Special Spotlight Profile in celebration of #CdnAgDay February 15th, 2023
Cheesemaking Coach, Homesteader
Cheese From Scratch
Our Special Spotlight Series is a look inside the lives of 5 Canadian Women who are trailblazhers in the Ag Industry. Canada’s Agriculture Day is a time to showcase all the amazing things happening in the industry and help consumers see the connection to where their food comes from and the people who produce it. Consumers want to learn more, and this day is a great way to start the conversation.
Last year, the entire ag industry celebrated across the country, shared our pride, opened doors to new food conversations, and trended nationally on Twitter. And we can’t wait to do it again in 2023.
Join us on Tuesday, February 15th as we raise a fork to the food we love. Post a photo, make a video, or write a blog. Share what you’re doing on social media using the hashtag #CdnAgDay. Encourage your friends to show-off their culinary talents using all-Canadian ingredients. Teach someone something new about agriculture. Share your knowledge and story with others. Be sure to participate!
How did you become a Woman in Ag?
I was born and raised on a cattle ranch, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, and we bought a ranch of our own, that I really realized that agriculture was the place for me. My husband, Zach, and I are both really interested in not only growing food for others, but growing our own food. When we first purchased our 250 head beef cattle ranch, we quickly put in a garden, got a few milk cows, and started raising chickens for ourselves.
What has most surprised you about Canada’s Ag industry?
Certain Financial aspects of it- Growing up on a cattle ranch, I knew the basic’s behind running a ranch, but it wasn’t until we were out on our own, paying our own feed, fuel, mortgage and maintenance costs, that the financial side of things really came into perspective. Diversifying into other areas of Ag, not just beef, was something I never thought much about when I was young, but now it is a very real piece of how we run our business and pay those bills!
What do you wish people knew about your rural life?
That the entire way we run our business has had to change because of natural disasters. Due to floods, (caused by fires), we no longer are able to access about 500 acres of our farm land. This land belongs to Zachs mom, but we run it as part of the ranch. This is hopefully not permanent, but it has really changed the way we operate. We have a lot of hay and pasture ground, as well as trapped equipment (and Zachs moms house!) on the inaccessible area (its an island) and we have been strung up in red tape for the last decade trying to rebuild a washed out bridge. When this disaster happened, it changed the way we ranch. We had to diversify into other areas of agriculture to pay our feed bills because we could no longer make as much hay, we had to buy new equipment. All in all it has been a huge ordeal that has really shaped our story. To top it all off, natural disaster struck again 5 years ago and washed out our main road to town. We now travel a dirt logging road to get to town. It used to take 45 min, now it takes and hour and 15 min. Our children spend 5 hours a day on the bus, 2.5 in the morning, 2.5 at night. I don’t say this to sound dismal, but its true evidence of how climate change is really affecting the Ag industry. We are not the only family farm to be affected by fires and floods in our area in the last 10 years! I have heard many stories worse than ours!
Describe a typical day…
It is almost calving season, so I will take you through a normal day during our busiest season when we calve out 200 calves in the span of 2 months. 5:30 am- The alarm rings, I drink a cup of coffee and then start getting our two oldest children up for school. My husband, Zach, is still sleeping, he did the night checks; one at 12pm and one at 3pm. Hopefully nothing was going on and his checks were a quick look at our 200 cows. If a cow was calving he would have been up longer waiting for her to calve and then making sure the calf had that first drink of colostrum. 6:20 am- I drive the big kids up our 1km driveway to the bus stop. We take the quad because I will go check the cows after I drop them off. 7am- If no one is calving, I am back in the house. I wake our youngest son up, Gus, and feed him breakfast. One more cup of coffee before I gather my milking buckets and dress Gus in his snow pants and jacket for the barn. 8am- Im sitting on my milking stool milking out our jersey, Sukey. Gus is behind me playing with the barn cat. I feed any bottle babies we have in the barn. We don’t often have bottle babies for long. If for some reason a cow won’t take her calf (this happens a lot with twins), or can’t take it, we will take the baby away and give it to cows we call Nanny cows. We keep 3 nanny cows who are dairy cross breeds. They are really good at looking after orphan babies and can each take 3 calves. 9:30 am- By 9:30 I have finished my barn chores, milking my cow, filling the water troughs, fork feeding the horses, doing the chicken chores, and Gus and I are back in the house. Zach is up now and has gone out to tag, band, and give vitamin shots and a scour guard to any calves born yesterday. Gus and I clean the milk and I put it into the cheese pot. Spring is my time that I make the most cheese. Today Im making cheddar. It will take all day to make, but it is not all day of hands on work. I always go into cheesemaking day knowing that If I get pulled away for calving, I will turn it into something else. 10:30- Zach has left to go haul hay home from some leased land. He owns a trucking company and spends the fall hauling cows and hay for other people. This time of year is when he finally has time to bring our own hay home. This means I am on cow checking duty. Gus and I will check them every 2-3 hours, more if someone is calving. If I need help, I can always call my mom to give me a hand, she ranches just down the road and is my go to “phone a friend”. I am lucky, I can also take Gus to Zachs mom who lives just next door to us. I put dinner in the crockpot, something I do almost every day of calving season. You never know what the day will bring! 1:30 pm – My cheese is in the press. I have snapped a few photos and videos for my instagram; sharing in stories some tips and tricks for cheesemaking. I try to get a few hours of work done for Cheese From Scratch, answering emails, creating content for my membership, ect. 4:30 pm- Zachs home now and he starts feeding the herd. We feed at night, this is a trick that seems to make them calve more in the day than at night. 5:00 pm- I pick the kids up from the bus on the quad. Most of the cows are down where Zach is feeding, but the kids and I check the outlying areas and trees to make sure no one is hiding and calving. 6:00pm- We try to eat dinner as a family. More often that not, im so glad I put it in the crock pot earlier in the day! 7:00 pm- I grab my milk buckets and head down to the barn to do the night milking. Zach and the kids head out to do another check of the herd. Sometimes they will meet me in the barn after checking. Zach will muck out the stalls while I finish milking. The kids will play in the barn or bring a cup with hot chocolate powder to have some warm milk straight from the udder. I keep a box of chocolate powder and paper cups in the barn for this reason. Other times if the check takes longer, we will meet back in the house. Tonights milk is cleaned and put in the fridge for drinking. 8:00 pm- I put the kids to bed, and Zach starts to wind down for the night. He does most of the night checks and will be up again in a few hours for his 12 am and 3 am checks. I finish putting the kids to bed, set the timer on the coffee pot for 5:00 am and head to bed.
How do you contribute to Canada’s Food Industry?
Mostly by raising beef and hay, but with Cheese From Scratch, we have diversified into educating others on how to make and grow their own food.
What are you most proud of being a contributor to Canada’s food industry?
Definitely how we raise our animals. The day in the life of that I talked about above is just the beginning. Our cows calve out their calves on about 100 acres and then they spend their summers on government range, which is about 20 000acres. They always have space to roam and they are truly our whole life. Everything we do goes towards making sure that our herd is well taken care of.
What is your deep intention in how you show up in your business and the effect you want to have?
Education! I feel like Zach and I are very blessed to have been raised by ranchers and farmers. We started our own ranch really having a strong foundation of skills. I am just in love with how many people are interested in growing their own food right now. It is amazing, and I want to make sure that if owning a milk cow, or making cheese is something that they want to do, they have easy resources to follow and make that happen.
What are all of your roles (wife, mother, rancher etc) and are you able to balance them?
Wife, Mother, Rancher, Milkmaid, Cheesemaker, Gardener, Buisness owner, RN. Having my number one roles as my priorities, is how I manage the harmony of it all. I once listened to a boss babe podcast talking about how “balance” is unattainable, instead harmony is something to strive for and I take those words with me everywhere I go. My number one priority is wife and mother, everything else needs to harmonize around these priorities. Seasons are huge for me. In spring I make cheese, in summer I garden, in winter I take more shifts at my job off the farm because we are less busy. All of this, up and down, busy and less busy is how the harmony all happens.
How do you build relationships with your customers?
Mostly instagram. Instagram has been amazing for connecting with other folks who are interested in homesteading, farming, ranching. It is amazing to be able to give your customers a sneak peek into your life. It really builds those connections and that relatability that helps you feel connected with others.
Follow along with Robyn on IG @cheese_from_scratch_ and we encourage you to reach out to learn more about these incredible Women in Ag!