West River Holsteins

In 1998, Jack Thomson and Rhonda MacDougall accomplished their dream – owning a dairy farm – and what made it even better was the fact that they were able to purchase a farm in their home community of Antigonish. After Jack and Rhonda graduated from McGill University’s Macdonald College, Jack gained experience working as a dairy herdsperson, for the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA) as an Agriculture Representative and as a Sire Analyst in Ontario. With that experience, Jack moved back home to Antigonish and purchased the farm from the Corsten family in 1998.

West River Holsteins is operated by Jack and Rhonda along with their kids: Shamus, Bryce, Keith and Elise, as well as their farm employees. Here they have approximately 280 head of purebred Holsteins – and milk 135 of them. Waking up before the sun for 3:30am milk time followed by milkings at 11:30am and 7pm. Over the past 20 years the farm has changed significantly, in 2007 lightning struck the orginal dairy barn causing it to burn down and a new one be built as a replacement. Currently, West River Holsteins farms 500 acres, including 75 acres of corn silage.

“We’ve been proud participants in Open Farm Day since it’s inception – with the exception of 2007 we have participated every year,” Jack explained. “We’ve welcomed thousands to the farm to experience life on a dairy farm and learn more about agriculture.”

Open Farm Day is the largest group that is greeted by the farm every year in addition to the industry tours, school visits and university tours they host as well.

“As the number of primary producers decreases and individuals get additional generations removed from the farm, education is increasingly important. This is especially true since the advent of social media and internet advice on everything,” Rhonda added. “The best source for what is done on the farm, how things are done and why they are done is the farmer, and we are proud to share that educational component with anyone who desires the information from those who farm everyday.”

Did you know: in addition to being a large dairy farm, they also have 50 sheep and lambs, as well as chickens?

When visitors arrive on site there will be given two options: a self guided tour using static displays, and a guided tour. Static displays are set up around the farm to facilitate a self-guided tour and are a great option for those who have visited the farm in the past or who already have knowledge of dairy farming. The guided tours are a great option for those looking to get more details on each aspect of the operation, gain a better understanding of the indusrty/commodity, and have their questions answered by the farmer or the employees.

“Everyone at West River Holsteins loves being involved in agriculture. It’s a story we are proud to share and one of which many can claim a part of success – employees, family, 4-H members, neighbours and community. We appreciate the opportunity to share our story and our farm with those who are interested in learning more about farming and agriculture.”

West River Holsteins can’t wait to meet you on the farm!

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