A good day on the farm opens and closes with long shadows, pale sunbeams and whispering winds. Romantic right?
Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to observe every small step spring takes towards summer and then relish in watching it close out into fall, all the while enjoying the fruits of the season’s labour. Couple these sentiments with being your own boss, growing your own food and feeling like you have put in a hard day’s labour and you pretty much feel like a golden God. And then there’s the legendary farmers tan that is so hard to resist…or to avoid depending on how you look at it.
But, no one tells you that despite your hard day’s labour, your to-do list has only lengthened, your kids are permanently in need of a bath and once again the grass needs cut so that you can actually distinguish the pastures from your front yard. Farming makes it really hard to go away for that long weekend and the reality of summer weddings is that you often go solo, so one of you can care for animals.
I don’t intend to sound sour on farming; it is all those beautiful things mentioned above. It is a fulfilling lifestyle and I relish in the fact that my days are full of variety and that agriculture is a constantly evolving industry. But I admit that some days, the days when I am bleary eyed and stooped from spending hours pulling weeds or hauling yet another heavy load of feed, it is hard to feel the romance.
Jarod and I met at University in Thunder Bay, both studying Outdoor Recreation and both from small family farms in southern Ontario. I was raised in the Ottawa Valley on a small beef and dairy operation run by my grandfather and father and Jarod came from a long line of cash crop farmers in the deep south of Chatham, Ontario. Both of us loved our childhood on the farm but neither of us chose the life of a farmer outright, we were not studying any form of agriculture in school and neither of us had plans to take over the family farm back at home.
Following University, we spent seven years living, working and adventuring in the Yukon. In 2011, after learning that we were to become parents, we realized just how strong our desire to have our own farm was and how important it was that we provide our own children with this experience.
At this time, we were living in a Yurt close to the Yukon wilderness, and had raised 75 broiler chickens in a barn made of pallets collected from grocery stores and hauled on the roof racks of our Subaru. We had no running water, very limited electricity and REALLY good friends to help us with butchering the birds as there was no processing facility and no regulations requiring one in the far north.
It must have been on a day filled with garbage bag aprons and buckets of chicken parts that Jarod and I decided we might actually have enough skills and grit to call ourselves farmers.
Jarod had the skills to build us a house and I was stubborn enough to believe that I could handle anything with a newborn baby…and so it went.
A few short or incredibly long months after returning to Ontario (depending on which of us is telling the story), we purchased 98 acres just south of Bobcaygeon and began making our plans; for a house, for animals, for a garden and for the future we hoped to offer our kids. Jarod designed and built our house and was supported by family and friends who offered helping hands. I carved out a garden, began ordering chickens and stole some helping hands from the house building crew to string up some fence. It was a full family affair the day we got our fist three pigs from the sale barn and released them onto a small yard of hotwire fence (more on that venture to come later). With poultry and pigs and a moderately sized garden we donned our farmer hats and waded into this new venture.
Ava became a toddler and welcomed her new brother only a few weeks before we moved into our home in 2014. And thus, the roots for Three Forks Farm began to grow.
And here we sit at present day, with two young children, multiple flocks of chickens, different breeds of pigs and a largish flock of turkeys who have just arrived. My arms and face are freckled despite it being early in the season and the muscles from lifting heavy buckets have hardened once again after their winter of rest. The days blend into the next, the chore list is endless and at times overwhelming for Jarod and I, as we navigate the winding path that is self employment in the world of farming.
But as each day begins, whether is with a toddlers foot in my ribs or with a ruckus call of the morning bird song, I am happy (most days) to face the work ahead. And in those pale morning sun beams, as I free the chickens from their overnight shelter, stepping in fresh poop, and pour a bucket of sour milk to happily squealing pigs, which inevitably splashes back on my already smelly work boots, I catch a glimmer of the romantic idea that brought Jarod and I to this point in our lives.