West River Holsteins is operated by Jack Thomson and Rhonda MacDougall, along with their children, Shamus, Bryce, Keith and Elise, and their farm employee team. The farm was purchased in 1998 and since then, the farm has been actively involved in Open Farm Day. The farm milks 135 purebred, registered Holsteins. Milking is done 3 times a day, at 3:30 am, 11:30 am and 7 pm.
West River Holsteins is a dairy farm with approximately 280 head of purebred Holsteins just outside Antigonish. This family farm was purchased from John and Tony Corsten and family in 1998. After Jack and Rhonda graduated from McGill University's Macdonald College, Jack gained experience working for the NS Dept. of Agriculture, as a dairy herdman, and as a Sire Analyst in Ontario. It was always Jack and Rhonda's dream to own dairy farm, so Jack felt very fortunate to be able to purchase a farm in their home community. The farm has changed significantly over the past 20 years, with a fire in 2007 destroying the original dairy barn. The farm currently farms approximately 500 acres, including approximately 75 acres of corn silage.
West River Holsteins has been a proud participant in Open Farm Day since its inception, with one exception in 2007 when the main barn was hit by lightning. Other than 2007, the farm participated in every Open Farm Day welcoming thousands to the farm to experience life on a dairy farm. Open Farm Day is the largest group that is welcomed by the farm every year, however the farm regularly welcomes industry tours, school visits, and university tours. The farm has welcomed thousands of visitors to learn more about dairy farming and agriculture.
As the number of primary producers decreases, and individuals get additional generations removed from the farm, education is increasingly important. This is especially true since the advent of social media and internet advice on everything. The best source for what is done on a farm, how things are done, and why they are done is the farmer, and we are proud to share that education component with anyone who desires the information from those who farm every day.
This year on Open farm Day, there will be static displays as well as guided tours. The static displays will give individuals the chance to move through the barns, and farm, on their own. This is great for those who may have visited the farm in the past or who have some knowledge of dairy farming. The guided tours provide the opportunity for visitors to get more details on each aspect of the operation and have questions answered by the farmer or the employees.
In addition to being a large dairy farm, the farm also currently has about 50 sheep and lambs, as well as chickens.
Everyone at West River Holsteins loves being involved in Agriculture. It is a story we are proud to share and one of which many can claim a part of the success – employees, family, 4-H members, neighbours and community. We appreciate the opportunity to share our story, and our farm with those who are interested in learning more about farming, and agriculture.
Sugar Moon Farm is an award-winning Maple Syrup Farm and Restaurant, operating year round. They are located in Earltown in the Cobequid Hills of Northern Nova Scotia, occupying 200 acres of land. Sugar Moon Farm is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails built and maintained by the Cobequid Eco-Trails Society. In 1994, Quita Grey moved here to apprentice with Bob Williams, the original owner. After 2 years she and her Husband Scott took over. “[Scott and I] met at Ranger School in New Brunswick in 1986…Neither of us had made maple before, but we were excited about having some land and learning.” They have now just celebrated their 25th sugar season, and see about 30,000 visitors per year from around the world. “We like being grounded in nature and relying on nature and weather to make our living, as well as teaching others about where their food comes from… We are all about good, clean, fair food - supporting local farmers and food producers, deepening our connection to maple and the forests around us”
Like many farm operations, Quita and Scott are excited for the educational opportunity Open Farm day provides. “We continue to see our role as one of modelling and educating others about traditional maple syrup production, small-scale farming and the natural world around us.” Their favourite part of Open Farm Day is welcoming new visitors.
While visitors can come year round to eat, tour, hike, and shop, Open Farm Day visitors have access to indoor camp tours taking place at 11, 1, and 3. Price is $5/adult, $3/kids 12 and under. Pre-schoolers are admission free. Sugar on snow will be offered at 11am and 2pm for $2/stick.
“I operate a small hobby farm in Eastern Mainland Nova Scotia. Every summer I raise Landrace/York cross pigs and Cornish Cross chickens to compliment the North Country Cheviot Sheep and Alpine goats I keep year round. Whenever practical I hold Farm Tours on the property to allow people to meet and handle my animals and hopefully learn a little bit about what it means to farm - regardless of the scale.”
Crispin says he finds farming very relaxing.” At the end of the day it is an escape from an increasingly regimented modern world. You can plan all you want with farming and yes, you are on a schedule and routine but at the end of the day you are largely at the mercy of the weather and the temperament of the animals.”
While Crispin operates on a small scale, his challenges can be quite the opposite. “I face some of the same challenges that plague larger operations - a misunderstanding by the public as to what exactly a farmer does as well as the seeming death by a thousand cuts as insurance, feed, and fuel costs increase each year.”
Crispin is excited to be participating in Open Farm Day again, and considers it a great opportunity to educate the public on where their food comes from. “The average person is increasingly insulated from their food supply and seemingly knows less each generation of the conditions under which the food they enjoy is raised. I strongly believe it is important that when people find a great deal on meat (for example) at the grocery store that they think of what it meant to the farmer that grew it or the animal itself to be sold for so little money. Under what conditions did they have to be raised under to make that price achievable? It’s important to me that people connect the food that ends up on their plate with the wellbeing and health of the farmers and livestock that made it possible.”
“My favorite part, hands down, is seeing the wonder in the eyes of children and people who have never touched a goat, seen a pig, or even watched chickens wandering about. There is something very special about seeing people interact with farm animals for the very first time.”
Visitors will get a chance to see many different animals. “There will be some very friendly goats on hand, pigs in the field, sheep wandering about the place, free-range chickens, and of course - Potato. There will also be a collection of smaller animals on hand for our tinier guests - Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, and hopefully some newly hatched chicks. A selection of products will also be available on site from area farms.” ... See MoreSee Less