Each day Ottawa gets bigger. Often, that growth is at the expense of farmland that is now within, or surrounding, the urban areas. Will the rural landscape soon be eliminated and forgotten as the city continues its unbridled expansion? Where will we get our food when the farmland is gobbled up to build another subdivision?
As I pass by farms near my urban home, my curiosity is aroused, and I wonder: Who lives there? What actually happens there? How does this farm contribute to those of us who never go near a farm?
The Fraser Family owns and operates one such multi-generational farm on which they grow a variety of crops, raise chickens, and raise and milk a large herd of dairy cows. Kent and his young family live next to the Dairy Barn while the rest of the family live on or near other farm operations.
Deciding to focus this ‘story’ on the dairy operation, I spent considerable time in and around the farm with Kent and his parents, John and Barb. I also spent time with Kent’s cousin Laura as she maintained the dry barn where calves are born and weaned. Laura tenderly ensures the new-born calves are well fed, and transports them to the Calf Hutch where they begin the transition away from milk. Once fully grown and producing milk, the cows are transferred to the Dairy Barn where they are fed a combination of hay and grains during their milk producing periods.
When cows are producing milk, daily milking is a must to ensure their good health. By 5:30 AM, and again by 4 PM the Frasers move the cows from the Dairy Barn into the Milking Parlour where they all line up and wait patiently for their turn – there are no holidays; this is a 7 days a week operation.
The cows enter the highly computerized Milking Parlour where they are connected to the milking machines. The amount of milk produced by each cow is tracked, and the milkers are automatically disconnected from the teats when the milk supply drops to given levels. Milk is sent through a filter and into the milk tank where it is chilled and stored. Every second day, the milk truck arrives to transport the current supply to the Processor for pasteurization and packaging. It is then shipped to a local Canadian retailer.
The whole herd is monitored and necessary action is taken to ensure its health and well-being. Each cow, on its return from the Milking Parlour, passes through a copper sulphate foot bath – those with any sign of a foot problem are stopped to ensure an appropriate soaking. The Dairy Barn is cleaned regularly, and the Milking Parlour is cleaned thoroughly after each milking.
All family members help run the dairy operation but, Kent, his parents, and Laura take primary responsibility. My visits gave me a window into a lifestyle that I had never experienced, but it was not a nostalgic view of farming life; Kent, his parents, and the rest of the Fraser Family are running a large business, which produces approximately 4500 litres of milk per day, every day, 365 days per year.
In addition to this dairy operation, the farm also delivers poultry, corn, beans and other such necessities so that we can maintain our urban lifestyle.
Perhaps, the next time you pass by a farm, or stop at the grocery store to pick up that dairy product, these images will prompt you to think about the people who have toiled long and hard to produce the things most of us take for granted.
Freeman Keats – website