Jennifer and Heather Peart
By Kelly Daynard
Hagersville – Milking cows and growing crops are two passions that Heather and Jennifer Peart of Hagersville have always shared.
The sisters, fourth generation farmers, decided to turn their love of farming into a lifelong career when they bought their first 50 acre farm in 2005. At the time, they were only 18 and 20 years of age. Jennifer was studying for her Agricultural Business degree and Heather was studying for her Animal Science degree, both at the University of Guelph.
Since then, they’ve gradually increased the amount of cattle and land they own. Today, they each own 25 cows and together, have increased their land base to 200 acres growing corn, hay, wheat and rye to feed their livestock.
Currently, Jennifer milks cows in the morning before heading to her off-farm job. Heather is the full time herd manager at their family farm, Peartome Holsteins, and farms full time with parents, Doug and Mary-Ann.
Both sisters are enthusiastic agricultural advocates. When they showed their cows at the annual Simcoe fair recently, they estimate that they answered about 400 questions from visitors about their cows on a whole variety of topics. And, when they milked their cows at the end of the day at the fair, an audience of about 100 circled around to watch. “We really enjoy answering questions about our animals,” said Jennifer. “It’s fun when a routine milking can turn into an impromptu agricultural education session.” Jennifer also sits on the Haldimand County Agricultural Awareness Committee.
Their commitment and passion for farming has attracted some attention. In 2014, they are being featured as the faces of November in the 2014 Faces of Farming Calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by AdFarm.
“It’s nice to be able to change the face of farming by being a young female in agriculture,” says Jennifer.
In the last few years, the sisters’ herd of cows are gaining reputations of their own. In Canada, dairy farmers often participate in a process called “Classification” that gives their cows a rating determined by an independent evaluator . This is important for genetics and for determining the value of the herd. So far, Jennifer has a herd classification of one “Excellent” and ten “Very Good” cows meaning that one of her cows received a score greater than 90 out of 100 and ten have received scores of 85 to 90. Heather has received classifications of one “Excellent” and three “Very Goods”.
They also just won a prestigious award called a Master Breeder shield, the third awarded to their farm. Heather explained, “It is like winning the Stanley Cup of dairy farming. You work for many years to achieve this honour so to achieve it three times is extremely exciting.”
Jennifer raises the Jersey breed of cows under her farm name “Maple Leaf Jerseys”, a tribute to her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. Heather raises Holstein cows under her farm name “Into Holsteins”.
On the farm, Heather has a special affinity for feeding cattle and driving the bailer in the summer time. When she can find spare time, she enjoys doing crafts and sewing. Jennifer enjoys milking the cows, and is a 4-H leader. While in university, both were active in extracurricular activities, taking part in a wide variety of school activities.
The sisters are also both working towards becoming official dairy judges of dairy cow shows. This is a certification process and, to achieve their goal, they have been judging at small dairy shows in Ontario.
Heather and Jennifer are not afraid to ask for help when needed, and work with their parents, their nutritionist and their farm’s veterinarian to make the best choices for their cows. Their parents have been letting them take on more responsibility and are helping and supporting the sisters as they learn.
“We couldn’t have done the things we do now even four years ago,” says Heather.
Heather and Jennifer enjoy the challenges and accomplishments on the farm, and how they are making a difference with the cattle and land.
“I love the sense of pride and accomplishment. We can see what we did every day, the progress we have made and what we have helped with,” says Jennifer.
You can see a video interview with Jennifer and Heather at http://youtu.be/x2cumIZw32I.