By Matt McIntosh
Farming has been on Andrew Henderson’s mind for most of his life – or at least since high school. It was at that relatively early point in that Andrew realized farming was the career for him. Now, almost 25 years later, Andrew is busy running a successful farm and helping to raise a growing family.
“After high school I went to Kemptville College for agriculture,” says Andrew. “I graduated in 1998 and have been farming ever since.”
Andrew and his wife Tracey are the sixth generation owners and operators of Kenora Farms – a Spencerville-area dairy farm named after Andrew’s grandparents Ken and Nora. The couple married in 1998, and have seven children: Anna (age 13), Sam (age 11), Lily (age 9), Grace (age 8), and triplets Claire, Kate and Luke (age 5). Andrew works on the farm full-time, while Tracey – an engineering graduate from Queen’s University – works off the farm as a math and science teacher in a local high school.
A picture and profile of Andrew, Tracey and their children will be featured for the month of June in the 2016 Faces of Farming Calendar. Now going into its eleventh year, the calendar is published by Farm & Food Care Ontario, and the Henderson’s page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited.
Kenora Farms has seen a lot of changes and expansions over the years, particularly since Andrew moved home after completing his post-secondary education. At that time, the farm housed 50 Holstein cows in a free-stall parlour, and included 300 acres of corn, alfalfa and pasture. Since then the number of dairy cows steadily grew to 160 – where it remains today – as did the farm’s acreage; now, there are about 900 acres of alfalfa, corn and beans under the Kenora Farms banner.
Kenora farms has a number of characteristics that help Andrew keep things running smoothly. On the human-resources side, says Andrew, is his father Paul, who is still very involved in the farm’s day-to-day operations. In terms of facilities and equipment, a new heifer barn was constructed in 2010, and a robotic milking system was added to the main dairy barn last year. This milking system allows the cows in Andrew’s barn to walk into a stall and be milked – by a robot – whenever they want.
The robot may have been an expensive investment, but it has proven quite valuable to the Henderson family. As Tracey explains, “It frees up more time for [them] to do more things together.”
In the same year the new heifer barn was built, Andrew and his family incorporated a soybean crushing system into their farm. This system crushes and separates soybean seeds into oil and meal, allowing Andrew to supplement some of his cows’ food, and consequently, reduce the amount of money spend on purchasing feed. The leftover soybean oil can also be sold, adding even more value to his family’s soybean crop.
The construction of the new heifer barn and the incorporation of soybean processing machinery even helped Kenora Farms earn a “Producer of the Year” award at the Canadian International Farm Show in 2011.
As a business, Kenora farms has also expanded vertically through the supply chain. It is, for example, one of 1,200 farm companies behind Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. – which is the second-largest dairy co-operative company in Canada – with Andrew himself acting as one of 60 producer delegates.
Andrew and his family have also been a part owner of a milk-trucking company for the last few years. Overall, this means they are involved in the production, transportation and processing of their cows’ milk.
Kenora farms has expanded and diversified in a few ways since Andrew began taking on more responsibility, and that is something he is certainly proud of. Currently, however, Andrew explains that he is focusing more on improving efficiency.
“We just finished a big expansion not too long ago, so we are not as focused on growth as much right now,” he says.
The Henderson family are also very involved with their local county milk producer committee and Holstein club. All of Andrew and Tracey’s children downhill ski, and play soccer and hockey.
Andrew and Tracey also say they are not too focused on succession planning at this point in time, but will be paying close attention to how the next decade proceeds; that is, they will be looking to see which family members start expressing interest in being the seventh generation of Kenora Farms.