By Andrew Campbell
An animal lover turned farmer
Kendra Leslie grew up in rural Ontario, but didn’t grow up on a farm. Instead, she was an animal lover who was always curious as to what a farm life was like. She was so interested in agriculture, that she took a job with a nearby pig farmer when she was still in high school. What started out as a part-time job on weekends and in the summer months, quickly turned into a passion. Graduating in agriculture from the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph, Kendra now is now a full-time caretaker of a sow herd for an Ontario pig farmer.
A sow is a female pig old enough to give birth to piglets and Kendra spends her days at work caring for those mother pigs and their piglets. “Every day is different, which is something I love about my job, ” says Kendra. “From feeding the sows to checking every animal in the barn to ensure they are eating properly and are healthy, we take the care of each one very seriously.”
But that’s only one of her daily chores. Kendra’s also responsible for weighing piglets to ensure they remain healthy, checking expectant mothers with an ultrasound and ensuring sure that any sows that have recently given birth are doing well.
If you ask Kendra what she likes the most, she has a hard time answering. “I love so much of it, but working with the piglets can always cheer you up.” She also likes waiting for the litters of newborns to arrive. “Doing an ultrasound and being able to see the yet-unborn piglets is amazing, especially when you can see their hearts beat.”
Besides caring for the pigs, Kendra is increasingly interested in and passionate about sharing the stories from the sow barn. “When I would talk to my friends who don’t have a background on the farm, I was really surprised with some of their ideas about on farming and on pork production. A lot of them simply weren’t true.”
Then a farmer came to one of her college classes to give a talk on using social media and Kendra quickly learned of its power in telling the true stories from the barn.
“Trying to break some of the misconceptions by simply giving a consumer factual information directly from the farm is something I now really enjoy.” For that reason, Kendra has joined a team of young Ontario farmers participating in a new blogging initiative called Dinner Starts Here. Through their stories and videos on the blog and through Twitter, they’re reaching out to Ontario consumers to tell their stories about the day to day activities on their farms.
Besides her love of working in the barn (and tweeting from it), Kendra is passionate about her pets and the outdoors. Her own ‘herd’ consists of a dog, cat, hedgehog and ferrets. You can often find her walking, hiking, or even on the back of a horse heading through the rural Ontario she never plans on leaving.
You can follow Kendra at www.dinnerstartshere.ca or via Twitter
This article is one in a series of profiles on Ontario farmers and farm businesses produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario.