I began my journey on the 21st May, leaving Dublin Airport that afternoon to embark on my international exchange to Ontario, Canada. I had a direct seven hour flight into Toronto where I was greeted by the organisers of the exchange to begin my trip of a life time.
I started my first week in Canada in Halidmand/Norfolk County where I stayed with my first host family. I worked on a dairy farm that week, where I milked 45 cows in a double five parlour.
I milked most mornings which meant I was able to spend the rest of the day doing different farm tours with the other international delegates, Sarah (Scotland), Lea (Switzerland), Alistair (England), Johanna (Germany), Phillipa (Tasmania) and Doris (Austria).
I saw a lot in my first week and spent a lot of time on different types of farms. The farms ranged from cash crops to lavender to ginseng. Ginseng was a very interesting farm we toured and was the only one we saw on our travels throughout Ontario. One of the many highlights in my first week was seeing Niagara Falls, it was absolutely breath taking.
I moved from there onto Waterloo County. This was a very strong Mennonite farming community. I only spent a short time here but within my time I had the opportunity to tour and observe Mennonite style farming.
This was something new to me and I found it interesting to see how they farm in the 21st century without the use of engine powered machinery. This lifestyle is very labour intensive but they seem to enjoy it all the same.
After my short time in Waterloo, we moved to a leadership camp, where we spent the weekend with the organisation getting to know most of the members and meeting our future hosts for the rest of the trip.
From there I moved to Huron County, where we experienced a culture filled week along with the agricultural side of things.
We spent a day at the salt mines in Goderich and even experienced an ice tour in 35oc heat. That week we were in the area of Huron Tractor, one of the biggest John Deere dealerships that we saw on our travels. My week in Huron was full of many different farm tours and farming experiences. We were lucky enough to see around Hensall Co-Operative, a large grain operation.
We then travelled to Perth County and again like every other county, we were welcomed with open arms. We had an action packed week and I lived that week on a beef finishing farm.
They had over 100 head of cattle and were looking to expand. I enjoyed working with my hosts in the morning helping out on the farm. We spent a lot of time with our hosts which meant we were able to do evening chores along with the morning ones.
A member of the Perth Club had one of the largest John Deere tractors that any of us came across and we were lucky enough to get the chance to drive it.
Once again we were back on the move to a new county called Essex/Kent. This county kept us on our toes for the week. We started our mornings at 6.30am; worked hard and toured even more in our spare time.
We went to green houses, cheese factories, breweries, wineries and much more. One highlight in this particular week was being able to stand at the most southern point in Canada, at Point Peele.
We then headed to the county of Middlesex, marking six weeks in Canada. I stayed on a beef and pig farm which was different as this was the first pig farm any of us had stayed on. Chris Crump (my host) was very keen to educate us on the world of pigs. I leaned a lot in my time there and now can successfully butcher a pig. We had the opportunity to celebrate Canada Day with Middlesex and what an experience it was, from the crowds at the beach to the fireworks in the evening, Canada Day was one to enjoy.
The next stop on my travels was Renfrew County and we were lucky enough to spend two weeks with this particular county. Renfrew kept us busy, with working on neighbouring farms and then having some time to hit local tourist spots. We worked on different farms and even a few ranches.
When staying in Renfrew we were very close to Quebec, The French side of Canada, so we took the opportunity to see farms in that area and see how rules and regulations change as we crossed to a different province. Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada was only an hour outside of Renfrew and we were able to spend a day there sightseeing and enjoying the day in Canada’s capital.
One of the many highlights was going white water rafting with the county. It was an amazing fun experience and we managed not to lose anyone so that was a bonus!
From Renfrew we moved to the Peterborourgh area. My host family were mainly cash crop farmers with a few goats and donkeys. We spent the week helping on the farm, baling and feeding the animals.
While in the Peterborourgh area we had the opportunity to see different lock gate systems along the Trent Severn Waterway. We saw the famous lift lock system along with the traditional man powered lock gates. We were lucky enough to be given a tour around Canada’s largest outdoor pig farm. This was something we had never came across before on our travels and we found it very interesting to see.
The next stop of my Canadian journey was Durham West. We were welcomed to the county with a friendly game of baseball and what an experience that was. We saw a lot in our time with Durham West, a beautiful Lavender farm with a small gift shop attached selling every lavender product you could think of and more.
We spent a lot of time with our host families which was lovely as we were able to get to know them a lot better. Durham West was a lovely county and really made us all feel at home.
Moving into the last two weeks of the trip our next stop was Wellington County. The week here just flew in as we had so much to see and do. A few of the highlights of the tour was getting the chance to tour around the famous Semex factory.
This tour was interesting and we hadn’t seen anything like it on our travels so far. We had the opportunity to see around two of the University of Guelph’s research farms; the brand new dairy operation and the beef farm. We finished our week with Wellington at the annual golf tournament held by the Junior Farmer’s Organisation. This was a brilliant day as we got to see loads of members from other counties again and catch up with everyone.
After the Golf tournament we headed home with our new and final county, Simcoe. Our time here was amazing and we had so much fun. We spent a full day at Canada’s amazing theme and water park, Canada’s Wonderland.
We spent a full day in Toronto seeing iconic sights like the CN tower and Ontario’s parliament and we even managed to fit in our last and final Canadian farm tours.
My time in Canada was amazing. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made it possible.
A special mention to the UFU and Kilraughts YFC for their kind sponsorship, to all my friends and family who supported my coffee morning and finally a big massive thank you to the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster for giving me this amazing and wonderful experience.
r For more photographs from Hannah Kirkpatrick’s exchange trip click on www.farminglife.com