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 know someone who should be featured on Faces Behind Food, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 connaissez quelqu’un que nous devrions présenter par le biais de cette initiative, envoyez-nous un courriel à : email@example.com
“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
“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