Meet the Founds. Stan and Mary Ann farm near Oshawa, Ontario, raising livestock and growing crops. We asked the farming couple the following serious—and not-so-serious—questions about farming, pork, and life in general. Take a look!
Did you grow up on a farm? If not, when did you start farming?
Stan: I was born on this farm and have lived here my entire life.
Mary Ann: I was born on a dairy farm, which was sold when I was 10. I re-entered a working farm family when I met Stan.
What are the biggest changes you've made on your own farm since you began farming?
There is more machinery and technology now. Biosecurity plays a much larger role. Animal housing has changed. We crop more acres now in an attempt to be economically sustainable.
We also face many more regulations, so more time is spent on paperwork. Change is constant.
What is the hardest part of farming?
Picking rocks is a hard job!
However, it’s not the hard work, or the heat, or the cold, or the long hours, or even the regular postponement of personal dreams to meet the needs of the farm that become the hardest.
It’s the loss—the unexpected, unpredictable, sometimes heart-wrenching loss due to death, disease, or environmental circumstance.
Unpredictable loss for us was the time of our barn fire. We lost every animal, and by the time we got to the barn, all we could do was stand and watch. Another hard thing is to find the flexibility needed to cope with unpredictable weather, crop failures, health issues, and market fluctuations—or in our case, loss of rented land base.
The most satisfying?
Despite the above, you do your best, realize you are not alone, pick up the pieces and move on because farming is so satisfying! To feel the warm earth between your fingers or to watch corn sprout and grow before your eyes in the spring is a most satisfying experience!
Farming is a business, but it is also an incredible way of life for those who can overcome the hardships and look at their glass as always being “half full”!
Do you have a favourite pair of boots?
Stan: My work boots are my favourite.
How do you feel about the organic/antibiotic and hormone-free food movement?
There are many approaches to farming. Each approach has its pros and cons and this is true for organic vs. other approaches. What concerns us the most is the negative impact due to advertising and marketing ploys that pit one approach against the other. We believe if we are to continue to feed the world and meet the environmental and economic challenges facing our industry, we need to stop having divisions in the industry.
We also believe that the animals entrusted to our care have the absolute right to be protected against hunger, thirst, pain, suffering, and disease to the best of our abilities. However, we do need to be diligent in use of all animal or crop protection materials so we do not create antibiotic resistance, which might lead to other health issues.
How often do you eat pork?
Several times a week.
What’s the last cut of pork you had?
Lunch included bacon in a Caesar salad.
How was it prepared?
We fry our bacon in a fry pan.
Who does the grocery shopping in your house?
Mary Ann: We both do! Stan does the “Quick—we’ve run out of bread/milk/cereal!” shops. I do the major shopping, especially when company or the grandchildren are coming.
What is the biggest influence while you are buying meat? (i.e., type of cut, price, local, freshness, appearance, etc.)
Mary Ann: We are a diversified farm, so we buy very little meat. When I do purchase, I do so based on type of cut, usually for a special occasion. I will look for appearance, freshness, price, and where it was raised (which is sometimes very hard to define).
With your first-hand knowledge of raising pigs in Ontario, what would you tell people about making their decision at the meat case?
We devote each and every day to raising pigs. We are trying to produce a product that the consumer wants.
We eat the products that we are raising. When a consumer purchases our pork, it is a means to sustaining our family, our business and our way of life.
What do you wish retailers would focus on while marketing Ontario pork?
Focus on maintaining the same quality of product that we are selling at the farm gate. Some of our farm gate customers find a tremendous difference between the pork they buy direct from me at the farm and the pork that they purchase in the large chain retail store—both carrying the same label as the company that we contract our pigs with.
Currently, we contract 95% of the hogs we raise and sell about 5% at the farm gate.
What is your favorite brand of hand lotion/balm?
Mary Ann: Whatever soothes the cracks caused by the winter dryness—right now I have greatest success with Aveeno products.
What time is your morning alarm set for?
Stan: 5:55 a.m.
Mary Ann: My internal clock wakes me up at 5:30 a.m. each day.
If you could go on a two month vacation, where would you go? Why?
First, we would tour communities in Canada. Farming differs from province to province in Canada and from season to season. Time permitting, we would head to the US. They are our largest trading partners and they impact what happens here in Canada, so we would like to see just what they are doing and why.
Alternatively we might visit Australia because great pork research has come out of that country, so why not use that excuse to visit a country that seems absolutely intriguing?
As you can see, any vacation has to be about farming, about learning and about building relationships!