England. I went to catering school and worked in restaurants around Europe, actually kind of around the world. Like a lot of other Brits and Aussies, I came to Canada to work at a ski hill in British Columbia. From there, I worked in Victoria and then came to Ottawa and that’s where I met Jen. She’d been wanting to move closer to her family in rural Ontario, and I’d always had a dream of owning my own restaurant. So, I guess you can say that this place has been my vision for the last 20 years.
We started looking for the perfect place and found this restaurant in Paisley that needed some work. We took possession in November, 2019. I wanted this to be a place where people could just come in, feel at home, and have a pint.
The name of our business came from the fact that Jen and I share a birthday – Guy Fawkes Day in the UK, which is also called Bonfire Night.
We were a month away from our grand opening when Covid hit. That was a blow but I’ve always been the kind of guy that rolled with the punches. I knew we could still do take out so that’s what we set out to do. And wow did the local community ever support us. We sold out of artisan pizzas the first day, the second day, the third day – you get the picture. I was making 70 to 90 pizzas a day. We could hardly keep up.
When you open in a small community, the community sees that you’re there to support them – and they want to support you. I’ve even joined the local curling club. I didn’t even know what curling was before I came to Canada.”
-Chris, Owner, Bonfire on Queen
I’m the third generation of my family to farm in the Holland Marsh, growing carrots, onions, parsnips and beets. My son Brad has joined me as the fourth generation.
I’d be completely lost on this farm without the help of Trinidad who is shown in this photo with me. He is a Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Mexico who’s been coming to work here since forever. He’s been my right hand for 31 years and now brings his son Eddie and son-in-law Juan with him to supplement our summer team of employees. It’s neat to see the next generation taking on additional responsibilities. Eddie now works closely with Brad and is taking on more responsibilities. We have nine seasonal workers employed here this year.
We’ve had to take extra precautions during Covid to protect our family and our employees. There’s already a sense of isolation that comes from farming and working on the land. And that’s been amplified this year. We’ve added extra space for our employees’ housing and the employees have chosen not to leave the farm unless they absolutely have to.
COVID slowed down the arrival of our employees this year and we were worried that they might not get here. If that had happened, we would have had to downsize our crop for the year for sure. They’re essential to this farm – they run everything!
-Doug, Vegetable farmer
“My great grandfather was a livestock auctioneer; my dad’s an auctioneer and I started helping in our family’s auction barn when I was just a kid, working around the animals. I went to Ridgetown Agricultural College and then to auction school in Mason City, Iowa in 2018. World Wide College of Auctioneering is one of the biggest auctioneering schools in North America. I’d been raised around farmers and the livestock we help them sell – primarily cattle, but also pigs, goats, sheep, some chickens. But there, I was in school with about 75 classmates who were going for careers as auctioneers for things like charity and car auctions. It was a lot of voice work. I developed my own “chant”, which is a phrase you use commonly you use like “One dollar bid, now two, now two…”. They gave us a lot of word drills and tongue twisters to practice on too. The networking experience alone was so cool.
Covid’s required a lot of changes for our business. We normally run a farmers’ market in the summer but closed that for 2020 to keep our community and vendors safe. The cattle auction sales are also now being livestreamed – instead of having sellers & spectators right in the barn, they can watch from home.
One of my favourite things to do is to raise beef cattle. We have 120 Red Simmental cross breed cows that we breed to Charolais bulls. As well I am slowly expanding my own herd of Purebred Simmental cattle. This year, I’m also enrolled in a mentorship program for young beef farmers from all across Canada. That’s going to be an amazing experience.”
-Grace, beef farmer and auctioneer
“The day was August 1, 2011. I was 35 years old and my wife and I had two young daughters – aged 2.5 and three months. I was using a piece of machinery when it jammed up and needed to be cleared. Without thinking, I kicked at it, the jam cleared and the machine took off the bottom of my foot. I was by myself but fortunately had my cell phone on me so I could call for help. Ten days later, while in hospital, they decided to amputate more of the leg below the calf muscle. I’m really glad they did because I have more mobility now than I would have otherwise.
It’s amazing, really, the technology that is now available in prosthetic limbs. I feel lucky. I do less physical work on our family’s dairy cow farm than I used to but I was able to be back to doing things I loved soon after, like playing with my daughters. I was even snowboarding again within a year and a half of the accident. My form maybe isn’t as pretty, but I’m still able to do it!
Farming can be a dangerous occupation and there are unfortunately many farmers that have had far worse accidents than this. I always thought that it couldn’t happen to me. But it did. If I had one piece of advice to share, it’s that everyone just needs to take an extra second to think about what they’re doing. If I’d taken the time to shut off the machine before trying to clear the jam, this never would have happened.”
-David, Dairy farmer
“I’ve been working at this mushroom farm for almost two years as one of the company’s safety and wellness advocates. I was raised in Windsor so it’s nice to find a great job like this, so close to home.
I studied Human Kinetics at university and then took a post graduate certificate in Advanced Ergonomic studies. Even though I had worked on local corn farms in the summers when I was younger, I had never considered a career in agriculture. Often people with degrees like mine generally work in manufacturing or in the automotive sector.
We have almost 400 employees working here so the work is really important and challenging. I like that every day is different. I try to spend at least half of my time on the farm floor, doing hazard assessments, talking with our employees and trying to make improvements to work conditions. It is important to me to keep our employees involved in recommending improvements because they are the ones on the ground who see what needs done. Safety goes across all departments here so it’s nice to be involved with all aspects of mushroom production.”
-Emily, Safety & Wellness Advocate, Highline Mushrooms
“I was raised on a dairy farm in Bruce County and had worked as a waitress when I was younger, but that was the extent of my restaurant experience until I met Chris. He was raised in the UK and has worked in restaurants around the world.
I was living in Ottawa and working for an agricultural organization but always wanted to move home to be closer to my family and the farm. He dreamed of opening a restaurant so we set out to find a solution to both dreams. After a lot of looking, we found this old building in Paisley that we’ve transformed into this restaurant.
It’s really great for me to be able to tell the food story to our customers from the perspective of me growing up on a local farm. We get our pork from a farmer who also happens to be a former high school teacher of mine. The beef comes from my family farm and chicken is also local. And as our business grows and we get past Covid, I’m really excited to get more into that local food movement. We specialize in artisanal pizzas that can showcase local ingredients. We make a roast beef pizza, as an example, that’s out of this world.
This business has also showed me that if you make really good food and can talk about the people behind the food, that resonates with people. We opened during the first month of Covid which sure had its challenges but I’ve been so touched by the support of the local community – and especially the local farm community. They want us to succeed.”
-Jennifer, Owner, Bonfire on Queen
"My grandfather emigrated from Germany so I’m the third generation of our family to farm near Niagara on the Lake. My family and I now grow about ten different varieties of grapes on 100 acres of land. In college, I did a co-op placement in New Zealand which was a great opportunity for me. That really helped to shape my career back home.
People sometimes wonder why there are still grapes on the vines at this time of the year. These will be harvested this winter for prestigious ice wine market. This area is the world’s biggest producer of ice wine. The grapes are covered in netting to protect them from birds.
For me, it’s ideal to have these grapes go through a few freezes and thaws before they’re harvested in late December or early January. That’s what brings up the sugar content and the flavour that ice wine is known for. The sugar content of grapes is calculated through a measurement called a brix. Regular grapes are harvested when they’re about 20 brix. Ice wine is between 38 and 41 brix.
Harvesting at about -9 or -10 degrees Celsius is ideal and then they go straight to be pressed the same night. It’s cold, wet, hard work harvesting at that time of the year. And the machinery doesn’t like always it. Occasionally we have to bring the harvester indoors to warm it up so that it’ll work properly.
I’m grateful for the support of my wife, Pamela, on this busy farm which is now also home to our four children aged 8 to 3. They’re all in hockey and lacrosse and I coach both. I’ve also made six trips through our church to an orphanage in Nairobi. We’ve sponsored the construction of several buildings and I’ve gone to help with those projects. They’re amazing experiences and I can’t wait until my kids are old enough so that we can take them too."
-Ben, Grape grower
I’m Annabelle. I’m 7 and my sister Julia is 5.
Annabelle: We like spending time on Nana and Papa’s farm and we like to help with the sheep. I help by pushing up the hay that they eat so they have lots of food and I like walking through their pen.
Julia: I like to pet them because they are so soft. I also like how they can be really nice
“I bought my first beef cow, named Silver Rose, when I was about 15 and now have about 50 cows and their calves. There’s always favourites. Right now, it is a cow named Bling. She’s just picture perfect.
Working with animals is my passion. I absolutely love calving season and seeing the birth of each new calf. There’s always so much excitement with each new arrival. I don’t think that feeling will ever get old.
After high school, I went to agricultural college and then went on to study insurance. I also now work off the farm for an insurance company.
A few years ago, a group of local farmers wanted to do something to celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day which takes place each February. We contacted our local school board and asked if they’d like a farmer to come and visit their classroom and talk to their students about what they do. We had 50 classrooms sign up that first year. It was awesome and we now do it every year. The kids are always so excited to meet a farmer and we have a lot of fun doing it. Talking to our customers about what we do and why we love doing it is really important.
What would my perfect vacation look like? Crazy enough, it would likely involve heading west and doing tours of beef farms out there. I love this industry.”
-Blair, beef farmer
It was a tough start to 2020 for our family’s greenhouse. With garden centres closed during the spring COVID-19 shut down which is generally a really busy season for us, we had no market for our spring crop including bedding plants, hanging baskets, pansies, vegetable and herb starter plants. We had to throw out all of our early pansies and vegetable plants and were even selling some vegetable plants out of our driveway. Our government was three weeks later than all other provinces in allowing garden centres to resume operations. It was such a relief when they did open.
I’m the fourth generation of my family growing flowers in Canada. My great grandfather emigrated from Holland – he and his family grew flowers there as well. I started coming to work here with my dad in grade seven helping with easier jobs like cleaning or working on the planting line. I’ve always loved this business. I especially like how it’s always changing with new crops for different seasons. And I love how this place is often bursting with colour.
After the spring season, we move into growing potted mums (Chrysanthemums) for the fall and starting poinsettia cuttings for the Christmas season. Most of our plants and flowers go to Home Depot. They’re great partners to work with. That’s something many people are surprised about – that the flowers are grown locally. They’re a living plant so they can’t be on a truck for more than about half a day or they’d really suffer.
Approximately 85 per cent of what we grow is red poinsettias. Most people really want the classic red and green colour for Christmas.”
-Thomas, Ontario flower grower
"We moved to this property in 1996. It has a lot of land not suitable to growing traditional crops but my husband Joe’s dad suggested we try Christmas trees. I said OK, not having any idea what it would become!
We planted our first crop in 1997 and opened in 2002. That year, we sold about 15 trees a day. Now, we sell hundreds in a day during the three weeks in December that we’re open.
In April and May each year we plant new trees directly beside the old stumps. Summer is spent pruning our crop. If there’s not enough rain, we have to water the seedlings by hand with buckets of water we bring out to the field in a truck. The work continues year round.
On average, it takes seven to 10 years to grow a tree. We produce White Spruce, Balsam Fir, Scotch Pine, White Pine and Blue Spruce. The most popular are the short needled trees like White Spruce, Balsam Fir and Blue Spruce.
The thing I like best about our business is the family atmosphere – both in terms of our family working here and our customer base. Our kids grew up working here. Joe’s parents used to work here every season and my parents still do. My dad’s 85 but he works in the parking lot managing the traffic. My nieces and nephews, sister and brother-in-law have all helped too. It’s really a family affair and I think our kids have learned a lot from that. And then we see the same families coming every year to pick out their perfect tree. It’s so much about tradition.
We’ll have to do some things differently this year because of COVID. There’ll be curbside pickup options and both tree skids and saws will be sanitized between customers, as examples. But we’re still going to make sure that people are able to have this experience. Everyone’s looking for things that they can do safely outside with their families."
-Alison, Christmas tree farmer
We emigrated here from the Philippines in 2004. Back home, my family are farmers growing corn and rice and raising farm animals.
Here, we grow vegetable and herbs in the spring as well as bedding plants and hanging baskets. Then we move to growing mums for the fall market and starting poinsettia cuttings for Christmas. All of these poinsettias will be shipped out in the next few weeks for Christmas.
I’ve worked here 15 years now. I like the variety of the job and the variety of the plants in the different seasons. Working in this greenhouse reminds me of back home. I also grow my own vegetable garden during the summer.
-Alexis, Production Manager, flower greenhouse
My parents immigrated from Belgium in 1921, growing tobacco and tomatoes on this farm beside Lake Erie. I tell people that I smoke this pipe as a tribute to our tobacco heritage. I took over the farm from my parents and started to grow apples in about 1955. Back in those days, our farm would produce about 350 bushels of apples to the acre. And now, with improvements in tree varieties and growing methods, we’re producing about 1,000 bushes to the acre. We grow 22 different varieties of apples on 240 acres.
What’s my favourite type? The Aurora Golden Gala™ or the Honey Crisp. Both of those varieties taste wonderful and have been really good to us. Our apples go to independent stores, local farmers markets and some chain stores. We also started making apple cider about 40 years ago when hail damaged much of our crop and we didn’t know what to do with the damaged apples. Since then, our cider has become a top seller and we have won prestigious awards in competitions with it.
We’re lucky to have a great team of 19 employees from Jamaica who come here each year to help. We’d be lost without them. One of them has been coming here for 33 years and another for 20 years – and now their sons are also on our crew. In the busy season, we have a staff of about 35 including a lot of students from the area.
My son Mark and his wife Barb are now fulltime in this family business too. It’s great to see the next generation continuing.
-Hector, apple grower
"I was in France on a ten month exchange through the Rotary Club when COVID hit. It was a hard decision to come home but it was definitely the right one to make. My siblings and I are the sixth generation of our family to work on this fruit farm near Lake Erie. As soon as I came home and finished quarantine, I started working in the fields with my family. Some of our Seasonal Agricultural Workers weren’t able to get here – or came several months late - so there was a lot of work to get done without them. I also work part time in our farm market. Consumers like buying from local farms and I am able to answer a lot of their questions like ‘what’s the best peach for canning” and “how can you ripen fruit faster”.
I’m in grade 12 at school and hope to study either biology or chemistry at university next year. I also love to play rugby. I played when I was in France too."
I love to fix things - I wanted to be a mechanic, diagnosing the problem and finding a solution. I remember learning how to drive a tractor for the first time, becoming independent, and earning more responsibility – those are my favourite memories on the farm.
I first learned about plant science when I went to college, and continue to learn more and more each day. Farming is constantly evolving as technology improves, and as farmers we need to adapt and learn all of the ways we can make our farms more efficient. The best part of waking up on a farm is doing something different every day, being my own boss, and harvesting crops – you get to see the benefits of all of your hard work.
If I had to give anyone advice about farming it would be, “surround yourself with like-minded people, and have a positive attitude.”
-Bill, Grain Farmer
“I grew up in Haliburton and met my husband while we were both attending the University of Guelph where I was studying human nutrition. Rick was raised in this area. Our grandchildren are the seventh generation of our family to farm here. I never planned to marry a farmer even thought my grandparents farmed. When I brought him home, my mom asked if I couldn’t find a veterinarian instead. She thought that farmers worked too hard!
Since moving here, I’ve gotten very involved in many farm organizations both locally and across the province. Making sure that students in classrooms have the chance to learn about agriculture is a real passion of mine. I was very involved in helping to form an organization that is now called AgScape. It is an organization focused on Agriculture in the Classroom in Ontario. It offers curriculum-based lessons about agriculture and food to teachers and classrooms across Ontario. It is so important that people grow up knowing more about where their food comes from.
We have about 500 sheep on this farm and we started a small abattoir about 30 years ago too, selling lamb and lamb products to local shops and restaurants. The meat is all Halal processed for our diverse consumer base. One year, Chef Michael Smith even came here when he was in Windsor for a chef conference. During COVID, I have found that our customers are really interested in buying local food, like meat from our farm. When they couldn’t go out to eat at restaurants, they were keen to buy quality products from area farmers so that they could prepare delicious meals at home.”
-Carolyn, Sheep farmer
My wife and I came to Canada from India a year ago. I first started working at a mushroom farm in British Columbia and then we moved to Ontario last winter. We rented a UHaul and drove 4,700 km across Canada at the start of COVID. It was a big adventure driving across Canada when all the roads were empty. It is very different from India where there are 1.35 billion people – and you see people everywhere. At that time, Canada looked empty.
My wife now works for this company too.
My role is a grower which means that I overlook all aspects of the mushrooms’ growth. That starts with the structure of the compost that they’re grown in and includes watching them through all stages of production – how much moisture is in the compost, what the climate of the rooms is like, how many mushrooms are growing per square metre. Hygiene is also critical in here. All of the hallways are cleaned every night and the rooms are steamed in between cycles. It’s my job to make sure that the mushrooms are perfect.
From the time that the compost is put in the beds until the room is emptied is 28 days from start to finish. I like the fact that every day is different on this job. My wife and I are big mushroom fans. My favourite? The button ones. We eat them a lot.”
-Ramandeep, Mushroom Grower
“When borders closed to Canadian beef and prices dropped drastically due to the BSE crisis 20 years ago, I realized that I had to make some changes to our farm if we were going to survive. Our family has been farming here for 75 years since my grandparents emigrated here from the Netherlands.
We originally had beef animals that we finished for market in a feedlot. Today, we raise 325 cows and their calves on our farm so it’s a completely different business. They live outdoors year-round and eat a mixture of grasses, corn as well as products like carrot tops and peelings that come from nearby vegetable farmers or dry distillers’ grains which is a by-product of the distilling industry. It’s a great recycling story that we’re able to use products that would be discarded from other industries to feed our animals.
Ten years ago, we opened a small retail store on our property too. All the beef we sell comes from our farm and can be traced back to the animal it came from. Having that type of traceability system really gives our customers peace of mind.
Four generations of our family now live on this farm including my parents, some of our children and grandchildren. My dad is 87 years old and still comes out every day to help.”
-Mike, Beef farmer
“Since I was five years old, I’ve been helping out in the fields. My grandparents, two uncles, and aunts all started as a group in the greenhouse business. We had two and a half acres between the three families where we grew peaches, apples, pears and anything else you could name.
When I was 30 years old my father and I amicably split from the others and each of us started our own farms. My first farm started with one acre, grew to six and when my nephew Jamie wanted to join me, we purchased a 50 acre farm, which is now the headquarters of Del Fresco Produce, and where Jamie and I started Sunrite greenhouses. Now, we own over 125 acres and have expanded into all kinds of commodities and varieties.
I think what I love most about my job is being able to help other people. Since I was 16 we’ve employed four or five thousand different people and I know we’ve made a difference in our people’s lives. The best thing you can do is work with your family, and if you treat your business like a part of the family as well it makes you really happy when you’re able to pull off a good year and everyone can see the success of the fruits of our labor.”
-Carl, President & CEO of Del Fresco Produce
“There are a couple of things that I really love about my job: I like that we’re innovative, we’re striving for better soil health and improving the farmland for the next generation. There’s also a more selfish side of me that likes driving the big tractors!
I grew up on a pig farm; my mom and dad would take us out to the barn to feed the pigs, and the feeders would be as makeshift playpens.
I worked at a mixed practice vet clinic for 10 years. I really enjoyed the hustle of keeping the vets on the road, and would probably still be doing that if I weren't on the farm. I like to sew, and depending on my mood I am into classic country or some good upbeat pop music - my iPod is really all over the place. My proudest achievement would be graduating from University in 2013, and paying for it myself with the help of a scholarship. The best advice I have ever received would be, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
-Christine, crop farmer
“I’ve been coming to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago for 15 years to work on farms here. I’ve been working on this farm for 11 years. Normally, I arrive in April and go home in November but due to COVID, I didn’t get here until July this year and then had to isolate for two weeks before I could start work.
I remember my first day of work in Canada. I thought, ‘Wow! This place is so strange. Houses are so far apart’. At home it’s also hot 12 months of the year so I like the weather here. The first time I got to shovel snow was fun! I watch hockey but I don’t really understand the sport.
I’d heard about the Seasonal Worker Program back home and knew some people that had been hired through the program so I started asking more questions. When I was young, I’d plant rice with my grandparents, uncles and aunties and I’d studied Agrisciences at school. I enjoyed farming and thought that the program would be a good fit for me and it was. I enjoy doing this.
Working here has certainly improved my life back home. I’d recommend this program to anyone who is a hard worker and who has some ambition. If you’re young, it’s a great place to get started.
When I’m home on the off season, I work in retail sales. I’ve been doing that since I left school. I love to play cricket and some soccer and I have a 1974 Ford Escort that’s my hobby car.”
-Ricardo, Seasonal Agricultural Worker
“I’ve been driving livestock trucks for more than 31 years. My grandpa had a farm and I’ve always enjoyed working with livestock and with farmers too. Now I’m starting to work with the next generation of young farmers in several of those families and that’s cool too.
We play an important role for the farmer. They take a lot of care in raising their animals and then we have to transport them safely. Driving trucks carrying livestock is a lot different than driving other types of loads.
I love driving truck because of the sights and scenery that I see on my routes. I drive loads back and forth to the Maritimes regularly and love it down there.
One of my biggest frustrations comes from the increased traffic on our highways. I don’t think that’ll ever change. People in cars just often don’t realize how much room we need around us to drive and stop safely.
One of my favourite hobbies is washing and polishing trucks at our yard – both my own and others. I really like a clean truck. A clean truck makes a statement about our industry and how we care for it.”
-Earl, Livestock Transporter
“I remember my dad teaching me how to ride the row marker line with the planter to keep it straight, but my youngest memory on the farm would be bottle feeding calves with my uncle; I have always loved calves so much. The most rewarding part of my job is getting to see my hard work come to fruition at the end of the year, from all of the decisions made at planting time, to harvesting my crop.
The best advice I have ever received would be: don’t say no to an opportunity just because you don’t feel ready, when you’re uncomfortable you’re growing.
My favourite thing to do in my spare time is training horses for barrel racing. The best part of waking up on a farm is seeing the morning dew and sunrises and the sounds of the birds and bugs with how quiet it is. I love that.”
-Amanda, Farmer & Agronomist
“I was born in Newfoundland and had no farm experience until I met my future wife, Robin. This is her family fruit farm and she’s the fifth generation to live on it. Our kids are the sixth.
When we first met, I was graduating from university as an environmental engineer. She is a nurse. We didn’t have immediate plans to be part of her family business and moved to Manitoba for a few years. But at some point, Robin slipped it into a conversation that she wanted to farm. And here we are. It’s been an adventure.
This has been a tough year for fruit growers. We rely heavily on a trained team of Seasonal Agricultural Workers to help on our farm. Many of our employees come from Trinidad & Tobago and they weren’t allowed out of their country due to COVID-19. The ones that did come were months late and many didn’t make it at all. It was stressful because we had no idea where we were going to find the help we needed.
I’m so impressed with the motivation of our entire crew this year to keep themselves and the farm safe. They live on the farm and many of them don’t leave the property because they don’t want to take the risk of bringing COVID back. My wife mobilized a team to start buying their groceries for them – and you can imagine how many groceries a team of 25 employees go through! We’ve tried to do everything we can to give them a mental break and ensure that they feel comfortable and appreciated. They are so important to us.”
-Brian, Apple grower
"I was raised by a single mom who taught me the importance of growing our own vegetables, and had a great garden. A natural progression, once the bounty was harvested, was teaching me how to can and preserve vegetables. I was not raised on a farm, but gained my appreciation from her of eating what you grow.
I met my husband Billy through a friend. Billy’s family have been farming in the Holland Marsh since 1934 when his great uncle first settled here. This area isn’t like much of the rest of rural Ontario where farms are found in traditional 100 acre parcels. Here, it’s more of an agricultural hamlet, with farmers farming numerous smaller properties in different locations throughout the Marsh. I was a legal secretary when I started dating Billy and I’d come spend weekends and holidays to help with whatever field work had to be done. We married in 1988. There is no job on the farm that I haven’t done myself.
One of the greatest assets we have, as vegetable farmers, is our access to seasonal agricultural workers. We’ve got three great employees this year from Trinidad. One’s been coming here for 10 years; one for five and one’s new this year. They’re so entrepreneurial and smart. They’re really good at what they do. We were worried in the spring that they wouldn’t be able to come because of border closures due to Covid-19, and they were months late in getting here. We had a contingency plan, but these guys KNOW the work, and --they treat our farm like it’s their own and take pride in the work they do!
Since 2010, I’ve been really involved in politics, as a local municipal councillor, as well as a member of many farm organizations. It is so important for farmers to be represented on boards like these so that our issues are understood. I’m also a self-proclaimed social media freak and love to share stories from our farm with non-farming folks."
-Avia, Vegetable Grower
“I began to learn about animal science through my dad and our main herdsman, and then my sister went to the University of Guelph. That’s how I learned about the program I ended up going into. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing calves I remember raising have their first calf and join our milking herd, or when I have a sick cow, and I put a lot of time into caring for her – seeing her better, doing really well, that’s really nice.
We want to raise our family on the farm, and are having a child soon. Putting in robots that milk our cows gave us that flexibility of having kid(s) around, which was a main reason, having more flexibility.”
My favourite thing about waking up on a farm is the sunrises - you can’t beat those. I get up between 4 -5 a.m. everyday. It is peaceful, it's nice. Growing up my sisters and I used to ride on the alley scrapers all of the time, and ride our bikes through the feed alleys and up the hill to the haymow in our old bank barn. I like to spend a lot of time with family, or I like to go to the gym in the morning, if I am not working, or to go for a nice long walk with my dog”
-Emily, Dairy Farmer
I’m an apple star! I have been coming to Canada from Jamaica for 20 years to work on this fruit farm. The main reason I started coming was to help my family back home. I have three children and three grandchildren and I talk to them almost every day. At home, we have a small farm growing bananas, coconuts, plantains and breadfruit. My wife looks after it when I’m here. We sell some and eat some. The work here is hard work but it is good and it has given me a lot of experience.
Ricardo: It was an easy decision to follow my dad to Canada five years ago and I’ve been coming here ever since. At home, I used to work as a municipal police officer but now I am here eight months of the year. I have tried just about every job around here and I like the variety in the work. We were worried that we might not get here this year because the border was closed and that caused a delay. They finally sent a charter flight to Jamaica to pick us all up. Even now, everyone on this farm is taking many precautions for COVID. It’s important that we all take it really seriously.
Prince: I don’t think that people realize that all apples are picked by hand. Apples bruise so easily so you’ve got to be careful with them all. I’d like people to know how hard we work to produce food for Canadians. One day a lady stopped by where we were working to thank us. That felt good.
-Prince and Ricardo, a father/son team of Seasonal Agricultural Workers from Jamaica
Agriculture) program on our family farm, weekly from April to December & send out about 380 boxes of fruits and vegetables to our customers. A lot of it comes from our own farm but also from other local Ontario farms that follow best farm practices. We grow all heirloom tomatoes, kale, salad bowls and microgreens. During COVID, our customers have really been grateful to have access to fresh local products & like that there’s something new every week in their box. We deliver to about half of them and the other half pick up at a central location or at our farm directly.
My mother and my three kids also work every day in this business. We’re a team and we know that if we don’t work together, the team will fall apart.
Weekly, we also donate between 150 and 250 pounds of fresh produce to local charities whose focus is on helping abused women and children as well as Charities with a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. For me, it’s a way of paying it forward. I’ve always believed that what you put out there, you get back.”
-Linda, Seed to Feed Co.
“My nickname is Pieces. I don’t know where I got it except that there were four Anthonys working on this farm one summer and so we needed nicknames to keep each other straight and it has stuck.
I’ve been coming here for 20 years from Trinidad & Tobago. At first, I thought it was a good way to earn some bread but I like it here and I’ve never stopped coming. It’s a good place to work. Normally I come in April but this year, it was the 6th of July before I got here – and then I had to spend 14 days inside for quarantine. That was enough to make a man a little bit crazy. Back home, I’ve got three kids – twin girls and a boy – and nine grandchildren. I call home twice a week."
Editor's note: While Pieces is extremely modest, his coworkers described him as a humble and loveable guy who is well known and liked in the community after two decades of working in Canada. He’s always that “guy that steps up to help” and “he just has love for everybody”, we were told.
-Pieces, Seasonal Agricultural Worker from Trinidad & Tobago
“I think that agriculture has one of the biggest potentials for improvement in use of technology and data, and I have always been fascinated by how much agriculture can be transformed through things like robotics and using more data on the farm. Having the space to have diverse operations is the most rewarding part of what I do. I taught at Durham College a few years back, and one of the things I always told the students is that you can do a thousand things with a single acre; we have pigeon holed ourselves into a certain type of conventional farming but even in this country and in our climate we can do hundreds of things with a single acre. So the ability to shift to try something new is available to us every single year.
The best advice I have ever received is to have an open mind. Farming on paper seems like a simple process but in terms of everything that we do on a day to day basis but there are so many factors that can throw you a curveball. Being able to adjust to those and accommodate those is extremely important. I love data and I look at farming from an economical standpoint. On our farm, we are looking to maximize profits on each acre, as opposed to growing so many bushels per acre, so that challenge of using data in an economic way is very intriguing to me, It is really what drives me to make all of our decisions in a day to day.”
-Norm, Grain Farmer
“My sisters and I are the fourth generation to be raised here and my grandparents still live on the farm next door. I’m in my last year studying Agriculture Business at the University of Guelph and have been thinking of starting my own business for a few years now. I’ve always been fascinated by bees. They’re connected to everything and they’re so interesting.
I bought two nucs (nucleus colonies) this past spring. They’re like a beehive starter kit. Then this year, I actually caught another swarm of bees that had settled on a neighbour’s mailbox. So now I have three hives and hope to have 10 by next year. I had been warned that I might not get any honey in the first year but I actually harvested 200 pounds and my first taste of my first honey crop was just awesome. My customers have complimented us on the taste of the honey and in how light the colour of it is.
I’ve learned so much in this first season. Other beekeepers have been great at offering me advice and answering my questions. And I’ve only been stung six times all season!
At this time of the year, beekeepers are getting their hives ready for winter. We’re feeding the bees sugar syrup to build up their reserves for the winter. I’ve treated my hives for Varroa destructor mites. They are a parasitic mite which devastate a hive. Then, in a few weeks, the hives will be wrapped up to protect them from winter wind and weather and we’ll leave them until spring.
There have been a lot of misconceptions in recent years about possible connections between bee health and grain farms so this has also been a little bit of a research project for me. My hives are located beside our corn field and that hasn’t bothered the bees’ health at all. I think farmers and bee keepers need to work together because we all need bees for pollination. We’re all in this together and an issue as complex as bee health deserves full knowledge of all sides of the issue.”
I spent a lot of time on my grandparent's farm, that was my place to go. Getting to grow up with my grandparents and being that close was huge for me. My favourite memory of going there was the draft horse my grandparents and uncle have. I went to school at University of Guelph, where at first I studied Kinesiology, spent two months in that program and then decided it wasn’t for me and that agriculture was always my passion, so I was at the perfect school to branch out into that.
The best part of my job is being involved in the process from start to finish. I spend my winter crop planning, doing fertilizer plans, selling the seed. You are really involved in the whole process. I find this really rewarding, especially when the growers are happy with their crops at the end of the year.
The best advice I have ever received is to stay positive, agriculture has highs and lows you see a lot of year after year. There can be good years and detrimental years, trying to stay positive through that.
-Taylor, Vegetable Crop Specialist
Rob’s family has been farming in the Holland Marsh for 60 years, growing carrots, beets, potatoes and onions. His dad is still involved in the business.
We’d always dreamed of starting a farmers’ market – but it was a five year vision, not a three month plan that we’d put together in a pandemic! This past spring, we had a few extra vegetables for sale so we put them out on a table outside our farm – and they sold quickly day after day. So then we added a tent to cover the table, and then that expanded to three tents and tables – and we still couldn’t keep up to the demand. We decided to quickly renovate a shed where we’ve traditionally packed our vegetables in and now we have a full-fledged farmers market selling our products and others from farmers both in the marsh and across Ontario.
We’ve had such an amazing response from our customers. In the early months of COVID, people were scared to go into grocery stores so they were happy to have a local, safe option to buy their produce. Now, we’ve decided to sell a Thanksgiving box which will include all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner – including a turkey – and we’ll do the same for Christmas. Customers are asking that we sell into the winter too. They don’t want us to close!
One of the things I enjoy most is answering questions about the food we’re selling. One customer wondered why the potatoes in our market are dirty – because the ones in a grocery store aren’t. They didn’t know that potatoes grow underground so when they’re harvested, they’re covered in dirt – and that dirt actually helps them store better.
- Shannon and Rob, Marques Family Farm Farmers Market
I remember very clearly sitting in the breast cancer centre at the hospital dressed in a pink gown and looking around the room at the other women there. They were all older than me as were all of the women pictured on posters in the centre. I was only 33 years old. I didn’t want to be wearing that gown and I didn’t want to be there. When I’d found a lump and had it tested, I had been told it was probably nothing. But then a nurse called to tell me it was cancer. I didn’t expect that. Thinking of it still makes me tear up.
That was five years and five surgeries ago – including a double mastectomy. I really want to change the narrative on cancer. When you find a lump, you shouldn’t be afraid to investigate it. Doing so could save your life like it did mine.
I am an egg farmer and I grew up working with my dad on this farm. I’ve always loved being in the barn. When I was diagnosed with cancer and going through treatments, I still had to take care of our birds and that felt so normal. In the barn, I was no longer the cancer patient and no longer thinking about the upcoming pokes, prods and appointments. I was focused on our hens and their needs.
I also met my husband soon after my second surgery. You really get to know someone’s character when he supports you through a process like that. It opens up your heart.
-Tonya, Egg Farmer
I grew up on a pig farm and always loved it when the trucks showed up to collect our livestock. I used to want to be a farmer like my dad but instead, I took a course to get my AZ licence and have been driving livestock trucks for about a year and a half. Having a background working with pigs has really helped in this career because I know how to move them safely. My coworkers and I are also all trained and certified in a program called Transport Quality Assurance which teaches drivers on how to handle, move and transport pigs. I think that specialized training is something that many people don’t know we have.
I’ve really enjoyed this career so far. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my coworkers and the farmers I visit. I also really enjoy travelling outside of the province and seeing parts of the rest of Canada. My favourite stop so far has been Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
If I meet someone who doesn’t know much about farming, I often get asked questions about my job – like how many animals can travel on a truck at one time and how far we take them.
When I’m not driving trucks, I love going four-wheeling and spending time with my friends.
-Ben – Livestock Transporter
I was probably nine or ten when I first started helping my mechanic dad with simple oil changes and other projects in his shop. And then I moved to fixing riding lawnmowers and now I help with bigger equipment like this combine. I like this type of work because you pretty much get to work on your own. Dad checks on me regularly to see if I need help and if I’m doing things right.
It’s been a little weird since COVID but there’s lots of people in worse situations. We’ve still had lots of work to do and I’ve been helping in the shop a lot.
I really like to play on my trampoline, watch movies and play video games. I like to play soccer but that’s been cancelled this year also because of COVID.
-Kyle, 13, future farm mechanic
I was raised on an apple farm and at 18 went away to university. When I came back home I worked at a bank for 5 years, while raising my own chickens, and then a farm close by came up for sale - it happened to be an apple farm. My husband and I purchased the farm and now we farm full time with our four young children. The best thing about living on a farm is getting up, working hard, and then feeling good and accomplished at the end of the day. I find it rewarding as the season goes on, to watch an apple crop grow, knowing how much hard work went into it. My favourite memory growing up on the farm is joking around in the orchard alongside my siblings. When I am not farming I teach Tae Bo, and love to be out on our boat. Always, always try your best – that’s the best advice I have ever received.
-Christine, Apple and Chicken Farmer
“I was raised on a dairy farm and often spent evenings helping a neighbour who was a mechanic. So my career is his fault! I liked farming but I didn’t want to work seven days a week for the rest of my life. Funny thing though is that now that I own my own business, it’s at least a six day a week job.
I went to college to learn how to fix farm equipment with a specialty in diesel engines. I opened my own business in January 2002 and now look after repairs for farmers both locally and as far away as two hours away. Tractors, combines, we fix them all.
A challenge with my career is that everything’s an emergency. From March to late fall, farmers are under a lot of pressure to get their crops in and then to get them harvested. If their equipment breaks down, that can keep them from doing their work and meeting critical deadlines and that’s where I come in.
The greatest reward to my career has come from working next door to our home. We’ve raised three great boys who have never seen me work for anyone else and I’ve always been home when I was needed. They started helping me in the shop when they were young and now all three of them want to pursue a career in mechanics – either truck or farm equipment. Seeing their interest in pursuing a similar career gives me enormous pride.”
-Cam, Farm equipment mechanic
“I grew up on my family’s dairy farm and have just taken a year off to work before I start college in the fall. I really like chemistry and my goal is to pursue a career in a medical field.
What do I do around the farm? Whatever needs to be done. My sister, brother and I help with all aspects of chores, as needed. We’ve been really lucky during COVID that we have so much space here and can enjoy the outdoors. It makes it better.
I really love 4-H. It’s one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been in the calf club and many lifestyle clubs. I really enjoyed the candy making club. That was great.”
-Allana, age 19
I’ve just graduated from high school and will be attending Fanshawe College this fall with a goal of having a career as a heavy truck mechanic. It’s a two year course followed by an apprenticeship program before I will get my official licence.
Since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed helping my dad who is a farm mechanic. I was out there from the time I was little, watching and probably being a bit annoying.
When I was about 10, I started to help him by handing him tools. Later, he taught me how to rebuild smaller engines, do oil changes and other pretty simple things. Now, I get to help with the more complex stuff, like fixing combines and other equipment.
I like taking something that doesn’t work and making it work again. COVID hasn’t really made a difference to our business. People still need stuff fixed.
For fun, I like fishing and hanging with my friends.”
-Jacob, 18, future truck mechanic
Going to the farmers market is one of my earliest memories on the farm, it’s one of the first things we ever did. We would go early and help grandpa set up, and then at break time we always got French fries. We started handling money at a very young age – there may have been multiple occasions where we accidently gave back too much money or not enough, but we learned from it.
You learn a lot living on a farm. You get to know first-hand that the food that you see in the grocery store is grown by people, you learn to appreciate the time and effort that goes into getting that food from the farm to the shelf.
The best advice I have ever received is from my mom, when we pick apples, she always tells us “you have two hands for a reason” because sometimes we would get lazy and just pick with one hand, picking only one apple at a time. For me I translate that into every aspect of my life in a way that you shouldn’t just go about things 50%, if you’re going to do it – dive right into it, give it 100%, do your best, and work hard.”
-Alex, 17 & Kendra, 15 - Peach & Apple Farmers
I was in New York City ten years ago and it was there that I bought a cape made from alpaca fibre. I fell in love with the material – it was so luxurious and warm. I came home determined to learn more.
Fast forward a decade, and my family and I have moved to a farm where we have 10 alpacas. It took me seven years to convince them that we should move from our urban home but it’s been totally life changing. I’m living proof that you can make a dream happen. I love all of my animals – each has a totally different personality. We also grow lavender and have bee hives.
The animals are sheared annually and I’m now working with a local mill and learning how to spin the fibre. My mom knits it into hats, scarves, mittens and socks.
The early days of Covid were especially stressful. I found myself coming out just to spend time with the animals and I could feel the stress melting away. It was a family friend who suggested that there might be a way to share that experience with others – and that’s how Yoga with Alpacas started! We’re now offering sessions twice a week and we’re sold out into the early fall. The response has been incredible. It’s been a beautiful experience to be able to share my story and these animals with others."
-Penny, Alpaca farmer
“The most rewarding part of my job is starting the plants from propagation to them being sold and shipped 6 months or a year later. We are always trying out new varieties and ways to make our farm more dynamic and efficient. I first learned about plant science when I went to the University of Guelph, and then worked in British Columbia at large wholesale nursery for a season after graduation. I learned that being the biggest producer isn’t always the best but being the best at what you produce is more important. I’ve always liked the saying “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. My favourite thing to do for fun is go hunting, and spend time with family. The best thing about waking up on the farm is walking my dog early every morning.”
-Philip, Flower Produce
“We wanted to change the expectations around food and what full-service catering should feel like. We started in a small kitchen in the back half of a unit in Downtown Orangeville and after 8 years have taken the company to a new permanent home with a commercial kitchen. We wanted Lavender Blue Catering to have an entrance and a ‘face’ that it deserved. We decided to make our restaurant very French and very pretty to showcase not only our pastry and food talents but also a level of design and taste that flows through to our events as well.
Owning a business is a 24 hour 7 day a week job. Sometimes we work 70 to 80 hours a week and even though it is challenging we love what we do and we love our clients. I think it is especially important now that clients understand that we are working as fast as we can with new COVID restrictions and smaller staff size. Sometimes it takes a few days for an email to be answered, not because we don't want to but just because there may be too many to handle in one day. That is really the biggest challenge, wearing so many hats and finding the time to give every aspect of owning a business a 100% effort.”
-Terry & Vanessa, Owners of Les Finis dessert bar and Lavender Blue Catering
“Ten years ago, I would have thought you were crazy if you had told me that I was going to be a journalist – let alone an agricultural journalist. That wasn’t on my mind at all even though I’ve always had a knack for writing, and from the time I was little, wrote stories for fun. When I went to the University of Guelph for an Honours Agricultural Sciences degree, my goal was to pursue a career working with animals. I was raised on a dairy farm and got my love of livestock there.
It was in 2018, at a meeting of sheep farmers, that things changed. I met my now-boss, editor of an agricultural newspaper and he mentioned that he was looking for a reporter. I thought the job sounded fascinating, applied, and here I am, writing stories about all sectors of agriculture – from crops to livestock to technology.
The thing I love most about this career is that I’m learning something new every day. Agriculture is a fascinating industry to work in. I also now serve as a board member on the Eastern Canadian Farm Writers’ Association which is an organization for journalists and agricultural communications specialists in this province.
Last year, I got married and moved to my husband’s home farm where he and his family specialize in growing crops. I missed the livestock, though, so we’ve fixed up a barn and I now have 25 sheep with room to expand the flock down the road. It’s a good combination of careers – journalism and sheep farming. I really love both.”
-Jennifer – agricultural journalist and sheep farmer
I’m the sixth generation of our family to live on this farm. My children are the seventh. My dad is now 76 but is still here daily to help too. There’s no better place to raise our three children than on the farm that I was raised on.
The pandemic hasn’t affected me maybe as much as other people. The cows still need to be milked and the crops still needed to be planted in the spring and cared for until harvest. If I hadn’t watched the news at night when I came in from the barn, I could have imagined that things were fairly normal in the world. Farming is really a 24/7 type of career. There’s no such thing as a normal work day. I often go to sleep at night thinking about the next day’s chores and I often dream about the farm too. We don’t take many vacations away from the farm but we sure appreciate them when we can get away.
What do I wish our consumers knew about dairy farming? How much we care for our animals. I love cows. I love milking them, feeding them and taking care of them.
-David – Ontario dairy farmer
“I met Hinke when I went into university and one thing led to another. We started chicken farming for a few years to see if we liked farming and to see how it worked. When the opportunity to take over the family business came up, we jumped at it. Now seven years later and three kids later, we have this beautiful turkey farm to call our own. We’re pretty lucky and fortunate to be part of this industry and to supply food to the general public.
When the turkeys first arrive in the barn, we’re in there all the time for at least the first two days because they need that much love, care and attention. We work for the birds, so when they need something they get it, regardless if it’s my birthday or Christmas. Sometimes that makes our personal lives a bit less flexible, but it ensures that we have better success with the animals.”
-Hinke and Marc, Alberta turkey farmers
“The Bluebird Cafe and Grill has been a restaurant that we have loved for many years and in fact was the first restaurant we dined at when we moved to Orangeville 14 years ago. We spent a lot of special occasions and family celebrations in this restaurant and we always felt a connection to it; it was a staple in our community. When the opportunity arose to purchase it in 2019, we felt it was the right fit for us. We did not want to see anything happen to it.
When COVID-19 first appeared, we shut down before being mandated to as it was important for us to do our part and we didn’t realize what it was bringing with it long term. The plan was to take some time to isolate, deep-clean, paint, sanitize and do a lot of the things that are more difficult to find time to do when you’re open for business. When we realized this wasn’t going to be short-lived, we opened again for takeout. Each new stage of reopening thereafter has brought with it some excitement but also some uneasiness as each stage has been accompanied with new routines and transitions.
The takeout kitchen was able to draw in many new people in our community, some who didn’t realize we even provided a separate takeout experience. The Bluebird had never had outdoor dining in its 30 years but when it was announced that patios could open, we very much wanted to see our guests again and we went to work. Now, with the help of some dear friends and our town council, we have a small patio for outside dining and our dining room is now open on a smaller capacity to allow for distancing. Overall, this pandemic has forced us to try new things that we otherwise may not have had the opportunity to do. When something operates one way for so long, it is difficult to be innovative but this has allowed us to do exactly that.”
-Michelle and Rick, Restaurant owners and operators
“I’m the only one in my class that lives on a farm. After school ended because of COVID, I was able to spend more time helping my dad with his chores and I’ve learned so much. I haven’t been bored at all. One week, I brought two of our piglets onto a Google meet-up with the rest of my class and my teacher. It was fun to be able to teach my friends about farming and I think my teacher liked it too.
Some of my favourite things to do around the farm include shipping pigs and helping deliver hay. Those trips come with a stop for ice cream! I also like helping our sheep give birth. In the winter, when the lambs are born, I sometimes have to help feed them bottles of milk or bring them into the house to warm them up when they’re first born.
I don’t think I want to be a farmer when I grow up but I’d love to be either a veterinarian or a pediatrician because I love both animals and babies.”
-Emma, age 12
“This summer, I’m working for a local contractor helping to frame houses and barns but when I’m not needed there, I help my dad who is a farm mechanic. When we were off school in the spring due to COVID-19, I also helped in the shop, fixing lawnmowers, tractors, bailers and other things.
I’m going into grade 11 at school and when I’m done, I’d like to pursue a career like my dad’s. I like the challenge of figuring out how things work. When something’s not working, and then you can make it work, that comes with a feeling of relief and satisfaction.
In my free time, I like playing football and baseball, or going quadding on our four-wheelers with my buddies. I’ve also taken a whole bunch of 4-H clubs.”
-Braden, 16 – future farm equipment mechanic
“After high school, I left my family’s dairy farm to study history at Queen’s University. In fact, I remember wondering ‘how far away can I go?’ I had absolutely no interest in farming and thought I’d eventually have a career working in government.
Being away made me realize how much I liked it here and it was there, as the only farm kid in my program, that I started to realize how little people like my classmates generally knew about where their food comes from.
As an example, my wife was raised in the city. When her family came out for our wedding rehearsal dinner, they even had a meeting first to decide what they should wear to the farm because they had never been to one before. We took them for a wagon ride and had a great time showing them around.
I dream of someday setting up a small processing plant here where people could stop to buy fresh milk – like what’s stored in this tank or other dairy products straight from the farm. Last year, my wife and I lived in Australia and I worked at a micro dairy processor in downtown Melbourne. I soaked up as much knowledge as I possibly could while I was there and think that type of business would really work here too.
People don’t have much of a connection to agriculture anymore and I want to help change that. I imagine our customers sitting on picnic tables outside our store eating ice cream and watching the cows that produced that milk grazing nearby. What could be more honest and transparent than that?”
-Steven, Dairy entrepreneur
Why Highland cattle? I was born in Scotland and I’ve been known to say, “anything Scottish is better than anything else!” Keeping with the Scottish theme, we’ve also raised Collies, Skye Terriers and West Highland White Terriers. Currently, I have a Border Collie who helps brings the cattle in from the field to the barn at night for me. Prior to Highlands, we had sheep for a number of years.
My dad studied in the UK and wrote his thesis up in Scotland. We moved back to Canada when I was just a baby but I went back and worked over there twice before I graduated university and got married. My dad bought this farm in 1971, thus fulfilling a long-time dream of his. I now farm it with our son.
Highland cattle may look fierce with their long horns but they’re really quiet, placid animals who have a gentle demeanour. Our family used to show them at numerous fairs in both Ontario and the U.S. as well as at the local Highland games. They were always a highlight for the guests.
We’ve often joked that we should charge people for stopping on the roadside and taking photos of them in the field because they are so picturesque.
- Crispin, beef farmer
“I didn’t really miss school when it got cancelled due to COVID. It has given me lots more time to help on our family’s dairy farm. My favourite things to do on the farm are driving tractors, milking cows, picking up hay bales and helping to deliver calves. I was about five when I helped deliver my first calf. Sometimes, I’m even up at midnight to help my dad in the barn if there’s a cow that needs help giving birth.
What else have I learned during COVID? I am learning how to change the oil in our tractors and I’ve been helping my grandpa build furniture. That’s been cool. I definitely want to be a farmer when I grow up.”
-Caden, age 12
We’ve just finished baling 400 acres of hay which is stored in these bales you see behind me. That’s the equivalent of an area about the size of 300 football fields. Haying is a really hot job to do in the heat of the summer but it has to be done or we won’t have feed for our animals next winter. When I was a kid, we didn’t have air conditioning in our tractors or some of the automation that is now available in the equipment that bales the hay for us but we’re lucky now that modern equipment makes the job easier. We use both the hay and the other crops we grow in our fields to feed our pigs, cows and sheep.
It seems that we’re always trying to plan ahead. We plan in the winter for what we’ll plant in the spring and we always hope that a combination of Mother Nature’s kindness and good management produce lots of good crops to last us through the winter and into next year. But there’s always a bit of uncertainty and lots of factors that come into play that we can’t control like the weather."
-Chris, beef, pig and crop farmer
"I think I was luckier than some of my high school classmates this spring when school was cancelled due to COVID-19. There was still lots of stuff to be done on our farm and our lives were likely more normal than those of many people. This summer, I’m working full time on the farm and will go into grade 12 in September. I really like chemistry and biology but don’t know yet what I want to do after high school.
Some of my favourite things to do on the farm include helping with the cows and feeding the calves.
My hobbies include playing soccer and taking 4-H clubs with my friends. During COVID, I’ve been doing a lot of extra baking which has been fun."
-Emily, age 17
“We’re the fifth and sixth generations of our family to live and work on this farm. We started talking about building this new barn about five years ago – and then it took three years of planning to make it happen. Mike had the final say in the plans – he’s the next generation that will take over at some point.
We visited about two dozen farms looking at other barns before we settled on a design. Our cows moved in here two years ago and it’s been a complete game changer for us. It’s entirely built with their comfort in mind. It’s bright, it has great air movement and it’s free flowing meaning that our cows can go anywhere in it that they want to. It’s also got a robotic milking system which allow them to decide when they want to be milked.
Like many Canadian kids, I (Norm) dreamed of being a hockey player but once I realized at a young age that wasn’t going to happen, I knew I wanted to work with cows. After high school, Mike took a technicians’ course at college before he decided he wanted to return home. The skills he learned there has sure helped out here.
Our old barn was built close to a century ago and it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. On hot days, I wasn’t comfortable working in it which meant that the cows likely weren’t either. Now, in this new barn, we actually come in here to cool off when it’s hot outside because the ventilation is so good. We wouldn’t have believed how well it would work before we built it.”
-Norm and Mike, dairy farmers
After I graduated high school, I worked in retail and sales, but I came in connection with agriculture when I was 16 and was dating a farmer who is now my husband. Farming was certainly not what I ever thought I would be doing. I did always dreamt about chasing and marrying a cowboy, as I loved western movies. Even since I was young though I truly just wanted to be a mom, raise kids and be a wife; and I have done just that. Everything took a bit of a transformation in 2011 when I was gifted my first goat.
Now, I strive for my small family farm to be a kind, safe place for all who visit while focusing on animal care and food education. I think people are uneducated on what certain terms mean, for example, if a product isn’t labelled “Organic” then they think it isn’t healthy. I truly believe that people need to be more aware of where their food comes from. And it needs to be kept simple and not overthinking it, for example during tours for children here we casually talk about where our food comes from and say things like “This is a chicken, like the chicken you eat; This is a hen, they lay eggs that we eat.” It is simple, so keep it simple, we need to stop complicating this.
It gives me so much energy, and such self-satisfaction to show someone that you can take a tiny little thing and grow it into something so great. What I love is to be able to inspire people, from the little children who come and say “I want to be a farmer like Farmer Flory” and to also be providing the number of jobs that I can. The contribution to my community is why I do it, my job makes me happy but it also makes everyone around me happy too.
-Flory Sanderson , Owner of Island Hill Farm
Our farm is a family farm – with ourselves and our children. Each morning we start off with a good breakfast and then head out to the barn.
Our top priority on the farm is always the health of our flock. You can tell a lot about the birds by their chirping. Sometimes somethings are not quite what they should be and they’ll give you a different sound. Also, if you just stop for a minute to have a look at them, they’ll come right to you.
Sometimes people will ask us why chickens in the grocery stores are so big and what hormones we use. We don’t use any of that. They’re grain fed. The use of hormones in raising chickens has actually been banned since 1963. We work very hard to do our best to make sure that they are comfortable. If they weren’t comfortable or being treated fairly, we wouldn’t be doing this and neither would any chicken farmer. We feel for our birds and they are part of us until they leave our farm.
-Kennedy Family, BC Chicken Farmers
Here at the store, we try and source as much from our garden and local farmers as possible. We have a lot of different people that stop by; locals, wholesale customers and many tourists stop in too. Part of our job is to educate consumers about where their food comes from and what practices we use. When we get to talk to the customers, we get to show that we really do care about what we’re putting out for them and what we’ve done behind the scenes to put it there and just really give them a feel for where their food is coming from.
-Allison, Karen, Angela
I took over this business from my bosses. For myself, I originally planned to have a take-out business that operated from 10am to 7pm. But then I guess Providence decided that I actually wanted a badass bar where I can be free to create the things I want, learn and grow in my craft everyday.
I love this neighbourhood. And really Hamilton is the best place in the world. This community really appreciates effort and they will show you love in return when they see how genuine you are. Most of the local business owners have the mentality of building Ottawa Street into something awesome, unique and special. And I plan to be a part of that. I want to be here for whatever the community needs; sports teams, small gatherings, wedding anniversaries. Hell, if you just wanna run and hide for a bit with a pint or a plate of mushrooms, we got you.
The last three months have been tough. But I had my original take-out business plan in my back pocket, so I had to dust it off and try to get something going. The community is what’s really helped it be not so bad. They came through and showed as much support and love as they always have. We cant wait to get back to some kind of normal.
Our community involvement is a big part of what sets us apart. I think I have the best staff in town- we are small and knowledgeable and don't take ourselves incredibly seriously, but at the same time are very professional and serious about our craft. I'm also a big farm fresh/ farm market supporter. You can find me at the farmers market in Jackson or one out in the country picking fruit and veggies to bring back and make something delicious for my customers. Hamilton has soo many places to pick fruit and veggies. I kind of use it as a tool to educate people about where the food comes from and what's available pretty much in your back yard. Whether you walk into Merk for the first time or for the third time that day, we greet you like an old friend. I want people to feel at home and like they're a part of what makes this place tick.
-Mark, Chef at Merk Snack Bar
I have had a culinary diploma for about 20 years now, and I am a Red Seal Chef. I came to PEI to come to school in 2006, I was working as a cook in Charlottetown from 2006 – 2008. Then we came back to the Island in 2010, so I have been working in a roundabout way either in food or farming since then.
Being an entrepreneur is a pretty exciting career path, but it also means that I wear all of the hats. So I can be found at any given day doing dishes, ordering, working the front counter, scheduling, making the pies, fixing the garden, etc. I do a little of everything.
I’ve worked on farms and have had my hands in the soil, I understand and know how much work goes into the ingredients. I want to be able to give the finished product that much love, attention, and care as the producers give it. I love that we as a company have grown so fast and that we are continuing to grow so that consumers can feel all that love and attention through each stage.
It makes a huge difference when a manufacturer like us, actually chooses a local product. You don’t choose it for the price and a lot of manufacturing is cost-driven. Everything that we do is with a conscience. That is why we all work as hard as we do. By choosing manufacturers that actually support local, just send ripples all the way down the line. Our decision to sell Handpies was consumer-driven. Knowing that it is a meal that you can hold in your hand that is reflecting local dairy, local organic wheat, local meat, local potatoes; it is so many local industries wrapped up into one delicious pie.
-Sarah Bennetto O’Brien, CEO/ Owner of The Handpie Company
“At home, I run my family’s small beef cattle farm. The most challenging part of my job is working double duty, I’m a full time paramedic and it’s mainly my dad, grandfather and I working on the farm so sometimes I get stretched a little thin trying to make everything work.
I go to Toronto to show cattle. It’s something that I really love. This heifer’s name is Pinch Hill Fantasy. She’s also known as Little Foot and she’s the best heifer that I’ve ever had the chance to show. There’s more to showing than just walking around a showring with my animal. The best part is everything that goes on behind the scenes like coming up to the show, all the preparation and work that goes into getting ready."
-Brittany, Beef farmer
We have always had an interest in growing hot peppers, and as the years progressed, we were constantly searching for the newest and hottest varieties. By 2013 we were growing over 200 pepper plants in our backyard and decided to start attending local farmers markets to sell our excess peppers and handcrafted sauces.
We’re worked incredibly hard at this business and we’re super proud that in just 6 years we have been able to get our hot sauces onto the shelves of over 1000 retail stores across the country while still sourcing 100% of our ingredients from within Canada. Even though our business has grown tremendously over the years, we are still just a 2-person husband and wife team running all aspects of the business from Oshawa, ON.
It’s very rewarding being able to support our community and our team of farmer partners who produce the ingredients that make our sauces amazing. 100% of the hot peppers we use in our sauces are grown right here in Ontario, and that means everything to us.
-Drew and Ana, Owners of Pepper North
I don’t come from a farming background; I was actually working in Vancouver when I met my husband. Both he and his brother wanted to farm since they were kids, so 10 years ago I packed up my apartment, moved here and now I farm with my husband and my brother-in-law.
I’m a very open book when it comes to our farming lifestyle; I share regularly on Instagram what we do. I think I’ve been driven to do that mostly because I came from outside the farms.
I really wanted to be active in both the industry and in personally being available. I think that’s the best thing we can do as farmers is be willing to have conversations with people who are interested in what we do and just be accessible. I think it’s sometimes forgotten in public spheres of discussion that farmers are consumers and we consume our own products. I think it’s a great honour to be able to provide food for other Canadians like we do and we want to be able to continue to do that.”
-Sarah, BC dairy farmer
We both grew up working in our father’s greenhouse and most of what we know today is knowledge passed down and through hands on training. Our parents started this greenhouse business in 1963 and it’s still family owned and operated. We may be a small business, but we have a great sense of staff loyalty, from both sides; between them and us, as well as us to them. Today, we work hard to grow potted plants such as chrysanthemums, and gerbera daisies, as well as Boston Ferns and Spider Plants.
Not much is known about our industry as a whole, especially the behind the scenes labour and work that goes into planting and growing. It’s the little things that people don’t really think about, such as how much light a plant actually needs, and what stage in the growing process they need to be out of light to maintain a certain height. As wholesalers, it is hard to communicate that aspect and showcase what it really takes to successfully grow flowers.
This industry is unique in the sense that even though we’re competitors of each other, we’re also there to help each other out when we need it. Easter was a complete right off; when normally it is one of our best seasons. During this time, we had a lot of product. Instead of throwing it in the dumpster, as many in our industry had to do, we put them out at the end of our driveway for free so our community could enjoy them during these uncertain times.”
-Annette and Jamie, Ontario greenhouse operators
“My dad’s been a farmer since 1984. He originally grew berries but transitioned over to growing greenhouse bell peppers around 1998. Growing up, living on a family farm was the best thing ever. I started out helping on the farm as a young girl, picking berries and doing chores. I used to be in charge of clean up which involved pulling up the year’s previous crop and planting a new one. Now, I’m responsible for training people on the grading line, where the peppers are processed and then put into boxes.
Buying local is very important because first of all, we want to support local farmers and also it lets us decrease our carbon imprint. We pretty much put peppers on everything we eat. It’s important to know what goes in our food and by growing crops in a greenhouse we can closely monitor them and they’re available nearly all year long. We plant in the winter and then we’re ready to harvest in the spring. “
-Pardeep, BC greenhouse operator
"I’m the free help! My job here is to label the maple syrup bottles that my husband and son fill with syrup made from the maple trees on our farm.
I spent four hours out here yesterday and will keep working as long as I’m needed. We mostly fill glass bottles now. People like them because they’re easier to recycle.
Each label contains batch codes so that we know the exact date that they were filled. The labels also contain nutritional information and the grade of syrup – which reflects the colour and taste. In Ontario, that could be golden, amber, dark or very dark.
My favourite grade of syrup is the golden colour that comes at the beginning of the season. Some people like the darker colours but I like the lighter."
-Kathleen, farmer and maple syrup producer
“My family farm is originally in Richmond and since my grandfather first purchased the land in 1945 the family has been farming there. I’m a third generation cranberry farmer and I moved to Vancouver Island in 2001 where my family and I have continued the family tradition.
Cranberry farming isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle and it’s so exciting because nothing is ever the same and we’re always trying to be innovative and improving our fields. Equipment innovations are right from the farmer, we’re such a small industry that we have to actually make these changes ourselves; the big companies aren’t doing it. All the growers get together and we talk to each other and we can make these changes ourselves. There’s also new varieties that we’re trying to grow that grow darker fruit, larger fruit, fruit that ripens earlier in the season, so that’s exciting from a cranberry growers point of view. Fresh fruit is available locally most of the fall and into the spring.
Over the past few years we’ve tried to change the public’s thinking about farmers. We have ‘open days’ which we include our neighbours in as much as possible in the process of growing cranberries here in BC. We know we are part of a bigger picture and we love to share what we do on our farm.”
-Grant, BC cranberry farmer
“I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with my family in the kitchen. I knew I wanted to be a chef from an early age. When I was young, my mother made desserts for a local catering company. I can still remember the first time visiting their commercial kitchen to help my mom drop off an order. It was full of people in their chef whites, with huge equipment and so many smells! There was a watermelon being carved into Noah’s Ark in the centre of it all.
After graduating from a culinary arts program, I worked in restaurants and banquet halls for several years. Later, I found myself at the University of Guelph starting in an entry level position. Over the past fourteen years I have worked my way up to my current role. I’m now certified with the American Culinary Federation as both a Certified Sous Chef and Certified Chef de Cuisine.
From scheduling staff and coordinating deliveries to confirming dietary restrictions and delivering food across campus; it really takes a well-oiled machine. We have many talented staffs. Here in the kitchen, we are very fortunate to have remained healthy and able to work during this time. Unfortunately, others have not made out as well and I think all of us are proud of what we can do to help others in our community. By supporting local businesses, you are helping your community. These are your friends and neighbours owning and running these businesses.”
- Andrew, Executive Sous Chef
“I’m convinced that working with food is in my genetics. Two of my great grandfathers were butchers and I even still have their knives! I was four when my family converted a garage into first retail store on our family farm. It was next door to our house and it was run by my grandma. I remember building meat boxes as a kid while my older cousins worked with my grandma. Looking back now, it was great to have my grandma and grandpa come up to our farm house for lunch every day!
When it came to determining what I wanted to do after high school, I was really interested in helping run the retail side of our family’s farm business. My sisters are more involved with caring for our chickens– but I’m a people person and love working with our staff and customers. I went to Fleming College’s culinary management program- not to become a chef but to learn more about the food industry off of the farm. While going to Fleming College I also kept working here the whole time. I remember prepping salads for sale in the morning before I went to school and then coming home and continuing the work after classes. Over time, I stepped into the wholesale and trucking portion of our business too. Now, I manage our on-farm store with my mom and dad.
I promote as much local food as possible. I don’t try to compete against the bigger grocery stores in the area because why would I? I thrive on local products you cannot get at the larger stores. Community is huge in a rural area. Everyone knows everyone and they like to support both local food and local businesses like ours. They also like to put a face to their food.
One of the most unusual products we supply is food for exotic zoo animals in this province. They’ll eat the cuts of meat that humans generally don’t eat. So some of the excess livers, giblets and other off cuts of chicken, as examples, are now going to feed alligators, lions and reptiles as well as cats and dogs at customers’ homes. It’s a good use for the products, eliminates food waste and everyone’s got to eat, after all!
- Katrina, on-farm local food store manager
« I was driving trucks from the time I was 16. My dad owned a trucking business and I always had to have a truck. I started hauling milk after high school, then delivered fuel and now drive grain trucks. I was planning on retiring from the fuel business but had delivered here for 16 years, watching this farm business grow. On a Friday, my now boss asked if I was looking for some part time work – and would I be able to start on Monday. I’ve been here ever since. I like everything about it. My wife’s from a farm too.
I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in life. When I was about 28, I won the opportunity to represent Ontario on an exchange trip to Australia. I also love to curl – I’ve done that sport for 40 years. I now play in two leagues and even was part of a team that won a seniors’ bonspiel in Ottawa. »
“I grew up about two hours from here. My grandfather worked for a canning factory where they processed vegetables and I spent summers in high school working with him and my uncle. I was really the only one interested in farming. My dad didn’t want me to work on a farm. He said, ‘you’ll starve to death!’ But after high school, I spent 26 years milking cows. I married a farm girl and I now work as a feedlot manager on this beef farm. My son now runs my father-in-law’s farm. I love working with cattle. I love the whole process – watching them from the time they come in to our barn to the time they leave.
What do I do in my free time? I love going for bicycle rides with my three year old grandson. I like getting together with a group of friends monthly and telling stories and I love to skate on the Rideau Canal. We’ve done the whole distance.”
-Perry – Ontario beef farm manager
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was “don’t be the first person to try something new but don’t be the last.” I try to apply that to farming.
"I’m the youngest of five kids but always knew that I wanted to come home to our farm. I remember selling sweet corn at the end of the lane as a kid and knew then what I wanted to do.
I’m studying agriculture at college and will graduate next year. I like driving equipment and seeing the process of crops grow. I like planting soybeans, spraying and working in the fields. When I’m in the tractor, I’ve always got a variety of music playing – mostly country music but more upbeat stuff to keep me awake when it gets dark.
When I’m not farming? I guess you can say I’m a bit of a gamer. I like playing video games online with my friends."
-Ron – agricultural student and farmer
“I lived on a dairy farm till I was 6, but then moved to a hobby farm with chickens and other types of animals. It was the best place in the world to grow up. When I got married and moved here, we started raising turkeys in addition to growing crops and producing maple syrup.
Right from the beginning, our goal was to produce healthy and content birds. Our barn was built to provide maximum light and air flow for the birds.
In the early days, we had a lot of people asking to buy our products from the farm. So we built a farm store in 2009. I have some food sensitivities so it’s good to produce and sell a product that we control from start to finish. We grow the crops that our turkeys eat and then we sell the final product to our customers. They’re always interested in how the birds are raised. Some phone calls can be up to 20 minute conversations with them asking questions about how we raise animals on our farm. It’s critical that our birds are healthy and well cared for.”
-Anne, on-farm retail store owner and turkey farmer.
“I was actually born and raised on a small farm in Delaware in the United States. It was an idyllic place for a kid to play and grow up. I met my future husband when I was about 11 years old and he came to our church camp. Our churches were connected. Years later, when we were older, I knew I couldn’t go wrong marrying Dwight although I have to admit that I had no idea how big his farming dreams were. I’ve given up keeping him under control! We live on the farm he grew up on and have a grain elevator and beef feedlot.
I’m really proud that our five children are all now in agriculture – from working in agriculture banking to working here with us on the farm. They all want to be part of it.
I also love to travel. My favourite place I’ve ever visited was Switzerland.”
-Ruth Ann, Ontario grain and beef farmer
“For 25 years, I worked across North America in the financial services industry and in 2008, I was motivated by the market conditions to leave the corporate world and move permanently to my farm near Collingwood. I’ve had an interest in farms and farming forever and I looked at various farm business opportunities before settling on beekeeping/honey production. I learned the business by interning for a year with a successful commercial beekeeper and every year thereafter.. on the job.
I think most people’s perceptions of beekeeping would benefit from a conversation with a commercial beekeeper so they could understand the risks and challenges associated with this unique farm business. Like any other farm, my success is subject to myriad uncontrollable variables like weather, markets and input costs. And they’re all compounded by the pests and diseases that can weaken the health of a bee colony. I love getting the chance to meet people of all ages and backgrounds, both in person and online, who are curious to learn more about honey bees and to answer their questions. Consumer trends play a big role in the marketplace, so it’s important that the public understand the work that farmers like me do to grow safe and delicious food for them.”
-Hugh, commercial beekeeper
“I was raised on a farm in the Netherlands. I have three daughters that help on the farm. My proudest moments are when I am busy doing something else and they just go out and do the chores for me without me even asking. When they tell me chores are already done and I can keep working or move onto the next job, it’s a proud moment for me. They are taking initiative and building a great work ethic.
The best piece of advice I have ever gotten is to relax and take everything in stride. Not that I always adhere by it, but once and a while, I stop myself and say there’s always tomorrow. There’s no need to get worked up about everything today. There’s a chance to do it again tomorrow.
My favorite part of waking up every day on the farm is that you feel like every morning is a fresh start. You’re in the middle of an open environment with fresh air, and a relaxed pace early in the morning. Seeing the sunrise is a great part of my day.”
-Jack, Dairy farmer
“We grow specially-cut flowers, vegetables and herbs organically, but floral farming is our passion. In spite of the current world situation, we continue to seed, plant and weed as we normally would, maybe even a bit earlier this year. We are able to follow the new rules of social distancing and continue to operate our farm, offering bouquet subscriptions, arrangements, and potted plants but some changes have been made. Part of our business also includes Floral Design for Weddings, which have taken a hit during these times. We have offered a limited number of bouquets of flowers for ‘Drop and Dash’ services around our area. Some are home grown here at Butternut Creek Flowers and others from fellow Ontario flower farmers. We think that it’s important, especially during troubled times, to try to support all local farmers. Our intention is to continue to provide fresh specialty cut flowers to our local community, following our ‘Grown not Flown’ philosophy of flower sales”
-Liz Ontario flower farmer
“When I go to school, subjects like biology, science and math are totally relatable to life growing up on the farm. Biology relates to breeding decisions and math is helpful to calculate averages in milk production. Everything is interconnected.
I work on a dairy farm and milk the cows seven days a week. If I had more free time, I’d want to spend it with my community being more involved in events and our 4-H. But I love life on the farm because I get to work with my family and I’ve really developed a passion for it.
I wish that every kid that didn’t get to grow up on a farm tried to learned more about where their food comes from. It’s important that they know that farmers are caring people that are trying to do the best for everyone and provide healthy food options.”
-Alexa, Dairy farmer
“The animals are the best part about this job, but the second best is when people meet our animals.
When I first started, I brought home four pregnant goats, but I didn’t know when they were due. One morning, I went down to the barn and I opened the door and there was a tiny little kid, still wet. None of the mothers were claiming it and because I didn’t know better, I started to panic. I called up the woman who I bought them from and asked her what to do. She said ‘just take a breath, pick it up and whichever doe cries out is the mother’. That’s exactly what happened. I know it’s a bit of a silly story but it’s symbolic because it’s all about taking a breath, figuring it out and helping one another.
I used to be a TV producer in Toronto and my husband likes to tell me that in that role, you pull things together. We do the same thing here as farmers but in a different way. We’ve become a place for animal experiences because people who weren’t raised around animals don’t know what they’ve missed and the joys that come with it. Now, they come here and make a connection with the animals and it’s just so special for them and for us.”
-Debbie, animal experience farm, co-owner
"My ancestors started producing maple syrup here after they cleared the land five generations ago.
It’s the first crop of the year on our farm. That’s what I really like about it. I’m always really happy to see the first sap run and I’m equally happy to see the season end and the equipment washed and put away. We now tap 3,600 trees. It’s entirely weather dependent but typically we start the first week of March. Ideally, we want days with a high of +5 C and a low of -5 C during the night. It’s the colder nights and warmer days that gets the sap running. We used to collect sap in pails but installed a pipeline in 2009 and that sure made things easier. Now the sap runs to central locations in the bush and we collect it there and bring it to the sugar shack for processing. It first goes through a reverse osmosis process which takes out two-thirds of the water and then into an evaporator.
This tank holds about 12,000 litres of sap which will make about 300 litres of syrup. We emptied it twice yesterday.
I also teach a 4-H maple syrup club. We’ve currently got about 30 members learning about types of trees, how to tap, pipelines, reverse osmosis and evaporators and how to filter, pack and grade the syrup.
There’s a great camaraderie between maple syrup producers. There’s so much to be learned and shared from one another. I’m active in my local Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association."
-Kevin, fifth generation maple syrup producer and farmer
“I help out with almost everything on the farm, I help feed the show calves with my mom and I help my dad with stuff like checking the crops. Every night I start the process of milking the cows, which I like. I actually want to buy this place when I’m older, I want to go to the University of Guelph and then come home to farm. But right now, I’m always asking my parents questions. I just want to know it all!”
“I have a degree in rural development sociology, I always thought I would work in rural planning and make sure rural communities continued to thrive, but after university I realized there was a valuable role for me in farming. It’s a different career path for sure, but now I work to make sure my family’s dairy farm continues to thrive. I am the herd’s manager, taking care of and milking all of the cows on our farm. I recently married a non-farmer, but it is so nice to see him jump in and appreciate this lifestyle too.”
-Jackie, Dairy farmer
“I’m a “swing man” here at this feed mill which means I have to know almost every role so that I can fill in anywhere. I grew up in town but always loved working with my hands so this job is perfect. When I’m not at work, you can find me spending time with my three daughters, aged 12, 10 and 4. I also coach basketball for a group of 12-year-olds.
What’s one thing that I don’t think people know about my job? The transportation side of this company. There’s so much that goes into making feed and getting it to the farms where it’s needed. If you get up on the roof of this mill at 5:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, you can watch the entire fleet of trucks being loaded. It’s an impressive sight.”
-Charlie, fork lift operator, Ontario feed mill
I don’t think people often think about the many ways that you can use maple syrup. I use it every day to sweeten my tea or coffee. On our farm we sell maple syrup, maple sugar and maple candy floss. We bought a candy floss machine to make the floss. People like it because it’s all natural – no additives, no flavouring, no dyes. And it tastes great. But even with all of the options, my favourite way to eat maple syrup is still on pancakes. We have an old family recipe for buttermilk pancakes from my grandma that we use.
In the spring, we often hold a weekend open house on our farm to give tours of our sugar shack and bushes. Like so many things this spring, that had to be cancelled but on average, we host approximately 1, 200 people for a pancake breakfast and tours.
-Bronwyn, age 19, sixth generation farmer and maple syrup producer
"It’s like anything – maple syrup production has changed a lot since I was a kid. I remember walking back to the bush sometimes at night with my dad in the 1940’s to cook syrup after supper. My older siblings had to go to school but I was still young enough to be at home to help him. When I was quite young, we’d gather the pails with the help of horses and a wagon.
When I was a kid, we tapped about 800 trees. Now, my son, grandchildren and I tap 3,600 trees with the use of a pipeline system that brings the sap to central locations in the forest."
-Carl, fourth generation maple syrup producer and farmer
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t help on our farm. I have a photo of myself at about four years of age helping to put newly hatched chicks into the barn and I was always wanting to help my parents by doing jobs like shovelling feed in our chicken barn.
It was grade eight or grade nine that I became immersed into the world of farming as a future career. I was the only kid in my class with a cell phone because it helped me monitor our barns. Our computer systems are all tied to our cell phones so that we know at all times that our birds have feed and water and that the barn is at the right temperature. I remember hiding the phone from my teachers so they wouldn’t find it. There were also days that I didn’t get to class because I was needed at home.
I joined the family business full time in 2007 after taking an electrical course at college. That education really helps us at home too.
And there’s my son Luke who was born last fall. He’s the fourth generation of our family to be involved here. He’s really little yet but he is already so excited when he sees a truck or a tractor pass by and his room is decorated in a farm animal theme. I don’t know if he’ll decide to farm or not but he’s certainly being exposed to it from a very early age.”
-Rachel, third generation chicken farmer
"I’ve spent the past 31 years working as a nurse at a hospital. It’s a very stressful job, so I find that farming is a good balance. Before we had kids, I used to work full-time. The shift work was hard to juggle with the farm and it got very stressful. It was hard on my body and especially on my mental health with all the physical lifting, short staffing and expectations. Funny enough we have a lot of those similar issues on the farm, but somehow it’s different when there’s a passion and when everyone comes together. We don’t get a lot of outside help, it’s just us most of the time.
Now, the kids are all pretty keen, so I’ve been graduated to managing less strenuous jobs, like feeding the calves and doing some of the milking. We’re always doing stuff as a family so even when we’re working, we’re still having fun."
-Sharyn, Ontario dairy farmer
My wife and I own an eighth generation farm where we milk cows and grow crops like corn and soybeans and hay for our animals. It’s been in our family for more than 200 years and two of our children now work there as well.
There is a huge need for people to make more of a connection with their food. Many people don’t know farmers like me. I’m not generally that comfortable in a city like Toronto but we need to be here answering questions of our consumers so that they know how much we love doing what we do.
Over the years, we’ve hosted hundreds of guests to our farm – from really young children who ask a million questions to high school students and even teachers out on professional development days. Once, a local bus driver who I know called saying that he was driving a group of French exchange students for the day. Their tour stop had just cancelled and he wondered if he could he bring them to the farm to fill the time slot. Of course we said yes and we had a great time.
I’ve worked with other local farmers answering questions in our community grocery store and I’ve gone into schools on career day to talk about being a farmer. We’ve also hosted community Easter Egg hunts for many years where between 200 and 300 kids and their families come to the farm and take a tour. Those were always the best days. On the occasion of our farm’s 200th anniversary, we also held a huge open house.
My favourite tours are for kindergarten classes. You never know what they’re going to ask and you need to expect the unexpected!
-Don, seventh generation dairy farmer
“My friends like coming out to my farm and seeing our cows and our other animals like Shadow, the pygmy goat and my 4-H calf Jellybean. I do all kinds of things on the farm. I help rake and bale hay and combine our crops and I want to be a farmer when I grow up. I also help my parents tap our trees for maple syrup in the winter.
I’m in a lot of 4-H clubs like the plowing club, beef club and the vet club. We even got to do an autopsy on an animal in that club. That was cool.
My favourite team is the Green Bay Packers and my favourite player is Aaron Rogers.”
-Logan, age 13, future Ontario farmer
"I was a dental hygienist for 35 years, but there’s no pension with that so we had to figure out what we wanted to do when we retired. A few of our friends raised sheep, so they helped us get started and let us keep the sheep at their farm. Our first time sheering, I fell in love with the fibre. I collected it for a few years and then started processing it by hand, learning what I could from the internet. Once we decided to build a mill, I was able to process on a much larger scale. So now, not only can I use the fibre to make the things I like to make, like felted soaps and dryer balls, but I can also process for other people who raise alpacas, sheep or llamas.
Our community was really welcoming when we started the mill. People will come by and we’ll give them a tour, answer their questions, and they’re just so fascinated by the process. If I can’t do something here, I have no problem sending people elsewhere. That’s the thing about local, you get to build that trust and those connections."
-Ann, Fibre mill owner
(2/2) “I’ve learned a lot about plants and what they need to grow. The first thing I planted was tobacco. I was really careful because I wanted them to grow perfectly. The seeds were really, really small, and now – the plants are huge! Whenever I see them I think ‘Wow, I planted that’. It’s a connection with the Creator, I listen to him and now others will be able to enjoy it.
Some of the plants may not be as beautiful as the ones you see in stores, but I know all the work and thought that goes into growing them. If the greenhouse gets too hot, we can open the doors to let them breath. If we notice the leaves are curling, it’s important for us to know what that means. I wish everyone could do this because it feels so rewarding.
I haven’t learned about everything here yet, like the herbs for medicine, but when I do it will be new knowledge in my head that I’ll know and be able to share with my community. “
-Jordanna, Community greenhouse assistant (2/2)
My mom started me gardening. At first I wasn’t into it and would rather be on my phone, but then I grew into it. I did my research and decided that I wanted to garden so I grew pumpkins, zucchinis, peppers and a lot of the stuff we grow here. I’d come home from school, take off my bag and even if it was raining, I’d still go out to the garden and make sure everything was on track.
My position here is through a program that helps kids get on their feet and gives them hands-on jobs. When I first started working in the greenhouse, I thought ‘No way, I can’t believe that’s buffalo sage and sweet grass!’ Half of the greenhouse is used to grow plants for ceremonies, like smudging, or for medicine. These sacred medicines were given to the First Nations people as means of communicating with the Creator. I recognized them but never knew how they were grown before. Now I can show people how to make the teas and how to properly harvest the plants.
When I walk around, I see all of these plants and I know that we care for them and give them what they need to survive. The plants need care but they also give back to us in many ways. We’ve worked hard to improve this greenhouse to what it is now and working with plants like this is good for the heart and good for those that appreciate it.”
-Jordanna, Community greenhouse assistant
"I am a dairy feed specialist for an Ontario feed mill. I love dairy farmers; I love dairy cows; I love the people that I work with. I really love every aspect of my job.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario. I graduated from the University of Guelph in 1985 and then applied for this job, interviewed and got it! I thought I would live temporarily in Western Ontario, but I fell in love with the people I work with and the farmers I serve, so I’m still here.
Day to day, I go out to different farms and help farmers implement the best diet for their animals. Our goal is to make sure our cows are well fed and our customers are successful.
In my free time, I volunteer a lot for 4-H. I lead numerous different clubs in Waterloo Region including dairy club, the veterinarian club, a maple syrup club and a sports club. Being a 4-H leader keeps me young, keeps me energized and I love the power of youth playing a role in positive youth development.
I also run a cooking club at the Kitchener Farmers Market where I spend a good amount of time on teaching the members where the food comes from. When possible, we involve local agriculture and locally grown food, so they can have that experience as well."
-John – dairy nutritionist and 4H leader extraordinaire
“I grew up on my family’s dairy farm and still help after work and on weekends. I studied communications at a large urban university and only met a handful of other farm kids. It was tough when topics pertaining to agriculture came up and I felt uncomfortable about how the discussion was going. I had a very different understanding of the world because of my agricultural background.
I now have my dream job. I’m back in my home community, working for an organization that supports farmers. I’m happy to be able to use my communications degree in small town Ontario. My job entails helping farmers deal with issues locally – whether it’s related to urban sprawl, taxation, or government regulations. Every day it’s something different.
The project I’m most proud of is one called FARM 911 – or more affectionately we call it The Emily Project. It encourages municipalities to provide 911 (or civic) addresses for farmland owners. The benefit is that farmers can be found in an emergency. It was named after Emily, a local farm girl who tragically died in a farm accident. First responders were delayed reaching her because they couldn’t find the property, due to lack of signage. 25 municipalities have now adopted this with more joining on. That’s really rewarding to be a part of.”
-Resi – Field Representative, provincial farm organization
We may be far from home, but we still cook real Jamaican food while we’re here. We have someone that comes by with Jamaican spices for us, so we can cook big dishes for each other. The best thing to make is curry chicken. Canadians should really eat more curry chicken. But not just any type of curry, you have to choose Jamaican curry seasoning – that has the best flavour.
It’s also important to pick the right mangos for your curry. When cooking with mangos, you don’t want the juicy ones. Those ones are too sweet, no good for cooking. For cooking, you want to look for the harder ones and steam those down. That’s how you get it to taste right. When cooking here, it`s just like cooking for my family back home.
-Baker, Seasonal Agricultural Worker on an Ontario apple orchard
“My mother was my role model. My dad died when I was eight and I started helping her then. My sisters were 3 and 4 at the time. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do and we never argued when we worked together – not even when we were sorting cattle which can be a tough job. Thanks to her influence, I think I always wanted to be a beef farmer. She never pushed me to do so – it just happened. She especially loved horses and was a bit disappointed when I showed zero interest in them. She liked cows but horses were her favourite.
My wife, two sons and I now raise grass fed beef cattle. We have 60 cows and their calves which are all born and raised here on our farm in Eastern Ontario. I also sit on the board of Beef Farmers of Ontario, a provincial organization that represents all beef farmers in this province. I like travelling across the province meeting with other beef farmers and learning about the issues they are facing.”
-Don, Ontario Beef Farmer
“I grew up in a large farming family. My parents both come from farms, my grandfather farmed, and the majority of my aunts, uncles and cousins farm too. Even though my job can be overwhelming (and sometimes the stress does take a toll on me), I can’t imagine myself doing anything. After seeing the legacy that my grandfather and father built for us, that motivates me to keep going and do the same for my family. I see no better way of life for myself than to be a farmer.
Everyday all year round, I feed, bed, and take care of the cattle. One of my main roles is fixing and working on all the equipment and machinery. During the spring it is calving season, so I have to be constantly monitoring the cows. I spend summers planting crops, chopping silage, and baling hay and straw. Then throughout the spring and fall, a lot of my time tis spent helping my father with the harvest of potatoes.”
-Allan, PEI Beef and potato farmer
“I really like helping make maple syrup. We have 14 trees in the field and use a propane burner to help boil the sap. I like making maple taffy and stuff. This is my first year in 4-H too. I’m in the goat club, beef club, plowing club, baking club and vet club.
On our farm, of all the animals we have, I like Butterscotch the goat best.
If I don’t become a farmer, I’d like to play hockey. I usually play goalie for our local team. My favourite team is Tampa Bay and I really like Steve Stamkos.”
-Lucas, age 10
“When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a firefighter but since we moved to this farm in 2007, I’ve always wanted to be a farmer. It’s a 5th generation family farm and the farm that both my mom and my grandpa grew up on.
I studied agriculture at McDonald College in Montreal. At home, I help with basically everything – from feeding the sheep to working in our corn, soybean, barley and hay fields. I also help out another farmer too with his hay and crops.
My favourite season is fall. It’s the time of year when all of the crops are coming in; the leaves on the trees are turning and everyone’s busy getting ready for winter.”
-Mitchell, Sheep and crop farmer
“As soon as I graduated from high school, I came home to farm with my dad. I’m the sixth generation of my family to farm this land which was settled by my ancestors in 1814. Those ancestors were United Empire Loyalists, moving to Canada from New York State before the War of 1812.
Growing up, we had both pigs and cows and grew a lot vegetables for canning – peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn and raspberries. Canning was big in Prince Edward County with 50 canneries including four in the nearby village. This area was called the Canning Capital of Canada. Today, there are none left.
My son and grandchildren now run this farm which has dairy cows and crops like corn and hay.
I started losing eyesight in one of my eyes in 2003 due to glaucoma but was still able to farm with one good eye. 2010 is when I started losing sight in the other. I miss being able to help with farm work. I always loved that. Even from the time I was a kid, I always wanted to help. I also miss seeing the crops grow and watching the seasons change.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind has been amazing. They taught me how to use this white cane properly and they’ve helped me get equipment. With the help of an electronic reader, I can still read farm magazines and keep up on what’s going on in the industry."
-Bob, sixth generation family farmer
“My favourite part of living on the farm is Izzy, our mini pig, and all the cats. And next year, I can’t wait to do 4-H. I want to join the cake decorating club. My sister did it this year, so she can help me. My favourite foods are pizza, garlic bread, spaghetti, chicken alfredo. We aren’t picky, we like a lot things, and my brother and I even like mussels.”
-Griffin, age 9
“I was raised on a small hobby farm and met my future husband at a farm meeting. We were married in 2003. When we married, we used some of our wedding money to put a down payment on a no-till drill. We still have the drill! I guess that’s what comes from marrying a farmer!
Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian but living on this farm with goats and cattle and ducks and horses and chickens is the next best thing. The ducks and Nigerian Dwarf goats are mostly for entertainment. It’s hard to have a bad day when you’ve got a duck quacking at you! And the goats are hilarious.
I love meeting people and talking to them about farming. I always have. I work for our local fall fair in Perth which is held Labour Day weekend. There, we have 100+ volunteers helping to put on a great event for our 10,000 guests. I’m also a 4-H leader and love to ride horses.”
-Barb, Ontario beef farmer
“My job is to be the Morale Officer here at our grain elevator. I bike here from home, starting at 7 every morning. I also help shred paper, empty garbage cans and bring water to my coworker Geoff. In the fall during harvest, I help with sample buckets of grain.
I love sports. My favourite hockey team is the Ottawa Senators and football is the New England Patriots. My favourites players are Bobby Ryan and Tom Brady.
My favourite food is a burger with lots of cheese and ketchup. And French fries.”
-Brian, Morale Officer at his family’s grain elevator and beef farm
“I’ve driven trucks since I was 18. I love the truck I now drive – it’s a Kenworth and it’s beautiful. A dirty truck actually drives me nuts! On average, I visit about four farms per day, bringing feed for livestock. Winter deliveries can be a challenge – that’s just part of the job. I spend a lot of time watching the radar to see what the weather’s going to be like.
My favourite part of the day? I just like talking to farmers and getting to know some of them really well. I used to want to be a farmer so working for a company that supports farmers is great.”
-Paul, truck driver, Ontario feed mill
"I’ve been coming to Canada to work for 30 years. It’s nice to work here. When I come here to work, the money can go home and buy things. It helps feed my family, build a house, and then when I go back home, it’s like a holiday.
I come here to work for seven months, then I’m back home five months then back here again.
I’ve got three kids, they’re 28, 30 and 31. When you’re here, you get to know everyone so they’re like a family too."
-Percy, Seasonal Agricultural Worker on an Ontario apple orchard
“I work for a dairy nutrition company, I love spending time in the barn and getting to know each cow’s unique personalities and needs. I grew up in a rural community near Brantford and I always knew agriculture would be for me because of how much I feel a connection to cows. So when it came time to apply to schools, the only school I applied to was the University of Guelph for agriculture, and that’s where I went. So I truly have no idea what I would be doing without agriculture, it’s always been my goal.”
-Erica, 4-H member
“I came from a small city in Mexico where I studied Animal Science. I’m here through a program where people from Mexico can work in Canada or the USA. I love working with animals – maybe even more so than people! They’re easier to get along with. I’m now working in this beef feedlot, taking care of their animal health program. I love knowing all of the information about the cattle through our computer records – their genetics, what they’ve eaten, how well they grew, how healthy they are. And when they’re gone, we can look at those records and know we did a good job of raising them.
Something my coworkers don’t know about me? I like to dance – especially salsa – and I’m good! There’s not much opportunity to dance in Canada but in Mexico there is.”
-Daniela, Herd health manager, Ontario beef farm
“I’m a member of the 4-H sheep club. Each summer, we spend a lot of time walking our sheep and getting them used to being handled. We learn how to set up their feet (the proper stance for showing) and how to keep their head up when they’re in the show ring at our local fair.
Once, in my first year as a 4-H member, my sheep got scared and tried to run away. I was about 10 or 11. I rode it right out of the ring but I didn’t let go of it! That was maybe the craziest thing to happen to me with my sheep.
My favourite jobs on the farm include tractor work, feeding animals, cleaning pens and helping with repairs.
I also ride motorcross. I took over my brother’s bike. I like going fast and hitting the jumps and next year I hope to compete.”
-Kieran, age 14
"We’re open every day, year round. The only days we close are Christmas Day and Boxing Day. So, we’ve started using those days as family days on the farm. It’s wonderful to enjoy our farm the way visitors do. This year, we’ve got a lot of extended family, from near and far, getting together to enjoy everything the farm has to offer - skating, snowshoeing, good food and fellowship. It’s become a special time for us.
When my husband first told me what he did, I said, “You grow what? I thought they came in a can.” Despite being familiar with agriculture, I’d never thought about cranberries being cultivated. Then I discovered what a cool crop they are, and I’m still making discoveries. Our food has fascinating stories to tell. We depend on food for survival, health and well-being, so knowledge is important for that reason – but food is also interesting!"
-Wendy, Ontario cranberry farmer
“I grew up on this farm and my parents and grandparents lived here before me. I started a career as a lab technologist but while I had zero interest in the farm as a teenager, after marrying I realized it suddenly seemed like a nice place to raise our kids. I’ve been told I don’t look like a farmer, whatever that is. I even had a conversation with someone at Canada’s Wonderland who couldn’t believe I was a farmer! They had never met one.
My parents started selling Christmas trees just to prune out our forest. At that time, they were $2 each and it was a really big deal for people to come out of the city to cut their own tree down.
Today, there are about 600 Christmas tree farms in Ontario and we’re asked a lot of questions about the trees we grow like ‘do we paint them green’? (The answer is no!) We have 35 acres of trees and sell from the end of November through to Christmas Eve. People don’t realize that every tree in our grove gets visited, pruned and cared for at least three times per year. I love watching the family moments that take place on our farm as our guests search for the perfect tree.”
-Diana, Ontario Christmas tree farmer
“I think it’s very important to buy from local suppliers as much as you can. With a small business, you have to support each other. All of our candy is hand crafted in our kitchen in Markham and shipped across Canada. When people ask if our product was made with local in mind, they love when I tell them that 100% of the product supports others in Ontario, from the butter to the nuts and packaging. The other great thing about this job is when people first taste the candies and their surprise and delight, it makes me so happy.”
My father was my favourite person. He’s the reason why I’m always so positive and why you’ll never catch me in a bad mood. Most of his advice was about being kind to others, which helps me to have good interpersonal relationships with everyone over the past 34 years I’ve been working here. It’s because of all of my co-workers, friends really, that I enjoy each and every day.”
-Roger, Dairy processing plant employee
“I was really lucky, I grew up with a mom who loves to cook and she's a fabulous cook. I learned everything from her at a very young age by standing on the chair beside her in our matching aprons - ones she had sewn for us. When you cook, you start to understand where your food comes from; you're more willing to try different things and be mindful of the food you choose. An important part of that is appreciating the people that produce it. You might not be able to go to a farm and ask all you want but there are plenty of opportunities to follow farmers online and understand that they're real people and they love what they do.”
-Jennifer, Food writer & cookbook author
“I was raised on a beef cattle farm and was an auto mechanic for 35 years. That skill certainly comes in handy on our farm when I can fix all of the tractors and chainsaws. We don’t get rid of tractors. We just keep fixing them!
We now live on a Christmas tree farm – the farm that my wife was raised on. I really enjoy our Christmas clientele. They vary from the people looking for the perfect tree to ones that say ‘This tree is kind of ugly but we’re afraid nobody else would take it so we’re buying it’. Our kids help when they are home too.
When I’m not caring for trees, I’ve got a hobby building and restoring old airplanes. My favourite? An open cockpit biplane from the 1930’s. I’ve been working on it for eight to 10 years.”
-Bob, Ontario Christmas tree farmer
“I’m here all week to show sheep. That means that I’m basically holding her and setting her up so that she looks perfect during the competition. The judges are always looking for something specific, so it’s important to be prepared and to be ready. Right now I’m practicing so if a situation comes up, we can both handle it. It takes a lot of time working with the sheep so that we’re both comfortable.”
-Autumn, 4-H sheep club member
“My family doesn’t own a farm, but that didn’t stop me from working with farmers. I practically grew up on my neighbour’s farm and find the labour so rewarding. It’s not always easy, sometimes it can be tough. It’s the smaller moments that make it worth while, like seeing calves grow up into cows and cows have their calves. People need to know what goes into producing their food since it’s what keeps us growing. There’s something special about being part of an industry that is a major part of everyone’s lives.”
-Emily, Ontario farm hand
“I like to go places and learn about the people and their history. What they do and how they make things. If I go on vacation I don’t want to just sit on a beach; I want to go into the town and find out what’s happening, what people do, and how they live. It’s incredible going somewhere with a very different environment than I’m used to and to be able to talk to someone and find out how long they’ve been there, where they’ve come from and what they do.”
-Corrinna, Store Manager
“I like to do a bit of everything; I get a list of jobs and just work through them. But, I do like the mechanical side of things more. I’m in grade 10, so I’m taking a shop class right now and an auto mechanics class which I really like. That’s what I would like to get into, but I’ll always be involved on the farm to help fix or build things or drive the tractor.”
-Carter, age 15
“I’m currently studying to be a nurse, but once I’m done, I hope to move home and have a few animals of my own. I grew up around farms and I’ll always have a connection to agriculture, but kids today often don’t know too much about farming or animals. That’s one of the great things about this job, I get to teach where food comes from, about pigs, and show them even a little about farming.”
-Tabetha, Ontario pork educator
“I love connecting people with food that they love. When you tell someone about something new that they've never tried before, and they go ‘Hey, I never thought of that’ or a new way to cook something. Those are my favorite moments. People like to know where their meat comes from. They want it to be local. Our job is to feed families, so it feels better knowing that we can do that with the people who are around us. Those people that are passionate about food, grow your food, or make your food.”
-Christine, Ontario food marketer
“I’m a licensed millwright by trade. I did that after I started working here. You can never go wrong with a trade. What I’ve learned here is don’t sweat the little stuff. It’ll fall into place. The guys around here have told me that. You’ve just gotta make sure to plan your life, and plan your job in the food industry; people have always gotta eat. Stay away from the gremlins and the grief.”
-Ron, Farm Manager of the Pullet Division
"I was born in Canada, but I didn’t grow up here. At three months old, my parents decided to move back to Greece for good. I didn’t know anything about the country I was born in, not the history or the language. I had a Canadian birth certificate—that was it. It was actually my high school physics teacher who told me to go back. He was a very approachable person and we were on a first name basis. He gave me a lot of career advice along the way. I’ve been living and working in Canada for 24 years now and I can still look back and say that it was the best advice I’ve ever gotten."
-Costa, Senior Quality Control Technician
“The best thing around here is watching everything grow- the kids, the calves, the crops. You start when they are so young and then you get to watch everything grow to reach its full potential. You literally get to see the fruits of your labour every day. Things around the farm are not like an office job, at the end of every day you can see what you have accomplished. It is very fulfilling. Now being a parent with teenagers, I saw my kids grow and develop their own personalities and habits, and the same happens with the cows you have raised their whole life too. It’s a testament to how they were raised.”
-Chris, Ontario dairy farmer
“In in my undergrad I took a class on popular culture and development and I was really interested in farm sustainability. At the root of it, agriculture is becoming so competitive. So how do we make it an industry that's approachable for people? How do we allow firms to exist? Because I think we get so caught up sometimes in sustainability and what does that mean, like less carbon emissions and so forth. But at the root of it, sustainability is keeping the farmer on the farm, so I like to find out what vehicles we can use to do that.”
-Ashley, Value Team Government's Manager
“I worked in health care for years before moving to Toronto and starting here. I love eggs in so many different ways but my favourite is definitely the classic scrambled egg. One thing that’s really stood out to me since starting here is how passionate that egg farmers are about caring for their hens and the great pride they take in producing top-quality eggs! It really invigorates us and makes us proud to work in an egg production company.
I’m a really competitive person and I love playing board games. Scrabble is my favourite. It’s a Christmas time, family tradition at my house and everyone really gets into it."
-Gemma, Consumer Marketing Department, Egg Production Company
“Growing up with five siblings, I’ve always enjoyed caring for my younger siblings. My passion for learning and working with young children is what got me into teaching. My goal is to encourage students to think critically about controversial agricultural topics in addition to careers in agriculture including (but certainly not limited to) farming. It’s important for children to know about their food so that they can make informed decisions about the foods they purchase and eat as well as processes that are involved in getting their food to the table. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to interact with and challenge students to think about agriculture beyond the stereotype of agriculture as solely “farming” or `a farmer`.”
-Claudia, AgScape Teacher Ambassador
“My favourite thing as a mom is being here for my kids whenever they need me, there is nothing about being a farmer that inhibits me from ever being with them when it’s needed. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it can always be done. There is no one I need to call to ask for time off or switch shifts. We have some circumstances with Chase, who has Autism, that have been intensive like getting him to and from therapy. And Payton was born with some kidney issues that required some major surgeries, but as a mom who farms, I am able to be there for them. That is one of my very favourite things as a mom. Farming has allowed us to watch our kids grow up. And as a farmer, my favourite thing about living on the farm is not having neighbours right next door.”
-Brianne & Chase, Ontario Dairy Farmers
"From a very young age I wanted to do this job. I started helping out when I was five, making boxes when I could. From there I helped pick cucumbers, pack them and learned all about the machines. It’s such a diversity of hands-on jobs and experiences that you get to do. I can’t image anything better. You learn a lot of practical things like where food comes from and country living, but I do wish people understood better what actually goes into growing greenhouse cucumbers. It’s not just about going out there and picking them, there’s so much involved and we work so hard to have product that is safe and nutritional and of high quality. We’re striving our hardest to do our best and it’s a little disappointing when someone says it’s really easy.”
-Jan, Ontario Greenhouse Cucumber Farmer
“I can predict the future. I’ll have a dream and the next day or a few days after it will actually happen. For example, I had a dream about my aunt that she was pregnant. The next day she told us, but my dream had a gender and a name and everything. We aren’t sure if it is all true yet, we still don’t know the gender or the name, but it is crazy.”
-Melyse, Pumpkin patch manager
“I get bored easily, so every day, it’s different, it’s not routine work. I come here and there are always new challenges and then working to resolve them with the team in the plant. It’s a changing environment all the time, and I want to ensure that every day we are following regulations and programs to make safe, quality food.”
-Jasleen, Corporate QC Manager
“The biggest thing with the buffalo on the dairy side is some people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate buffalo milk. We had a women come here from Peterborough and this woman loves food, like really loves food. She is lactose intolerant, so all of a sudden she was eating soy cheeses and soy milk and not loving it, so her doctor suggested buffalo milk because she wasn’t allergic to it. She gets here and is so excited because it’s not only the milk she can have, but the cheese, the gelato, pizza, cheeseburgers and lasagna. In her opinion, we changed her life. The lactose intolerant population is something we have trouble keeping up with. Then there are certain cultures that grew up on buffalo milk, that are also just excited to come here. To put it into perspective, buffalo milk is number 2 in the world for milk production.”
*if you have a severe milk allergy, consult your doctor before trying alternatives
-Martin, Ontario Water Buffalo Farmer
“I’ve refereed hockey for 42 years, and I’m a part time fire fighter. There’s maybe 35 calls a year, and a meeting every week on Monday nights. It’s rewarding but really challenging. I like the friendship out of it. We’re all kind of bonded together because you never know what type of situation we’ll get into. My favourite hockey team is the Toronto Maple Leafs – we go every couple years to a game, and we buy the big tickets if we go. We think if we’re gonna go, we might as well splurge and buy the big tickets.”
-Bryan, Farm Manager of the Aviary New-Life systems
“I was born in Trinidad and Tobago. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a professional cricket player. I still love cricket but there’s not very much of it played here. I came here with my wife and have been working here for 15 years. The people here are very nice and friendly and I love the snow and cold. Everything is much brighter when there’s snow. You just have to dress properly.”
-Joe, Shipping and Receiving, Egg Production Company
“I used to have goats of my own, I used to show goats. My origin is with horses actually, but my interest with goats just escalated with every fair that I went to. I couldn’t help but think that I wanted my own. The first goat I got, her name was Gloria. She was a Nubian, which is my favourite breed. I got her for my birthday along with one of her kids and we just went from there. Getting into goats is a big challenge. You have to find the right vet who understands goats. If they deal with cats and dogs versus cattle, it is not the same thing at all. As far as knowledge goes, I really have to say that the vets that I had were awesome. I was very fortunate to be able to learn from some amazing vets.”
-Karen, gestionnaire de crèche pour chèvres
“I did not grow up on a farm, but I did decide that I wanted to be vet, so I was told to get some large animal experience. In high school I started working on the dairy farm, I joined 4-H and I was the ambassador at our fall fair all within one year. That was a big summer for me. After working on the farm and doing 4-H, it started my passion for agriculture and I haven’t really lost that passion. I feel like if I had have gone to vet school, I would have done large animals versus small. I did not think, however, I would end up as a PHD student, but I really enjoy knowing that our research is making a difference.”
-Shannon, PHD Student in Pathobiology and immunology
“Some people call me the “spare tire.” That’s because I can fill in anywhere. Whether someone is on vacation or off sick, I’m happy to cover for them for a few days. I think I’ve tried just about everything once. I always want a challenge and to learn something new – that’s what keeps it interesting and keeps me happy.”
-Ali, Lead Hand Packaging
“I answer the phones and I get to talk to the farmers. It’s kind of funny, some call in and say exactly what they want and away they go. Others call and I can’t get off the phone in 15 minutes, so they’re old school farmers and they like to talk. So I take orders on the phone and enter them, checking other staff’s orders. I feel like order entry is all I do, but it’s nonstop. We are so busy. I check production, balance production, and stuff like that. My one customer, his birds were out, and he called me one day, and he was like we haven’t talked for a while. So now we’re good friends.”
-Ashley, Canadian Feed Mill Production Planning Lead
“I grew up in Trinidad, where my parents worked in agriculture. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my dad was a sugar cane farmer, and my family had a small garden. When I was younger, I worked with both my parents in the sugar cane, but sugar cane didn’t last long. The industry closed down by the time I was 23, and after that, we had to look for other avenues to make a living. That’s when I applied to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. My first year was challenging, but I made it through. Now when I come, I can recognize certain things and enjoy working in the garden and with all the vegetables. I’ve been coming for three years now, from the end of May until the end of October. When I return, I really enjoy my time in Canada and always look forward to coming back.”
-Kishore, Seasonal Agricultural Worker
“The weather is the trickiest part of my job and deciding what hat I will be wearing on any given day. Sometimes I am a doctor, a dietician, a mechanic, a welder, or a plumber; it’s never a dull day being a farmer. You need to be someone that enjoys working with animals and the land and be someone that is comfortable with change. As a farmer, I get to give back to the land and seeing what the land is able to provide for us. I am able to spread the pigs manure on the land as natural fertilizer and from there with the help of Mother Nature grow food for the pigs and people.”
-Dennis, Ontario pig farmer
"Goats are very inquisitive and smart. They can be real characters and sometimes even trouble makers! They keep me on my toes. But I wouldn’t say there is a hard part about working with them. When you love what you’re doing – how hard could it be? When I became a goat farmer, it turned me into a much more passionate person about the industry that I was working in. It’s a love that you don’t realize is there until you find that ‘thing’ that makes you want to do everything you can for it."
-Ed, Ontario goat farmer
“I was raised on a farm in Minnesota but moved to Canada in 1972 after graduating from Purdue University and being offered a job here. We bought this farm a few years later and raised our three sons here. I loved sweet corn so we thought we’d try that.
My favourite variety is Gold Nugget. It’s an older variety with lots of flavour and not too much sugar.
The farm is now run by my son and his family. It’s great to see the next generation carrying on the business. I’m mostly retired but still help out when needed. And I get to play more golf now than I did when I owned the farm!”
-Jay, Retired sweet corn farmer
“The coolest part about being local is knowing about the foods and seeing exactly where they come from. By sourcing local there are so many learning opportunities and the ability to make amazing connections. I love being able to get out in the field and meet the famers and the people who produce our ingredients. It’s also something that I can pass onto our customers, so when I serve them a burger I can talk to them about the farm we went to and making the connection.”
-Meg, Business Development Manager
“Driving my dirt bike and the ATV are my favourite things to do on our farm. I also love the fresh air and having the space to do what I want. I’m not old enough to drive the big farm equipment yet but I’m excited to do that when I’m older.”
-Sarah, age 13
“When I was in high school I took one of those quizzes that tell you what you’re good at. I put in my skills and it came out with serving or bartending. So I tried it out and I ended up loving it! I went to Bartending School where they teach you to light the counter on fire, flip bottles and that kind of thing. They don’t really let me do that here but that’s okay and I still love it here.”
“I was born in Ghana and came here to be with my family. I’ve been working here since 2000. I started in the shipping department and am now a production supervisor. Most of the people I work with here are all immigrants and we’re trying to make Canada even better. I do love the food here – especially spaghetti! I love rice. It’s my favourite too. And of course my family loves eggs. We eat free run, omega, organic and regular eggs. We eat them all! I enjoy playing soccer and I like watching hockey but so far I’ve never learned how to skate.”
-Isaac, Production Supervisor, egg production company
"Farming has always been my life. Since I was able to walk, I would follow my father around, and I would always ask a million questions. I’m still trying to learn new things, whether it’s going to different seminars, attending local meetings or talking to people on Twitter. It’s important to constantly learn. People are a wealth of knowledge, and they can help you see things differently! I recently won a scholarship from Women in Trucking Canada to obtain my AZ licence, which is exciting since you’re never too old to learn!"
-Kristy, Ontario pig farmer
“I love what I do. Especially the first pick. That’s my favorite part. It’s amazing to see how sunshine impacts the plants. It’s mind blowing how cucumbers that aren’t ready right now will be perfectly ready to pick tomorrow morning. It’s almost like watching a miracle happen overnight. We seed it, we grow it, we move it, we plant it, we trim it, we wind it up, we clean it and then we get that first pick. We do this about 16 times a year and I still can’t get enough of it.”
-Dale, Greenhouse owner and operator
“I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and studied nursing home administration at Penn State University. But plans sure changed when I met my future husband, he was also a student there but was from a farm in Canada. I remember my first visit here in 1991 to meet his family. Before that, if you had told me that I’d end up becoming a Canadian farmer, I wouldn’t have believed it. Since then, we’ve raised our two sons on this farm, growing sweet corn and pumpkins.
I work full time in our business which also includes a market, bakery and an on-farm experience program with a corn maze and pumpkin patch. On average we can have about 40,000 visitors every year. I also get to help with the crops, like these Haskap berry bushes, which are new for us. They do really well in cold winters like the ones we have. I think they taste like a combination of raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb. Combined with a few other ingredients, they make the best butter tarts!”
-Amy, sweet corn and pumpkin farmer
“People who live in this area just think the flour mill is some big noisy factory. They have no idea that we produce flour here, and they probably even buy the products the flour is used in. I think it’d be great if more people knew where their food came from, and knew how many people these businesses support, like the farmers who grow wheat in our region, and jobs like my own. I find myself reading labels now, and I can go down to Costco and say hey, that’s our flour. It’s kind of neat to find our flour, and know that I was part of making that flour, and now those noodles are our flour. We don’t retail any flour, but it goes right to the bake shop. So to see something on the store shelf that is your flour, it’s rewarding.”
-Doug, Assistant Head Miller, Production Supervisor
“My favourite part of this job is the events where I’m always out meeting new people. It’s never the same old day to day stuff, you’re just out and about, and you work your butt off over the summer so that you can take it easy in the winter. We’re busy right up until Christmas, then we get a few weeks off and then its right into bookings. Right from February, we’re getting ready to go back out, and by March we are back out.”
Sandor, Fo Cheesy Food Truck Owner & Operator
-Sandor, Fo Cheesy Food Truck Owner & Operator
“I love the people, and when I opened this store, I wanted a family experience, for people to come. I just find people are so busy now, so to see parents come with their kids and drag them to the playset around the back and to look at the animals while the parents are in there shopping. I just love that whole experience and that whole vibe where everything just slows down for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll look out the back window and I’ll see families running around and kids running around with sausage rolls in their hand while petting the pony and just happiness in the store and the conversations that are had. It’s just different because when you go to the grocery store, it’s like an assembly line. But here, it’s an experience, and that’s what I always wanted it to be.”
-Brenda, Country Market Owner and Operator
“My favourite thing is just working with the animals all the time and being able to be outside. In the summertime we’re on pasture, and I just love being outside, touring the pasture and seeing the sheep in their habitat and that they’re all calm and relaxed and just enjoying the day. We’re really lucky here; we’ve got a great family to fall back on. When I’m away busy with other activities, I rely on my wife to do the chores here for me. When we have big jobs that need to be done, the whole family comes together. If we’re weighing lambs, or weening, or sorting or doing a big move in the pasture, I can work together with my wife, my parents and my sisters to get those jobs done.”
-Quintin, Ontario sheep farmer
“I love Canadian agriculture and the people who work and live in this community. But it wasn’t until I started connecting personally with farmers and people in the agricultural industry as a part of food and agricultural research – probably about 6 years ago – that I realized a passion had been sparked in me. Now I’ve been able to help people, hear their stories, and do research that can be turned into something practical that can help Canadian farmers and Canadian agriculture. That’s something that I’m very proud of. Overall, I wish the general public was better connected with Canadian agriculture and knew more about their food, where it comes from, and how it is produced. I think that would help some of the problems we’re facing today, like food waste and undeserved scrutiny of farmers and agriculture.”
“I don’t live on a farm yet but I’ve been saving to buy one since I was a baby. I want to be a veterinarian because I love animals. Horses. Sheep. Echidnas – all animals really. I’m in our local vet 4-H club where we’re learning about cool things like rabies and kennel cough and tetanus and bird flu – all things I’ll need to know about when I become a vet. I show my friend’s lamb at the local fair. I like washing them and getting them ready. I haven’t had one run away from me yet.”
-Kate, age 10
“We use biologicals in the greenhouse to control pests, basically using one organism to control another. Part of that is our bug program, which you could say is my ‘baby’ here. Everyday I’m checking on them and monitoring their progress. The bio program has taught me that there’s no cut and dry answer – there’s no silver bullet. You always have to be evaluating and asking questions about why something happened or what else you could try. Keeping that curiosity to continue to look outside the box makes it all more rewarding.”
-Jess, Biological Control Specialist and Assistant Grower at an Ontario cucumber greenhouse
“We made our own jobs. We were at Jennifer’s house handing out Halloween candy and she had a gnawed-on tube of cookie dough in her fridge. We got to talking because I thought it was strange but apparently, it’s a thing for people to eat raw cookie dough and found that edible cookie dough is a trend in the States. What we really love is that it’s ours and that we get to make the decisions everyday of what we’re doing and what direction we want it to go. We have the chance to grow it from a nugget into whatever we want.”
-Jennifer & Sarah, Food Truck owners and operators
“I’m originally from Iran and moved to Canada in December, 2009 when there was about one metre of snow on the ground! That was a change.
I got my master’s degree in computer science and joined this company right afterwards, managing their IT department. It’s an important job because if IT is down, everyone is down!
Everyone thinks eggs are an easy business and I used to think that too. The chicken lays the egg; we pick them up at the farm and sell it. Easy, right? But that’s not true. There is so much technology behind this company. It’s almost unbelievable. From the beginning of egg production in the barns to the production plant, it’s all based on technology.”
-Ehsan, Manager of Information Technology, egg production company
“I’ve worked at this feed mill for 27 years and it’s become computerized – it takes a lot of knowledge to run it. It’s not just pulling levers anymore. When they installed the first computers, the technicians came all the way from Germany. It was a bunch of young guys that really knew nothing about making feed - they were just a bunch of computer guys. They asked me to show them the computer system we had before, and I said it was just a pipe and you stick it in, and pull the ingredients by hand. They didn’t understand it. I’ve always been good with computers.”
-Rick, Ontario Feed Mill Operator
“I grew up in urban Ontario and the closest I came to raising livestock was a biology degree. I remember on a Friday night our family would go up to the trailer by Lake Huron and with the smell of manure from a barn, my sister and I would play a game to see who could hold their breath the longest. So it’s been a real challenge, adjusting to raising livestock. It isn't a 9-5 job, we are 24/7. You never know what new challenges you will face every day. Sometimes it is difficult to balance the livestock with family time. But I really love caring for the animals. I enjoy raising healthy pigs and giving them the best care that I possibly can.”
-Tara, Ontario Pig Farmer
“When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. I never became a doctor per se, but I deal with microbiology as a food scientist. That puts a huge amount of responsibility and accountability on us to ensure that they get a safe product. So in one way, I still look after the health of people through the food they consume on a daily basis.”
-Sanjay, Operations Manager
“As long as you have a connection to where the product is coming from and it’s a good product, to me that defines local. We have sweet corn growers here but our sweet corn isn’t ready until early July, so there’s really good corn in Simcoe and it’s less than 100 kilometres away. It’s still Ontario and to me that’s considered a local product type of thing. As long as you have that connection to where its coming from and you have that real connection. Wild blueberries you can get from up north, still Ontario and still a local product. When it comes from the farmer and its handed to you, that’s still local.”
-Kevin, Country Market Baker & Delivery man
“I was born in Switzerland and immigrated to Canada with my family when I was very young because my parents wanted to be dairy farmers. As a kid, I helped with feeding calves and working in the calf barn. As I got older, picking stones from our fields was a way of getting extra spending money.
Given that I didn’t speak English when I started school here, it’s maybe unique that I now work as a freelance journalist, specializing in writing about research and innovation in agriculture. I write mostly in English, but also in German and French. It’s also kind of funny because when I was in high school, I remember hating science. I was more of a writing, arts, history-focused student. Now I find that a lot of what I do involves research and innovation and science – all related to my early farm roots.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough, through membership in the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation and the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, to tour farms around the world and to meet agricultural journalists and communications specialists from those countries. Someone recommended to me that I join – back then, I didn’t even know what a “farm writer” was. But being able to spend time with like-minded people, learning from each other and learning about agriculture internationally is just fabulous and has been invaluable to me in my career.”
-Lilian, Freelance agricultural journalist
“If the weather cooperates, this kernel and the rest in this field will produce sweet corn later in the summer. It’s been a cold and wet spring which has made planting crops really difficult. We should be planting sweet corn and pumpkins this weekend but it rained again and the fields are too wet.
My family began selling sweet corn in 1978, when I was nine years old. At that time, we sold it from a wagon at the end of our laneway for 25 cents a dozen. My parents got half of the money and my brothers and I would split the rest. I remember we’d count it out every day as we saved up for big purchases, like bikes.
More than forty years later, we are still selling sweet corn – a lot of it. I’m especially proud of the sense of permanence that has come from raising my own sons here. In the fall, we also host tens of thousands of people who pick pumpkins or try our corn maze. I’m always happy to answer the questions they have about our farm.”
-Channing, Sweet corn and pumpkin farmer
“I was in university for something completely different- physics and mathematics. One day I came home and was talking to my parents and I don’t know why but I realized this is what I actually wanted to do. It was a weird moment and I once I finished my degree I came right in here and started training. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the idea of knowing that I’m putting food on someone’s plate, the necessity of life, that makes me feel good.”
-Laura, Greenhouse Manager
“It’s a 24/7 job, and eggs come every day – so we have to be there for them and have to look after the hens. My advice is to find a partner that wants to farm, and you can do it together. It’s a nice life, and a really great place to raise a family. But the best part is that I can walk to work, and everyone is always happy to see me!”
- Nick, Ontario Egg Farmer
“This is Faith. She’s about a year old and when she was born, we had to bottle feed her because she was an orphan. I did that a lot. Last year, the two of us were in the Santa Claus Parade. We took her by trailer into town and we lined up with all of the floats. She wasn’t nervous at all. Once we got onto the main street, she wanted to stop and say hi to every kid. We might do that again this year.”
-Shana, age 11
“I work at a restaurant that is all about using local food. It’s incredible knowing where the food is coming from. These people, the farmers and suppliers, often wheel it in themselves and you're in contact with them weekly, making new orders. It’s pretty rewarding knowing you can take that food and turn it into a dish and that people will enjoy it.”
-Shayne, Chef de Partie
“I teach animal genetics and biology at a university and I love every part of what I do. Especially supervising the masters students because you can see how much they grow, not only professionally, but personally as well. You’re preparing them to be the next generation in your industry, so when they finish and are successful – that’s the most rewarding.”
-Angela, Animal Biology Instructor
“I wanted to be a music teacher or a lawyer. The farming passion came when the egg quota came up for sale from my dad in 1997. My dad had been an egg farmer for at least 27 years before that. We wanted to diversity. To supplement I worked teaching piano and working part time for a lawyer but being able to work with family and staying home to work is the most rewarding. “
-Cindy, Egg Farmer
“I knew I liked to cook from the time I was about 8 or 9 years old. That’s when I started to make pies but I was 26 when I finally went to chef school. The most challenging banquet I’ve ever catered for was a wedding with 30 guests on an island with no hydro and no running water. The most interesting location was a classic Canadian Thanksgiving feast – turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and all the fixings. And we prepared it in a campground north of San Francisco just after the earthquake of 1989. All we had was the camp fire and a camping stove to prepare it on – and it was delicious. My wife’s a foodie too. We just renovated our kitchen and found 21 whisks. We likely don’t need that many.”
-Jay, Culinary Team Lead at an Ontario resort, and long-time chef
“You could say that working in the dairy industry is a “family trait”. My dad worked in dairy processing from the time he was old enough to work until he retired, and I followed in his footsteps, maybe a little subconsciously. Dairy is a big part of my family’s diet, because it’s a big part of my life, and I have the inside scoop on the care that goes into producing it."
-Adam, Milk Production Supervisor
“I’ve been in the kitchen my whole life. I got my first job as a dishwasher in a restaurant when I was 15, and I’ve been working in kitchens ever since. It has always been the biggest draw – even if I left to try something else, I think I would always end up coming back.”
-Madison, Line Cook
"Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given was over a game of Euchre with my dad when I was just 10. He told me to always ‘pick the suit’ because otherwise you’ll never get what you want. I like to think that I apply that to other areas of life as well, and led me to where I am today."
-Stacy, Quality Assurance Coordinator
“I love to stay physically active and I’ve always been interested in the world of kinesiology, especially sport’s psychology and the behaviour of athletes. That sort of ties in to my occupation now…only I’m looking at the behaviour of animals – and because food fuels fitness, it all fits together in a way.”
-Derek, Food Animal Behaviour and Welfare Instructor
“Back home in Mexico I wasnt a farmer, but I've been coming to Canada to work in a greenhouse for 10 years. I’m here for 7 or 8 months, and then I go home to my family. My favourite thing to do is pick tomatoes. In the greenhouse, we work as a team - and there’s always something to do, which keeps it interesting.”
-Fidencio, Seasonal Agricultural Worker
“My Mom, whom I affectionately call the ‘Martha Stewart of the Prairies’ always made food special in our lives, whether it be with the large backyard garden, Easter, Christmas - or other food celebrations throughout the year. She let us cook, make a mess, and be creative in the kitchen. When I was around 7 years old, I loved taking carrots from the garden, cutting them into coins, and mashing freshly picked raspberries to go on top to serve friends in the backyard playhouse.”
-Patricia, Registered Dietitian
"My dad worked for a livestock transportation company and from the time I was really little, I loved going to work with him. I wanted to be a mechanic and took a high school co-op placement internship as a heavy diesel mechanic. I enjoyed working on the trucks and wondered what it would be like to drive them. After all, a good mechanic’s got to know how to drive them.
When I was 18, I got my AZ licence and have now been driving a livestock truck for five years. I bought my own truck three years ago and drive across Canada and the USA, delivering livestock to their locations. On long trips, my dog Ember often comes along to keep me company. I named my truck Angus after Angus Young of AC/DC fame.
I really consider livestock drivers to be the kings of the road. We have to be great drivers because we’re carrying live animals who need to arrive at their final destination in good shape. Livestock transporters also have a great work ethic and help each other out whenever needed. No one’s going to leave each other stranded – and my coworkers don’t treat me any different because I’m female.
People often do double takes when they see me getting out of my truck – because I may not look like what they expect a trucker to look like. One of my biggest frustrations comes from people that underestimate me – like farmers or processing plant employees or other drivers that haven’t met me yet and think I don’t know what I’m doing. It motivates me to prove them wrong!
What do I do for fun? I do barrel riding with a horse I bought four years ago and I love taking road trips with my fiancé on my Harley Sportster."
-Sara, Livestock Transporter
“Outside of playing on the farm with our animals, my favourite thing is gymnastics. I was in a gymnastics competition last Saturday. On my floor routine, I placed first with a 9.3 out of 10. On vault, I got a 9.1 out of 10 which was only third place.
My favourite thing to do around the farm is gather eggs and stacking the trays. I also like showing my sheep at the fair. I wash them three times before they go to the fair and I usually get first or second place.”
-Danica, age 8
"I guess I do have a diverse range of interests! I’m a fourth generation vegetable farmer. Maybe someday, my two sons will be the fifth. We ship about 1,000 cases of broccoli every day during harvest. I also volunteer as an auxiliary police officer in my community and I love racing cars. I started racing go karts when I was 12 years old and then later went into the CASCAR league, racing on tracks across Canada. I’ve won the Flamboro Memorial Cup twice."
-Kenny, Vegetable farmer
interested in electronics, mechanics, technology, things that move and make something – all the “how it’s made stuff”. Since I was a kid I was always trying to build something, fix something, or break something. It just kind of turned into a profession. I love all the moving parts and how we can use technology to improve things that are outdated and obsolete.”
-Alek, Maintenance Supervisor
“Part of the reason I became a large animal vet is because working with farmers is really interesting. You work with them closely, and have a much stronger relationship as opposed to seeing someone’s dog every year when it comes in for shots. I’ve had some clients for a long time – seeing their kids grow up and take over the farm and that intergenerational change is really cool – just watching people let go and start to let their kids make more decisions. Seeing the changes and improvements in their animals or farms over time is really rewarding. It’s obviously their business, it’s their family, so I think having that connection with clients is really interesting.”
-Charlotte, Large Animal Veterinarian & University Instructor
“I came from Liberia and I’ve been in Canada two years now. I love Canada because it’s a country of safety for all refugees from all over the world. I’ve been working here for one and a half years now. I never worked with food before coming here and I love this job the best. If I go in the grocery store and see our egg products, I am very happy, seeing people buying them and I think – they’re buying the product that I made!”
- Victor, Egg processing plant employee
"I spent much of my childhood on my grandmother’s beef cattle farm – she lived around the corner and my parents always knew where to find me if I wasn’t at home! Fast forward 40 years and I’m now raising beef cows and sheep my great uncle’s farm. I never really wanted to do anything else.
What did grandma think about my career choice? Even when she was no longer active on the farm, she was quick to offer advice. She’d leave me messages telling when she thought I need to move cows to another pasture!"
-Kim Jo, Beef and sheep farmer
“I graduated with a science lab technology diploma and actually worked in quality assurance for frozen food and beer companies before coming here. What I didn’t realize back then is that as much effort goes into making animal feed as goes into making food for humans. Every step of the process is tracked, from the time the crops are harvested and brought to the mill to the time they’re sent out on our trucks. As a consumer too, that gives me a lot of confidence in our food supply.”
-Jennifer, Quality Assurance Coordinator, Ontario feed mill
“I love passing on my knowledge of food and drink to other people, whether it’s co-workers or customers. It doesn’t really matter if they remember that I was the one that told them or not. If it sticks, and it can help them in the future, or even if it’s just a fun fact to share at a party, I think that’s awesome.”
-Myles, Restaurant Employee