Foot Flats Farm - Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada Foot Flats Farm Seasonal Newsletter

2012 In Review

*GAYLA* April 2012

Granddaughter Gayla arrived from New Zealand to work on the farm for six months. She helped on the reno project in Emerald, she and Dan became a well oiled team making and hauling hay home, she became the "gun"operator of our new zero turn lawn mower, mowing all the rental properties and made friends on the Island that she went hunting with!!

It was such a treat to have Gayla be part of our lives for such an extended time and great for the Canadian grandkids to reconnect with another of their NZ cousins.

During her stay, one of the guard dogs, Licker, dissappeared in the bush paddock. We knew she was due to pup but couldn't find her anywhere. Eventually, after 48 hours, Gayla found her - she had found shelter in a hollowed-out tree root that was well protected and extremely well hidden.

*DAVID ALLAN* April 2012

Also with us for a large pat of the summer and fall was David Allan, a neighbour of Mark's father and brother Paul in Collieston, on the east coast of Scotland. David's dry wit and fishing stories entertained us as he helped around the farm before going back to the North Sea Oil Rigs. His mother Carol (a nurse) was a great support to Mark's family when his father was ill. A close neighbour, she would pop in at any hour of the day or night to lend her professional skills and comfort.


*STEVE* May 2012
Mark's Father Steve had a heart attack in late April and when he came home from hospital in early May, Mark went over to visit. Sadly Steve died at home in his bed about a week after coming home. Paul, Tertia and Mark were all with him when he died.

Steve died in his 98th year and as usual, during the last week of his life was telling stories and chatting right up to the end. The funeral was a celebration of his life with a great collection of photographs from throughout his time. A larger-than-life portrait photograph of Steve in a Nelson Mandela shirt looked across at his casket in the kirk. He was buried in a pair of his famous red socks and as his sons and grandsons bore him to the grave, they too wore red socks from his wardrobe. Over the last 20 years Steve had made a great many friends on his Island visits and in the summer we held an Island get together to celebrate his time here.

*Schuyler's* Fall 2012
We met Brett and Carrie Schuyler in 2012 when they came to visit our farm. They are involved in the operation of Schuyler Farms, a large multi-generational family-run farm in Simcoe County. They have 500 acres each of apple and cherry orchards and are experimenting with grazing sheep under the trees. They purchased hoggets in 2012 and 2013 and will be lambing for the first time in May 2014.

You can learn more about their operation on their website, www.schuylerfarms.ca.

*NEWFOUNDLAND* September 2012
In September Mark and Cherry had a holiday in Newfoundland.

The weather was great throughout our stay and we had a very loosely structured trip traveling through all the little fishing villages. The people couldn't have been friendlier. We even found a sheep farm to visit although there aren't many sheep in Newfoundland these days. Apparently years ago there were sheep and cattle grazing around all the villages in the fishing outports. There was no requirement to fence them in and most fishermen had some livestock. Now all livestock have to be fenced in and although we saw lots of areas that looked like good sheep grazing country, there were none to be seen.

*SALE OF SHEEP TO ALBERTA* November 2012
In November 400 ewe lambs were shipped to Philip and Karen Zaugg in Alberta. We trucked them off the Island in all our trucks and trailers and met up with a large livestock trailer on the mainland. After they were loaded they set off across the country. A long trip with a couple of stops, a really good driver and then they were in their new home, jumping off the truck. The photo shows loading them up on the mainland and then their arrival at Zaugg's.

Karen and Philip had 5 children and were expecting a sixth and had just moved to a new ranch. Their website is www.maplecrossranch.com

*LAMB PRICES*
The big "farm" surprise of the year was a spectacular drop in lamb prices of about 30%. This drop first started to occur in June and July and did not at first cause us any great alarm. Lamb prices in Ontario are somewhat seasonal and a drop in early summer is not unusual. However, prices stayed low through the fall and into the New Year, all through our selling season.

Fortunately the risk management program (RMP is farm insurance program where you pay a premium based on # of lambs sold) kicked in and went a long way to making up our losses.

With hindsight what appears to have happened is that the European financial problems affected sales of prime cuts of lamb and exporters had to reduce prices to divest supplies which had negative effects on lamb prices around the world. As a luxury product lamb is very susceptible to world economic downturns.

*OSMA*

Throughout 2012 and up to September 2013, Mark served as the District 8 director on the Ontario Sheep Marketing Board. It was a challenging experience to work as part of a board of eleven, making decisions on the spending of the check-off dollars that producers are mandated to pay on all sheep and lambs that are sold in the province. The issues turned out to be more complex that Mark had realized and he now has a new respect for the people who become involved as directors, putting in a considerable amount of time and effort.

Mark's particular focus was on the predation problem, (OSMA held a successful predation conference in Peterborough in August) and on the fiscal responsibility of the organization, where we made big strides towards balanced budgets. Those with the biggest stake in the Industry (and paying the most check off dollars) find it harder to make time away from the farm for organizations like this — but it is important to take a turn at it.

All the best to all of our friends and family,
Cherry and Mark.