Getting to know Canadian farmers – Robert Larmer
Robert Larmer lives in Nestleton, Ont. on a farm he purchased in May 2014. Along with his parents, Robert manages 75 Holstein dairy cattle, a small cow-calf operation of purebred Herefords and between 700 and 800 acres of crops, including a diverse rotation of timothy alfalfa, soybeans, hay and wheat. The family work together on this operation with one part-time employee.
A day in the life of a farmer
Winter is a slower season for Robert. At 5:00 A.M. he heads out to the dairy barn to make sure all the cows have been through their automated milker and that the animals are in good health. According to Robert, the next step is the most important part of the day: “having a cup of coffee.”
After coffee, Robert checks on the cow-calf operation and makes sure the cattle are healthy and have bedding, feed and water. After this check, the weather determines Robert’s next tasks. He could either make feed, vaccinate cattle or do work in the office if it’s chilly. Office work includes checking finance and bills, reviewing Dairy Farmers of Canada’s proAction practices and validating that all standards are adequately met, along with crop planning for the upcoming year.
Focus on quality
“The government sets some guidelines and standards that farmers need to meet, but farmers should already be meeting these standards,” Robert says.
As explained by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, “with proAction, farmers offer proof to customers that they work to ensure milk quality and safety, and to continually improve animal health and welfare as well as environmental stewardship.”
Involvement in agriculture
Robert spends his spare time working on a few different boards, including his local dairy committee and federation of agriculture. Their farm is a member of Galilee Export and Robert dedicates time to this food cooperative. His wife, who works as a teacher in town, is on the Durham Farm and Rural Family Resources (DFRFR) board, helping to provide flexible childcare and a range of agricultural resources. She is also involved with Agscape, which provides agriculture education in Ontario schools. These boards provide meaningful education about farming practices and reliable access to childcare, both of which are important to family-run farms.
Robert believes in the power of unity within the sector.
“Commodity groups and farmers (should) focus their efforts on the common good, and less on their operation or commodity group. There is a lack of cohesiveness between groups and (we) should be working together. If we want a seat at the government table, the larger and more connected our voice is, the better off we’ll be.”
Across Canada, there are many different types of operations with many different needs. In a geographical sense, it can be difficult to join perspectives under one united voice.
Robert appreciates Canadians’ renewed commitment to buying local products.
“Thank you for trusting us as Canadian farmers, as food producers,” says Robert. “We are doing everything we can to provide safe and affordable products. We are doing it in your best interest, in the land’s best interest and the animal’s best interest.”
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.