COLDBROOK, N.S. - There’s no time to hit the snooze button in the VanderHeide household.
“We get up running,” says Amy VanderHeide, who farms with her husband, James, and his parents.
“It’s busy as soon as we get up.”
There’s kids to feed, livestock to tend, fields to mow, barns to clean, crops to harvest – and the list goes on.
The 31-year-old mother-of-three starts her day off getting the boys, ranging in age from 10 to three, ready before hunkering down for a long day of farm chores. The mornings come early, and the work continues long after daylight turns into night, but the pay-off is measured by much more than financial gain.
“I never thought twice about it, I just wanted to farm and just happened to meet the right guy,” she says, noting that they both view their roles on the farms as 50/50.
“It’s an emotional job, that’s for sure. You have to love it, or be 100 per cent committed to it, because your whole livelihood depends on how successful the farm is.”
It’s not uncommon for either parent to have a little shadow following them around the farm as the boys help with chores or hop in for ride-alongs in the tractors. Other times, they’ll spend the day with grandma next door.
“It will be up to them what they decide, but the 10-year-old, especially, really wants to farm. We’ll see what the future brings but I think going into it, and having a family, you always hope that somebody will take over and continue building on what you built, or pass that farm legacy along,” she says.
“It’s always been a part of the plan to raise them farming so they know the value of hard work and know what it takes to put your passion into something. It makes for fun conversations with them… they are in it as much as we are.”
VanderHeide grew up on her grandmother’s beef farm, an operation her aunts took over after her grandfather passed away.
“We lived beside it and I was there helping with chores as much as possible,” she recalls with a smile.
She tried the office job thing for a bit after school but opted to farm full-time after having children.
“I’ve never looked back. It’s hard to think about doing something else again after you do this for a while.”
She owns Mountain Base Farm with her husband, and helps with the operations of her in-laws business, Coldbrook Farms, as well. Mountain Base is a beef operation, and Coldbrook Farms focuses on poultry and crop production.
The demanding to-do list often results in the VanderHeide adults being scattered in different directions throughout the day but, near or far, they’re always working together to achieve a common goal.
“One of the things that I love the most is being able to farm side-by-side with my husband. If he’s baling hay and I’m raking hay or something and I look over and see him… it’s just kind of neat to have that connection with each other and love the same things.”
It’s a genuine love for farming, and the 24/7 lifestyle that goes along with it, that led VanderHeide to where she is today.
“I could watch 100 calf births and never be tired of it,” the young farmer declares.
“I love planting season. That seems to be what we always look forward to. The smell of the dirt in the spring when you’re first working is pretty powerful - it kind of sets the tone.”
Her subtle smile grows into a full grin as she continues to reflect on the perks of the job.
“The job as a whole is so rewarding. You get the chicks in as babies and you watch them grow. You devote so much of your time to it that when they go to be processed and it’s a good, quality chicken that you’re getting out of it, then it’s something that you’re proud of – and it’s the same with the beef cows,” she says.
“You put a lot of time and energy into selecting which ones work for you.”
VanderHeide admits it can be challenging to find a balance between work and family life but, at the end of the day, every ounce of energy exerted is worth it.
“It’s doing your small bit for the world, for the community you live in. We’re proud of what we do here,” she says.
“It’s a labour of love and it’s a huge commitment and, to me, there’s nothing else that I could imagine doing.”
Read the entire BACK ON THE FARM SERIES: A collection devoted to a vital industry in the Annapolis Valley:
- Centre Burlington man discovers passion for oldfashioned farming
- Falmouth farmers shift focus to find the right balance
- Eating healthy on a budget not as difficult in the Valley as one may think: dietitian
- Reporter spends a day at TapRoot Farms in Port Williams
- Diversification key to success for Wolfville farmer who took on grape growing, established winery
- Lawrencetown greenhouse grower diversified into grapes
- Dempsey Corner Orchards farmer sees longevity in trying new things
- Coldbrook farmer proudly commits to the 24/7 lifestyle
- Woodville apple orchards lose UPick crop to June frost
- Keith Colwell pushing food security, farming as a career, capitalization of new opportunities
- Acadia University scholars share their thoughts on sustainability in farming
- COLUMN: Tractors, train changed county farming forever