By Kelly Daynard
Farming is one of the few careers that often spans generations of family members all sharing an unwavering commitment to the land and their livestock. Rochelle Deslippe of Amherstburg, in Essex County, is one such example.
Their family farm was started by her grandfather, Earl, in the 1930’s when he began a small hatchery raising turkeys. The farm was eventually taken over by Earl’s two sons, Jerome and Paul. Today, Jerome’s daughter Rochelle and her three children are the third and fourth generations of the family to be raising turkeys and crops on the farm, and Rochelle wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rochelle and her dad have a great working relationship and while he’s now past the age where most people are comfortably retired, his daughter still describes him as “the driving force on the farm”, actively involved in its day to day operations.
Rochelle’s not your typical farmer – if there even is such a thing. One of the first things you’ll notice when you meet her is her trademark colour of lipstick – bright pink. And one of the first mistakes you can make is assuming that she only puts it on when she leaves her family farm.
“Turkeys like pink lipstick”, she says with a laugh. “So I wear it all the time!”
She’s also accomplished in the art of Shōrin-ryū- an ancient form of Okinawan karate, dating back hundreds of years. She started taking lessons almost a decade ago when her son expressed an interest in taking lessons. “John wanted to do it. I signed him up and within a week, we were all doing it”, she said. Since then, she has continued taking classes – even travelling to Japan for a course. She also helps as an instructional assistant for other students.
After taking time away from farming to raise her children and pursue a career in agri business, Rochelle moved back to work full-time alongside her dad seven years ago. It’s been a good decision.
The family raises “heavy” Tom turkeys. These male turkeys are raised up to about 16.5 kg and aren’t sold as whole turkeys in grocery stores, but go for further processing to make other products. The poults (young birds) arrive at the farm when they are a day old and spend about six months on the farm. The farm raises two crops of turkeys each year.
Why turkeys? Rochelle says simply, “When you work with livestock, it’s what you get used to.” She said that she gains a lot of satisfaction from caring for the young poults and watching them grow to be healthy, mature birds. The career is often both labour-intensive and time-consuming but the satisfaction of knowing they’re doing a good job makes it all worthwhile.
In 2014, Rochelle is the face of Ontario turkey farmers and July in the Faces of Farming calendar, published annually by Farm & Food Care Ontario. She was chosen by her industry to participate because of her family’s longstanding commitment to raising turkeys and farming in Ontario. Her page is sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Ontario and Maple Leaf Foods.
Rochelle’s also served on many community groups ranging from the Essex Agricultural Hall of Farm, local plowing matches, 4-H, church and the agricultural society.
What does the future hold for the Deslippe family? More of the same, she hopes. Her oldest son, Keith, has recently graduated from high school and, when he’s not apprenticing at a local machine shop, “he can usually be found somewhere on the farm”. Son John and daughter Mary also help with chores when needed.
“It’s a great way of life,” Rochelle said. “I like the fact that your routine changes constantly.”
To see a video interview with Rochelle and two of her children, visit – http://youtu.be/rhjwUw-4ySc.