By Resi Walt
Sheila Sheard can’t imagine herself living anywhere other than home on her family’s beef farm just north of the city limits of Brampton.
In 2015, she appears in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her page is sponsored by Beef Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program. She is featured for the month of August.
Sheila was literally the girl-next-door when she met her husband Bill in 1984. Sheila had studied business cosmetics at Seneca College and then went to work for in Florida for a year. While she was gone, her parents had moved into a home beside Bill’s family.
The two began dating, and Bill’s mom Doris will tell you she knew it was serious when Sheila put her first pair of rubber boots on. Sheila may not have grown up on a farm, but she had always liked cows and felt comfortable around them.
After Shelia married, she left her job to join her husband in the running of the farm. She credits her mother-in-law for teaching her how to do the bookkeeping for the farm. It was a big learning curve, but in 1987, Sheila moved the bookwork on to a computer system. Today, Sheila still manages all the paperwork that comes with running a farm family business.
Life became even busier when the couple’s first child, Megan, was born in 1987 and then later Will in 1990 and Kelly in 1993. Today, Megan works as a registered massage therapist and Kelly is studying at Brock University. Will studied agriculture at the University of Guelph and is working off the farm to gain more experience before coming home to join his parents in the family business.
When Sheila and Bill first started farming together, it was in a different location. Due to the expanding city of Brampton, Sunnymead Farms was forced to relocate about ten minutes north of their former location, on land that is now a housing subdivision. Even in their new location, the city creeps ever closer with the Brampton skyline visible from their farm.
Farming near a growing city is challenging. Sheila comments on the challenges of city encroachment, “You have to be patient, and you learn to adapt to your surroundings. Farmers are used to dealing with the elements, and everything always works out somehow.”
After the relocation in 1991, Sheila and her husband expanded their herd size from 450 to 1,400 cattle, in four barns. The breeds of beef cattle they raise include Limousin, Charolais, Black Angus and Herefords.
Cattle arrive on their farm when they are about 800 pounds in size, and raise them until they reach a market weight of about 1,400 pounds. Most of the cattle coming to their farm arrive from ranches in Alberta, but they also raise their own calves at another location in, Ontario. The farm is a busy one, so they employ three full-time employees to help with the workload.
Sheila is active in their church – Mayfield United Church. She teaches Sunday school, and is on a committee for mission and outreach and on the women’s breakfast committee. She also plays on the church’s baseball team and volunteers with the Brampton food bank.
Sheila’s favourite aspect of her farm life is that they have been able to raise their kids on the farm. She loves that everyday her family is growing and working together. Sheila notes, “When we make decisions, we always keep in mind how it will affect the whole family. So on our farm, everyone is involved in the decisions.”
Those interested in learning more about Shelia and her farm can visit http://www.farmfoodcare.org/calendar-videos/2015/august.php.