This National Farmers Day, Celebrate The Hard Work Of Ontario’s Dairy Farmers

There’s more to milk than a product on a shelf: behind every glass is a family of dairy farmers, a community and a storied dedication to quality.

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No childhood is exactly the same, but if you grew up in North America, chances are at meal time you heard a variation of this: drink your milk. It goes on top of cereal, in many recipes, and is credited with building strong bones. Behind the delicious glass of milk that shows up on your dinner table are hard-working dairy farmers and their families, who we celebrate this Oct. 12 on National Farmers Day.

Last year across Ontario, more than 3,400 licensed dairy farmers contributed $7 billion to our provincial economy. Unlike in other areas of the world, the majority of these are family owned and operated. Crovalley Holsteins, a quick two-hour drive east of Toronto in Hastings, Ont., is one of them, and it’s where Justin Crowley and his family have been producing high-quality milk for four generations and counting.

As a dairy farmer, every day is different. First thing in the morning, you’ll find the Crowley family in a huddle out in the barn, cups of coffee in hand. Feeding the herd is the first thing on a long to-do list that is always changing. In addition to ensuring they are collecting high quality milk, they’re out harvesting corn silage to make feed, while also cleaning, consulting with their vets, fixing equipment and more. “At the end of a long hard day, there’s a real sense of accomplishment,” Crowley says. “You feel good to start the next day on the same foot.”

It’s a family-first operation at Crovalley, with everyone working hard through the week to make sure the milk Ontario consumers love is ready for pick-up every other day by a certified milk truck driver. “Our farm is a true testament to the hard work, respect and pride of our entire family, with everyone lending a hand,” he says. His mother Cynthia, father John, sisters Vanessa and Christina, and brother Ryan, plus his and his brother’s children, all have a job to do.

But family isn’t just the people, he adds. The cows are an integral part of their hard-working crew. Caring for the herd started from a young age for Crowley, and might be the most important lesson a future dairy farmer learns. “Our cows are our most important responsibility,” he says.

And it shows—much of their 350-head herd was raised from birth on their property, and the cows consistently earn them awards for quality based on herd size. That quality, says Crowley, is directly related to the decency and respect they show the animals. Working closely with veterinarians, rigorous twice-daily cleanings and feeding their herd the best-of-the-best feed keeps them happy, healthy and producing the dairy you love.

Sustainability has always been at the heart of their operation, and dairy farmers in Ontario continue to work to reduce their impact on the environment in ways that reduce waste and increase efficiency. “While there’s a larger focus now on sustainability, it’s something that’s always been rooted in our farming for many generations,” Crowley says. Thanks to this dedication, it takes fewer cows to make the same amount of milk compared to 65 years ago.

The Crowley Family, like the thousands of other dairy farmers across the province, are leaders in their community. When you buy a bag or carton of milk from your local grocer, you’re buying into a decades-long commitment to the quality, the community and, of course, really great milk.

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