By Resi Walt
Sandra Aspden is a grandma of six, a golfer and a motorcycle enthusiast. And now together with her husband Clarence, she’s added the title of “farmer” to her resume of interests and achievements.
The path to becoming a mink farmer in Norfolk County was anything but direct. Raised in Kitchener, she and Clarence met at a bowling alley in Woodstock more than 40 years ago. After marrying, they raised three sons – Wayne, Philip and Paul – while Clarence worked as a welder and Sandi as a factory supervisor.
In 2009, the two decided to take a great leap of faith and purchase a farm near Tillsonburg that they turned into a mink ranch. Clarence’s aunt and uncle had raised mink and he had helped them when he was growing up. They started with 1,000 females and have now almost doubled that with a goal of reaching 2,400 breeding females in their herd. On average, there are 8,500 kits (baby mink) born on their ranch annually.
Their son Wayne has also joined the family business and works fulltime on the farm while the other sons help when needed. Even their oldest grandson, Cody, helps on the farm in the summer months making it truly a family affair.
Having the extra help gives the couple the flexibility to take summer vacations on their motorcycles. Clarence has ridden motorcycles since he was a teenager and Sandi followed his lead, getting her motorcycle license in 2003. Since then, they’ve travelled throughout North America – now travelling on a Can-Am Spyder. Trip highlights have included visits to Quebec City, Alberta and destinations throughout the USA.
Animal care is a key component of their farm. To aid in this mandate, they put up a new shed for their mink last year. The facility provides great ventilation, larger cages and an improved system for handling the animals’ waste. It’s also got a cooling system to keep the animals comfortable during the heat of the summer. “It’s important to us that the animals are well cared for and treated with respect,” said Sandi.
Both Sandi and Clarence love their relatively new careers as farmers. Said Sandi, “I get to get up every morning and walk 100 feet to work. That’s such a treat for me.”
When asked what the worst part of farming was, Clarence answered, “We haven’t had the worst thing yet. It’s all great. We love being self-employed.”
In 2015, Sandi appears as the face of February in the 2015 Faces of Farming calendar published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her page is sponsored by the Canadian Mink Breeders’ Association, and a video featuring her and her farm can be found at http://www.farmfoodcare.org/calendar-videos/2015/february.php.