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When an old dairy farm goes to the goats

Even though I have never been a full time farmer, and in fact I haven’t lived on the Eastern Ontario family farm where I was born and raised for more than 40 years I felt a bit of a twinge earlier this year when family members were planning to sell the place. It was the right thing to do, but it was one of those Kunta Kinte moments… knowing I’d have to say goodbye to my roots.

The farm was listed for sale in late winter, a serious offer came forth in May and by late June the new people had moved in. After about 70 years, the Harts didn’t live there anymore.

It had been a pretty typical Eastern Ontario dairy farm. When I was a kid it totaled about 240 acres that ran in a fairly narrow strip from one concession road back to the next. My grandfather and dad bought the first property in the early 1940s. That included some land, an old brick farmhouse built by a William Kennedy in 1860, along with the main hay barn and stable and some out buildings.

Dad bought a couple more pieces of land over the years, built a new stable in 1963 and at its peak, he was milking about 30 head. There was a fair bit of hardwood and cedar bush on the place, but on the open land he produced hay, some oats and of course pasture for the dairy cows. Most of the time there was also a flock of about 15 chickens, and for many years Dad also had a half dozen sows for a bit of pork production. It was a pretty typical operation for the day.

It ran steady until the early 1990s. As Dad moved toward retirement years, the pigs went, then the dairy cows, and he sold a couple parcels of separate-titled land, so when the farm went up for sale in 2013 it consisted of the main house and farm buildings and 175 acres, including 58 acres of cropland. For the past 15 years or so Harts continued to live in the house, but the land was been rented out — soybeans were grown on some of the fields, and there were often a few beef cattle on pasture for the summer.

Going home

I have been in and out of the “lane” that leads to the farmhouse a million times, but on August 31 my sister and I drove in the lane toward the house for the first time in our lives as visitors.

In the yard we were greeted by Bill and Tammy Irven, who along with their two children Hailey and Matthew are now the new owners. We met a hard working young couple who have a real love for the farm life.

Due to scale and economics I don’t see the place becoming a major commercial farm, but I can see the Irvens making it a good mixed farming operation. Bill is a service technician with Dundas Agri-Systems (Boumatic milking equipment) and Tammy is the livestock person. They have a few beef cattle and a couple horses, but her main focus is a herd of about 90 Boer goats raised for meat production.

I never thought I would see the old dairy stable filled with goats, but actually it was a pretty good fit. There’s also a new pup and a couple older ‘coon hounds, and some cats with kittens. Looks like they have all the essentials.

It is good to see a hard working young family, with plans and dreams take over the place. Now all they need is to win the lottery and find more hours in the day.

There may not be any Harts farming the old place anymore, but there is a young family with plenty of heart planning to farm. It is good to see the land being used and appreciated by a new family and another generation, not left idle to be reclaimed by milkweed and goldenrod. It will be there anytime I want to visit. †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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