1,000 Families Project: Farm family Brenda, Terry, Johanna, Grady, Jack, Sophie and Lydia

This farm family treasures the small, tight-knit community where they live, a place where a helping hand is always on offer, where rural pastimes like 4-H clubs are still embraced by the kids and where everyone celebrates their Irish heritage with stepdancing and the fiddle at the local tavern.


Terry and I have been married for 18 years. Our passion is farming. We work hard and dream
big.

We started off with some beef cattle on a 100 acre farm. We now own three farms, work a 100
cow­-calf operation and have a flock of 30 sheep. This didn’t come easily. It was only recently that Terry came home to farm full time. He worked in the construction industry for years.

When we were first married I only saw him on the weekends. He was away working and I was at
home with the babies and cows. He soon was able to work jobs closer to home. There were
night shifts, hay to cut, chores to do, and more babies (we have five children). I sometimes thought that we were crazy as we continued to put so much into farming despite the low cattle prices. We survived the BSE crisis (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as “mad cow disease”) while so many others didn’t.

We farmed on and luckily it turned out that our children loved farming as much as we did!

The farming way of life is all we have ever known, but it is never too late to get involved if you need a change of lifestyle. Some friends of ours recently moved to the deep South after checking out some texas ranches for sale. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the city can simply become too much.

We soon had another family—our 4­-H family.

The motto of 4­-H is “Learn to do by Doing”. It’s a non-profit that focusses on youth leadership, with it’s roots in agriculture. It allows youth to discover and do new things in a safe, inclusive and fun environment. The programs they offer are quite diverse, ranging from livestock clubs to cooking to sports to woodworking.

The kids didn’t want to just join the beef club in the 4­-H program–they joined every club they could, including the sheep and chicken clubs. The next thing I knew our farm had expanded to include not only laying hens but odd, beautiful breeds of hens and a sheep named Rosie. I was learning right along with the kids and we soon had an incubator in the living room, a baby lamb in the barn and many, many roosters.

This 4-­H family shares our same passion for farming and community betterment. We all support
each other and share the stories of chasing cows, finding the best cookie recipe and dealing
with messy mudrooms—the kind that don’t just have mud in them! We have watched our children
compete at the fairs, with all the disappointments and achievements that entails. We love that we have our 4­-H community to celebrate life with us.

The 4-­H program also encourages our children to become good community members. I believe
that it is because of 4-­H that we live in such a strong, vibrant, rural community. The tiny village of Douglas, Ontario and the people that surround this area are considered family. We look out for each other, encourage each other, and are always quick to lend a hand to those in need.

Celebrating brings us together and so we do a lot of it! We close down the highway and host
two annual parades. Our own little family has been entering floats in both parades for the last four years. The Santa Claus Parade brings the community together for Christmas, and the parade in March celebrates St. Patrick. We have a fierce Irish heritage that we are so very proud of here. The Ottawa Valley is known for its fiddling and stepdancing. I’ve seen kids practising their stepdancing on the curling rinks, out in the ball field during a game or while waiting in line. Our three girls are stepdancers and Johanna also plays the fiddle.

The Douglas tavern hosts an annual “Kids Day” on a Sunday afternoon in March. I’ve seen up to sixty kids take to the stage to fiddle, stepdance or sing traditional Irish tunes. It is a beautiful sight that brings our community family together.

We also belong to an active, faithful parish family. Our beloved church is sustained by the
farming community. We are blessed to have a church with crying babies, active toddlers and
even teenagers. While being a Catholic may be frowned upon in other places, our parish
continues to thrive. It is with this family that we celebrate life through the sacraments and the Eucharist.

Our family may live in a rural area and it may look as though we are only surrounded by
fields—and we are! But we are also surrounded by a generous, loving, supportive community of
family.

This is #1000families post number 194. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Brenda Dwyer

About Brenda Dwyer

Brenda Dwyer is a Christian, a wife, a mother, a farmer, a baker, a blogger... When she isn't washing eggs, checking cows or trying to find the floor in the mudroom she is baking pies or decorating a cake. She also loves to welcome guests to Dwyer's Farmhouse where families come to have a real 'farm experience'. She blogs about their Ottawa Valley farm life at www.dwyersfarmhouse.blogspot.ca View all posts by


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