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Spruce Valley Holsteins

Emma (Class of ’11) and Josh (Class of ’13) Hayes

At first glance, Spruce Valley Holsteins appears to be a dairy farm. The big red barn, the cows in the pasture, and most noticeably the name all point to one thing: milk production. However, if you take a closer look at this Carsonville, New Brunswick family farm, you’ll notice something else: diversity.

For Emma and Josh Hayes, a diverse farm is a successful farm. On top of their 60-head Holstein herd, the Hayes grow 20,000 turkeys a year, keep Angus beef cattle, hogs, and goats, produce their own silage and maintain woodland on the 700-acre operation.

“We don’t keep all our eggs in one basket,” says Emma (Class of ’11). “It keeps us on our toes.”

Managing multiple commodities has a number of benefits common for all farms: along with keeping things fresh and interesting, it means that shifting markets don’t affect the overall operation as deeply. However, for the Hayes, diversity has one additional advantage: it keeps them out of each other’s hair.

As a sister and brother duo, Emma and Josh (Class of ’13) are defying tradition and have both returned to their third generation family farm after graduating from the animal science and diploma in business management programs at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture. Along with their parents, Everett and Dale, Emma and Josh are cooperatively managing the many functions of the operation, and plan to do so for many years to come.

Thanks to the diverse nature of their farm, Josh and Emma have found a way to work together that allows them each to do what they love while keeping the business running smoothly. After roughly a year of struggling to divy up chores, grappling with schedules, and mild competitiveness, the siblings found the answer to their issues: each would take over management of an individual area of the farm, rather than trying to share the workload for each commodity.

“It works for us,” says Emma, who takes care of the animals and is more heavily involved with the dairy side of the operation. “It creates boundaries. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t help each other out – he’ll milk once in a while and I’ll do field work when needed.” Josh oversees the turkey flock and cropping for the farm.

This division of duties has significantly improved cooperation and communication between the siblings as well as the strength of the business. Although Everett is still in charge of the farm and Dale still handles the financials, the family makes decisions as a unit. “We all bring good ideas to the table, but we have to be in agreement,” says Emma. “If we don’t all agree on something, it doesn’t go through.”

As the efficiency of the operation has improved, Emma and Josh’s schedules have freed up a bit, allowing them to pursue their own ventures on their own time. Emma raises veal to sell locally while Josh grows wheat, soybeans, barley, straw and corn with their uncle, David.

Both are also heavily involved with agriculture in New Brunswick. Josh is the youngest board member for the Turkey Farmers of New Brunswick, while Emma sits on the board for the New Brunswick Young Farmers Forum and is a former member of the Sussex Holstein Club, where she was the only female member during her tenure.

Emma and Josh feel fortunate to play a role in the industry they love both through their volunteer work and by operating their family farm. Emma wasn’t always sure she wanted to farm for a living, but after a few years at the Faculty of Agriculture, she couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else. “I realized that working with cows wasn’t a chore,” she says. “It was what I loved to do.”

It means even more to her to be able to do what she loves alongside her family. “I am proud to say I work on my family farm. I am lucky to be able to work with my parents and brother every day. I am happy to wake up and go to work every morning. Not many people can say that.”

Having recently completed a new dairy barn, plans for the future of Spruce Valley Holsteins include additional dairy quota, a larger land base and further commodity diversification. Josh and Emma will continue to work side by side in pursuit of these goals.

The Hayes are proud of how far they have come. When asked what advice they would provide to someone considering family farming as their future, Emma has one word: communication.

“Communication is key. You need to have common goals. You won’t agree all the time, but it’s important that everyone is involved in decision-making. Everyone needs to have their say. It may be a lot of work, but it’s completely worth it.”

If the success of Spruce Valley Holsteins is any indication, she is exactly right.

Emma wasn’t always sure she wanted to farm for a living, but after a few years at the Faculty of Agriculture, she couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

Learn more about our Animal Science program.