Amanda & Jason O’Connell
By Resi Walt
Amanda and Jason O’Connell, dairy farmers from Beckwith Township in Lanark County, are the winners of the 2014 Outstanding Young Farmer Competition in Ontario. This prestigious award is presented to farmers by industry leaders. The couple will continue on to compete on behalf of Ontario at the national competition in November, 2014.
In 2015, the couple also appears in the tenth anniversary Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by RBC Royal Bank and they are featured for the month of May.
Their family farm originally belonged to Amanda’s grandfather Mel Hammond, who began farming in 1962. Amanda and Jason bought Mel’s share of the dairy farm in 2007 and still farm with Amanda’s father Stuart. They milk 95 Holstein cows and grow soybeans, corn, wheat, and alfalfa on 1,500 acres. Jason and Amanda sell hay and straw all over North America, and also work as corn seed dealers. Amanda’s father is still very much a part of the farm, as Stuart does the planting and combining, as well as holding the very important role of Mr. Fix-It.
Amanda and Jason are parents to newborn Mackenzie and three-year-old Margaret who is already showing interest in the farm. “Margaret prefers to be outside, rather than inside” says her mom.
Jason and Amanda met at Kemptville College where they were both enrolled in the agriculture program. After graduating in 2002, Amanda went on to complete a degree in agriculture science at the University of Guelph, while Jason, originally a beef farmer, ran his uncle’s beef farm.
The farm is in good hands with the couple continually exploring options for changes and improvements. Since taking over the farm, they have increased milk production on their farm. They have redesigned the stalls in the free stall barn and improved the bedding and the ventilation systems.
Amanda’s favourite activity on the farm is milking and she loves caring for the calves. Jason oversees the daily operations, and is proud of being able to manage his own farm. When asked how Jason was able to make the switch from raising beef cattle to dairy cows, Amanda chuckles as she answers, “I taught him everything he knows!” Jason says he had to make the switch over night, quite literally.
When they’re not farming, Amanda loves to travel as much as she can, and has already been to numerous places including France, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica and Jamaica. Like most farmers, Jason loves to tour other farms and will do so any chance he gets. He also enjoys playing baseball in the summer.
The couple are very involved in the community, holding positions on the county’s milk board and Holstein committee. Amanda was the dairy educator for the area and were part of reviving the county’s Junior Farmer Association. Amanda is also on the local fair board.
Amanda and Jason are proud of their dairy farm. They love the lifestyle that farming fosters and being able to work for themselves.
Those interested in learning more about the couple can visit http://www.farmfoodcare.org/calendar-videos/2015/may.php.