This Is What Farm Stress Looks Like.

This is what farm stress looks like for us. An empty feedyard amidst a grass and forage production crisis.

This spring has been unlike any other in our decades of farming. Drought combined with late, hard frosts, has resulted in almost no grass and forage growth across the ranch.

We have had farming seasons before that turned us upside down. We have survived BSE – when a sick animal from a different farm in a difference province cause the bottom to fall out of the beef market – and the value of every animal on our farm dropped to pennies. We survived the early 2004 frost, when every acre of our grain farm froze in the fields. Those moments will be forever etched in our minds, as they will for many of our fellow farmers. We have survived floods, a lightning strike to our cattle herd, trade wars and more. We know and understand farm stress as well as anyone.

But this spring is different. Our ranch is built around forage production. Over the years, that has ranged from high to low, and everywhere in between, but we have NEVER experienced zero production, and it is weighing heavy on our shoulders.

More than the financial hit we are taking, more than the uncertainty of what the best course forward is, there is such a weight of responsibility on us. The responsibility of having living, breathing animals relying on our decisions is immense. Crushing. We need to know that we have enough feed to nourish the animals in our care for not only the summer, but also the looming winter months as well.

We are already selling off animals, so they can be shipped out of province to parts of the country that still have feed. While it hurts to sell at a financial loss, moving those animals off the farm will free up what little feed we have for the animals that are left.

So we will make the best decisions that we can. We will remind ourselves that the struggles of our past have made us better farmers. We will knuckle down and pray for rain. We will look for ways to manage our stress as best we can. But – that pit in our stomach, the strained smile on our faces, the sleepless nights and the grouchy attitudes – those will be with us for a while. This is what farm stress looks like.

Dear (man) Farmers: Here Is What To Get Your Wives For Christmas.

1. The gift of Tools From A Tool

For the husbands that have (repeatedly) stolen your wives tools: give them back! Take a tally of all the house, yard, barn and shop tools that you have “borrowed for a second” and never returned. REPLACE THEM!! And for every single one of you that read this and immediately thought “That doesn’t apply to me.” –  I call bullshit! I guarantee that as your wife read it, she immediately thought of 6 things that have disappeared. Off the top of my head, without any real thought given, my list includes: rakes, hoes, hose, buckets, measuring tapes, screw drivers, pruners, horse nippers, lead shanks, PHONE CHARGERS, pitch forks, and many, many more. Replace them. Replace them all. And don’t for one second consider replacing them with those cheap “girl versions” with the pink handles. Just because I have a vagina doesn’t mean I want pink tools. I already have a pink tool. It’s who stole my tools in the first place.(Just kidding Dear!! 😉😉😘😘)  

And because you are a grown-ass man, let me assure you, you don’t need my tools to be pink to know not to steal them. Replace all those that have disappeared into the farm tool abyss, with the promise of a future where you a) ask first, and b) put them back when you are done! 

2. The gift of Gates

I cannot begin to count the times I have been out, miles from nowhere, stuck behind a gate strung so damn tight that Hulk Hogan must be needed to open the damn thing. Words are said. Bad words. Really bad words. Bad words that are directed precisely towards my rancher husband. 

I have a dream. A dream of the Christmas morning that my only gift under the tree is a card. A card that reads: Dear Wife, Because I love you, I have taken the time to personally test every single gate on the ranch this week. I have tested each gate to make sure that not only is every single one easily opened, but also, every electric gate that was incorrectly installed the first time (completely my fault), I have switched so that when you open it, it does not continue to pump mind-numbing, husband hate inducing electricity into your body. Thank you for all you do on our farm. Signed, your silly farmer husband that didn’t get it right in the first place. 

Make this dream happen boys. You will be rewarded. In the best of ways. 

3. The gift of Lube

Get your damn minds out of the gutter!! Maybe this one should be titled “The gift of Servicing Your Wife”. Hmmmm… Maybe that could still use a little work. Here is the deal: I will bale all day long. I will drive combine, I will swath. But there is this: I will not service. Even though I can operate it, I don’t like equipment. Not even a little. Don’t ask me what number the tractor is that I am driving, or where the grease nipples are. Judge me if you want, but then you will have lost an operator forever. 

This is a picture of THE sexiest thing that happened on our farm last year (And Hubs would probably say that there were many). The back window wiper is broken on my baler tractor. Hubs took care of it. (The dust that is. Stopping to fix a wiper blade when it’s dry would never happen!) After completely servicing it. You want to rev your wife’s engines? Grease her nipples!!

Write her a pledge to keep her (equipment!) serviced without ever needing to be asked. 

4. The gift of Travel

There isn’t much that’s hotter than a well deserved, long over-due trip off the farm. Well, there is one thing. Take a trip off the farm, and add the sexiest words known to farmers everywhere…. TAX DEDUCTABLE (Insert longing sigh…). 

The trick guys, is to make sure you do it right. A quick trip into your closest farm show, while rushing back in time for chores isn’t going to score you any points. But, a trip to somewhere DIFFERENT than your usual, combined with a fancy hotel, awesome meals out, and fun with friends? THAT will get you on the scoreboard!

5. The Gift of Time

There is not a farm wife out there that does not at times feel overwhelmed with her life. Keeping up with the demands of the farm, family, possible off farm work, and just plain life can get to the best of us. While you cannot create more time in the year, you can help free up some of hers. 

Christmas time is exceptionally busy, and is the perfect time to chip in BEFORE being asked. Are the lights up? Is the tree up? Is the house suprise-company ready? Yep, you can help with ALL of those things!

How about the other (many) insanely busy times of year? How about “Get out of meals in the field” cards? I have a friend who gave his wife cards that she could use at any point during harvest, and he would make meal arrangements. I don’t mean that he got off the combine or anything, but he hired a local teenager to pick up and deliver pizza to the field. The trick with making this gift awesome is the idea of NO STRINGS ATTACHED. It doesn’t mean that she needs to make up for that meal because MIL stepped in (it is not a gift if you end up owing your Mother In Law a favour). It also doesn’t mean that you need to approve of the reason she isn’t cooking that day. If she’s using her card because she is sitting on the baler, it kinda defeats the purpose. The whole point is to give her some time to do with whatever the heck she wants. Trust me, the more “she time” she gets, the more “private time” you will be rewarded with! 

So boys, there you go. Five awesome Christmas Gift ideas for your deserving farm-wives. And you probably didn’t even have to leave the farm for them. Just don’t forget – even though I said (repeatedly) that this or that is ALL I want for Christmas, I am totally lying. FarmHers are awesome, we deserve it all!!

Tisdale’s New Slogan Breaks My Farming Heart

I am so very proud to have grown up on a farm just outside of Tisdale, Saskatchewan. I have always said Tisdale is the perfect sized rural town – small enough to still feel small town, large enough to have all the amenities you really need. Like many Saskatchewan towns, Tisdale thrives on agriculture. The schools are full of farm kids, and the businesses rely on farm families as customers. 

I travel across Western Canada speaking about agriculture, and why farmers need to share their stories with the public. I consider myself to be an Agvocate – someone who speaks positively for agriculture. One of the (many) reasons I still feel so connected to my hometown is that Tisdale, and it’s unconventional slogan, made me an Agvocate long before it was even a word. 

You see, Tisdale’s slogan “Land of Rape and Honey” was always something people talked about. There were great conversations had from Toronto to Saskatoon about it. I have been explaining the connection between rapeseed and canola for decades. 

Rapeseed and its more popular cousin canola (see the difference between the two here), grow incredibly well in the Tisdale area. Grain farmers have grown both crops here with huge success. Rapeseed and Canola are a beautiful yellow flowered crop. And guess who loves flowers? Yep, honeybees. Beekeepers are abundant in the Tisdale area, due in large part to vast fields of rapeseed and canola that the bees thrive on, producing some of the best darn honey in the world! (I may be a little biased here…) 

Tisdale has now changed their slogan. Their Land of Rape and Honey days are over. They have reacted to the questions and side-eye glances by removing the controversy, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I am a proud farmer. Proud of what I grow and proud to answer any questions about it. It breaks my heart because I am a proud Tisdale girl. Proud of my roots, proud of my homeland, and proud to answer any questions about it. And finally, it breaks my heart because I am a proud marketer. I love all things marketing, and how words can move mountains. And in my mind, this slogan change is not a good marketing move. 

The purpose of a town slogan is to make your town memorable. To make it stand out from the thousands of other small rural communities. I think everyone can agree that Land of Rape and Honey accomplished this. From PEI to BC, I have had people ask where I am from, and when I say Tisdale, more often than not they immediately respond with the infamous slogan. Love it, hate it, understand it or not, Tisdale’s slogan was MEMORABLE. It was unique, applicable, memorable and often spoke of. All things of a perfect marketing campaign. 

Can we say the same about their new slogan? 

Highest of Highs and the Lowest of Lows on the Ranch

Calving is just getting underway on the ranch. The heifers (first time Mommas) are nicely starting. Heifers are young, inexperienced mothers, so they often need a little help with their first calves. We check them every couple of hours to make sure everything is going well. 

Today on my second heifer check of the day, I had the full range of the ultimate highs and the ultimate lows of ranching. 

I noticed two heifers off behind a bush and knoll that I had not noticed during my check a few hours previous. One was clearly in distress, so I trekked through the trees to take a closer look. Things did not look well for either of them – they were both in distress and having trouble calving. 

I called Aaron for backup as he is our difficult calving expert. Of course, he was on the farthest corner of the ranch, and would take a half an hour to get to where I was. While waiting for him, I had a closer look, and my heart sank. Neither situation looked good for the calf, or the heifer. 

I moved the red heifer up to the calving chute to where Aaron would best be able to help her. As I headed back and got closer to the black heifer, I could see this was a bad situation as well. She was in severe distress herself, and couldn’t get to her feet. The calf’s head and feet were showing, but the bag had not broken. The calf’s nose was swollen, a sure sign that she had been calving for too long. I quickly broke the bag with my fingers, just before Aaron showed up. His arrival startled the heifer – she lurched to her feet and stumbled out into the middle of a small slough (marsh) before collapsing again. 

We followed her into the slough, mindless to the water filling our boots, to pull the calf right then and there. We were standing behind the heifer in thigh deep water, Aaron pulling the calf, while I held it’s head above the water so it wouldn’t drown before it was even fully born. As I cradled it’s head I wondered how many people get to have an experience like this. I am making a difference for this calf. I am helping to save it’s life. It was a moment not completely unlike when either of my children were born and first placed on my chest – all the commotion around me faded away as I stared into the calf’s eyes and fully embraced the moment.  We managed to get the calf free and hauled it out to dry land, where it snorted and chuffed and sneezed the fluid out of it’s nose. It gasped for breath and looked up at me with one eye, seemingly to say “what the heck just happened!”. It took every bit of our skill, teamwork and energy, but we did it. We saved the calf. 


My momentary high was cut short when I realized we still had the other difficult situation to deal with. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach as I knew the likelihood of saving the next calf was slim.  

We got her into the chute, and my fears were confirmed, the calf was dead. As much as I knew it wasn’t farm girl tough, I choked back tears. In all the years of farming, these are the moments that make you question if you are cut out for this job. This life lost is the lowest of the low – not when you make a marketing mistake and lose  hundreds of thousands of dollars, not missing your child’s first ball game or horse show because you were too busy farming, not when you lose a crop to frost, or BSE hits and you lose the majority of your livelihood. This life lost cannot be regained – and the worst of the worst – it was my fault. It was preventable. If I had spotted her on my first check, it would have been an easy pull. Healthy calf, healthy mom. But I didn’t, and it wasn’t. 

There are over a thousand calves born on our ranch each spring. Logic tells me that there will be lost calves. As hard as we try, there is no human way to save each one. But this moment of a lost life due to pure human error – that stays with you. Even now, hours later my stomach is clenched. It is a moment I have to live with. The only good I can find from this is that next time I will do better. I will look more closely. I will try harder. I will learn. 

Now as I check on the weak but improving new momma and calf I smile, but as I quad away, it must be the wind causing the tears on my face. I am a tough ranching woman. It’s the wind. It must be. 


Mom and calf have bonded nicely, and are in full recovery! 


This Morning I Jinxed Myself…. Ranch Wife Style

This morning I woke up in a GREAT mood. I got the kids off to school, managed to remember to send them both with lunch, books, backpacks, and skates, helmets and hockey gloves for school skating. I was looking forward to a day of straightening up the house, tackling the mountain of laundry, and having uninterrupted time to tackle some computer/office needs. Apparently I was looking a little TOO forward to it, because I did that thing us ranch wives should NEVER DO – I not only said it out loud, I proclaimed it.

I am NOT leaving my yard today!

And wouldn’t you just know it, not 30 minutes later, isn’t Jake (our main Shop Man Extraordinaire) at the door with those dreaded words.

“What are you doing today?”

Followed by:

“Parts Run”

The worst part was that I had no one to blame but myself. I had irreversibly jinxed myself. Before I knew it, I went from looking at my shrinking “to-do” list to staring at this:

Followed by this:


Lesson of the day: You are 100% more likely to be given a speeding ticket when pulled over in a brand new Honda Pilot than an old junky craptacular Dodge Mini-Van.

To add injury to insult, once home, we realized half the parts they sent me home with were ones we had ordered 4 months ago. I am sure the parts guy will be shocked to learn that we have no need for swather parts in January.

Real Numbers for Beef’s Environtmental Footprint

Last year on Earth Day (April 22nd), my local paper published an article on how to be more “green”. In it, they suggested going meatless for some of the time because of beef’s poor environmental footprint. I wrote an article to counter this idea, as I see every day what beef’s actual footprint looks like. Read that post here

While doing some research for that post, I spoke with Tracy Herbert from the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC). She pointed out that while there has been quite a lot of research done in this area, there had not yet been an effort to pull the data from all those studies together to come up with one over-all consensus, but that they were working on it. 

I am happy to report that the results from phase one of that study are in, (see it here), and things are looking very positive for the beef industry! Over all they have found that we are producing significantly MORE beef (32% more), while using significantly LESS resources (24% less land and 29% less breeding stock), and creating a significantly SMALLER environmental footprint (15% less greenhouse gasses). 

While I only have to look out my front window to see first hand what beef does to (or for) our environment, this study that puts exact numbers on what we do is very exciting. We can only improve if we know where we started, and every farmer I know only wants to improve how they farm. I can’t wait to see where we are in 10, 20 and 50 years from now! 

For more info, visit the BCRC’s website, here. Or read Real Agriculture’s article on the study here


Our Thanksgiving Message: Thank You for Choosing Canadian Beef This Year. 

These is one absolute truth here on the ranch:

We love raising beef!!

We are incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living doing what we love every day of our lives. 

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, so I though it more than appropriate to share our message  of giving thanks to all of you who chose Canadian beef. 

View our Thanksgiving message HERE

Thank you!!! 


If McDonalds and A&W, Costco and Walmart can work together, why can’t we as farmers?

This week I had the amazing experience of acting as tour guide for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef AGM Tour. The CRSB is an unprecedented initiative where stakeholders from the entire food chain have come together to define and improve beef sustainability in Canada. Stakeholders that have dedicated their time, effort and funds to this include Costco and Walmart, McDonalds and A&W, Producer Groups (Canadian Cattlemen’s Assn), wildlife groups (World Wildlife Federation) and packers (Cargill). It is an incredibly diverse group of people with diverse, and sometimes even divergent goals. 


             A common thread
As I chatted amongst these high level thinkers within competing industries I was struck by one overwhelming common thread. Each person there, each organization, was there for the sole purpose of making the beef industry (from the beginning, middle to end) not perfect, but BETTER. With so many opinions, and so many end goals, reaching each groups perfect goal is impossible. They each understand this fact, but it does not stop them from working together to make things BETTER. BETTER is not perfect, and it may never be, but it IS with working for. 

  What farmers can learn from this

My time recently spent on social media has been disparaging to the point of causing me to actively avoid Twitter. Agricultural in-fighting feels like it is at an all time high. Organic vs conventional, supply management vs export markets, big farms vs the little guy. It feels as though every sector of agriculture has backed itself into a protectionist corner, spitting mad and firing uncalled for shots at anyone that dares question them. 

So what would happen if we chose instead to put down the word cannons and focus on making things BETTER? Instead of ripping each other apart, we asked questions? What if we chose to stop the strive for perfection in our own section, and switched our focus to making all of Ag BETTER? Surely if McDonalds can work with A&W, then beef and dairy, organic and conventional, large and small can chose the same path. BETTER sounds good to me. Is BETTER enough for you? 



12 Signs: You Might Be A Farm Wife If…..

1. Your first date night post-baby is to a cattle auction.

2. When telemarketers/sales people/ government workers call and ask for the man of the house, then doubt you when you offer to answer questions, you wish for the superhuman ability to reach through the phone to strangle said person.

3. You automatically know what your friend is talking about when she complains she had to pull out the “I WILL walk to the house” line last week. You automatically respond with “I know, they’re such jerks” before you’ve even heard the story.

4. You have managed to cart supper for 8 to a field 8 miles away with 3 kids in tow, one of which is still in a bucket car seat, and another that is the devil itself in the form of a two year old. And  you kept it hot. And managed to remember (and cook accordingly) that 2 guys don’t eat cucumbers, one won’t eat onions and they all want 3 helpings of dessert. And did I mention you got it there hot?  And you celebrated with wine. Lots of wine.

5. You have been pulled over for speeding and got off (legitimately) for the excuse of “The combine is sitting, waiting for these parts.”

6. Your vet’s cell number is programmed into your phone.

7. With every summer wedding invitation you receive, you send back the RSVP with a special note: “attendance is weather dependant”.

8. The local grocery store has a mop handy for when you make a quick milk run on the way past town when hauling yearlings. They know the spring run means your boots are dropping more than mud.

9. In the spring you can identify all the other cow-farmer wives by the lingering stench of milk-replacer on their hands/clothing/hair.

10. You understand the true meaning of the phrase “I’ll be in in a few minutes” also known as “I’ll be there right away”, also known as “This will only take a few minutes”, also known as “Be right there”. True meaning of said phrases: “I have no idea how long I will be. Eat without me.”

11. You understand that your tightly managed schedule can be blown apart at any moment by weather, loose animals, emergency parts runs, or “I just need you for a couple minutes to move trucks”.

12. You love your life, and wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world!


Seconds after publishing this post, I head out to drive to an arena I ride at, and find that out of 5 trucks on our farm, this one was the only truck left for me. Figures!!


Keeping my Cool with Vegans on Twitter

It is not new news that Vegan Activists are busy on social media these days. Months ago they made a huge group effort to take over the farmer driven #farm365 movement on Twitter. #farm365 was started by Andrew Campbell, an Ontario dairy farmer as a way for farmers to show (with pictures) what their daily life is like on the farm. What started as a great way to show consumers how their food is really produced in a completely open and transparent way, quickly spiralled down into offensive attacks from vegan groups trolling twitter. See more here:

Since the moment I started taking part in #farm365, I have had countless tweets attacking me, my family and my profession.

 So why do I continue to take part? It is really quite simple – I believe in the purpose of #farm365. I believe that people have forgotten what everyday farmers look like. They have forgotten that we are kind, caring, compassionate people that feed what we grow to our families with pride. We care about the land we are in charge of. We are not swayed by mega-corporations trying to sell us one seed/chemical or another. We make our own decisions, and stand by them. 

When the vegans come a-trolling, sometimes it is hard to keep my cool. I have no interest in trying to change their minds. I know they are set on their choices, just as I am set on mine. I know that the vast majority of people won’t be swayed by them either – especially when they are at their most hateful. I know it is best to walk away and probably hit the BLOCK button. That being said, some days it is really hard not to engage them. It is hard not to stand up for myself, my values and my morals. I want to shout from the rooftops that we care deeply for our animals, and ensure their eventual death is pain-free and respectful. But they don’t care. They only see death, and to them the death of an animal is possibly more important than the death of a human. It is certainly more important to them than the respect of a fellow human. 

So sometimes I crumble. Sometimes I engage. It never works. I have tried being respectful. I have tried being witty. It. Does. Not. Work. 

Today I crumbled. I engaged. Luckily they have learned to not threaten violence, or Twitter will suspend their accounts. This was a calm and respectful interaction with them. Believe me, they get much, much worse. Here is a little snapshot of today’s crumble:



So again, I have learned my lesson. Do not engage. But knowing that still doesn’t lessen the knife-like feeling in my gut everytime one of their brethren favorites or re-tweets one of these. 

So for all you eat meat-eaters out there – those of you that are watching on Twitter or Facebook or reading blogs like this one: thank you for every Like, Favorite, Share, or Re-Tweet. Thank you for every honest question you have asked of farmers like me. Thank you for wanting to know more. My engagement with you far out weighs days like today. Your support balances the hate. Some days we need it.