We have several friends and cattle customers down east that my Other Half and I have been wanting to catch up with. In late May the stars aligned, or to be more specific, the clouds gathered and it rained, which afforded us a few days away. Travelling is always a good opportunity to recharge and regroup, but more importantly for us it is a chance to learn from others. This trip was no exception and below are a few of my observations:
Canadians are Canadians: We did spend a bit of time in Canada’s largest city. Being modest country folk, I was expecting the people in the GTA to be busy, bustling and distracted with their own agendas. That they were, but it turns out they were also friendly, courteous and helpful. People held doors open for us and returned our smiles. And, after noting my dear husband’s cowboy hat, only one person on Yonge Street asked if we were from Texas.
Do as the Romans do: when we travel, we usually spend minimal time taking in the culture, entertainment or sporting events of an area, and spend maximum time focusing on cattle. For this trip however, there was a Blue Jays game starting an hour or two after our plane landed so I bought a couple tickets and we joined in the fun, following the wave of blue people heading toward Rogers Centre. We cheered right along with our seatmates (who also happened to be from Saskatchewan), we indulged in frosty, over-priced-but-incredibly-refreshing beverages and bought tickets in the 50-50 draw…which naturally amounted to $43,000. (Note: we were not the lucky winners).
Age is just a number: One major difference I saw between Saskatchewan and Ontario was that of history and heritage. In Ontario, most farms had homes that were 150 years old and many had working barns and outbuildings that were of the same vintage. Here at home, my 55 year old house is sometimes considered quaint, but out east, it would be positively youthful. It’s a similar story for generational family farms. My husband and I, both fourth-generation Saskatchewan farmers, were visiting with a fourth-generation Ontario producer…who was five decades our senior.
The coffee pot is always on: at home, if I am craving a fresh, hot cup of Tim Horton’s coffee, all I have to do is drive 96 km to our nearest franchise and purchase a steaming cup. Of course I don’t do that, therefore a hot cuppa Timmy’s becomes a nice treat every once in a while. In Ontario, if you’re jonesing for a double-double, all you have to do is wait five minutes. There are literally Tim Horton’s locations scattered at five to ten minute intervals across the entire province. And they are all busy. And the coffee is all fresh.
Farmers are farmers: there are of course similarities and differences between farms in the west and the east but wherever we went, people were welcoming, very hard-working and generous. Everyone made time in their busy schedules to show us their farms and answer our questions. The farms were efficient and very well kept. Whether we were visiting traditional family farming operations or state-of-the-art enterprises, the animals were all very well cared for and the farmers noticed subtleties between individual animals even on very large operations. No matter where you are located, all farmers deal with challenges including land prices, soil conditions, market volatility, weather fluctuations and consumer pressures and I realized we have more similarities than differences with our eastern counterparts.
As the saying goes, east or west, home is best, but to be honest, I felt at home for the entire duration of our working holiday. East or west, Canada is home.