How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a dairy farmer?
I never imagined I would be a dairy farmer (or marry one)! My path to becoming a farmer has been entirely unexpected, but I love it!
What do you love most about being a dairy farmer?
About dairy farming as a job… I love the variety and the flexibility, especially in the role I play on our farm. I work in the barn one day a week caring for animals and managing our calf barn, and in my office most days while our kids are at school. Sometimes I’m in the barn more often, and sometimes I’m in a tractor for days! I’m typically away from the farm at industry related meetings 3-5 days a month, and am fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to other parts of Canada 4 or 5 times a year. My hours are flexible so I can care for our own kids after school, and am able to accommodate various volunteer roles in the community in my schedule.
About being a dairy farmer… I love being directly connected to producing food for Canadians. I love animals, and I love the lifestyle. I love sharing what we do and why we do it.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received from a fellow dairy farmer?
My father in law was a very progressive man in his own way, and I learned a lot from him. He read all the time, about everything. He embraced change, rather than fearing it. He let us learn by doing, for the most part… He was a key factor in our farm’s transition to robots – he always said if we’d ever milked cows all our lives in a parlor there’d be no question in our minds whether or not to switch to robots, so here we are!
What is the biggest challenge in dairy farming today?
Challenges and opportunities are plentiful in our industry. Access to land is definitely a challenge, especially in the Fraser Valley; public perception and international trade pressure are always considerations; environment and sustainability are of course top of mind… I think all these factors work together to really drive innovation and a very progressive industry.
What’s one thing you wish you could tell people about dairy farming?
It’s easy to forget we’re consumers too! I wish there wasn’t such a vast divide between those who consume and those who produce. We understand what it’s like to try to choose what to put in the grocery cart and to feed our families! It can be overwhelming! Farmers are putting increasing effort into being available to consumers and to the public… I’d love to see more people take us up on this by choosing to seek information directly from farmers and connect. Connection builds understanding, and the opportunities are there – keep an open mind and jump on in!
What family members are involved with your operation, and what are their responsibilities?
My husband Gene and my brother in law Grant operate the farm as a team – Gene’s typically more focused on crops, feed and equipment and Grant’s usually in the barn with the cows more often. We’re a small enough operation they can both cover for each other to allow for some occasional time away from the farm! My mother in law Jill feeds calves part time and helps with meals and kids in our busy seasons.
What’s your favourite dairy product?
I’m glad farming is a pretty physical job because it helps make up for my ice cream habit – I especially love Strawberry or other fruit ice creams.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not farming?
I love baking, gardening, and taking photos, and of course my family and doing fun things with my boys!
If you could dairy farm anywhere in the world, barring any financial or physical barriers, where would you go?
Next door to my best friend Sarah! I met her when we were students at UBC and we both went on to marry dairy farmers, but they’re in the UK and we’re in Canada. I’m not sure we couldn’t settle on a country, so here is pretty perfect for me for now.
What are your kids' favourite farm chores?
We have two boys and they both love the farm! Our 8 year old loves cropping and irrigation, and our 6 year old is a mama’s boy… He loves calves, and is very clear with anyone who asks that he only rides in tractors with his Mum.
Are your kids interested in continuing the family business? If not, what do they “want to be when they grow up”?
We’ll support and encourage whatever they decide – for now we’re just trying to keep farming open as an option. Wherever they go in life, their experience being raised here will shape who they are and how they contribute, and I’m proud of that. They don’t have to grow up to be farmers to connect people back to the farm.
How long has this farm been in your family?
This farm has been in our family for 44 years.
Sarah Sache, West River Farm
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