News / Blog

Julia James – The Power of One, a one-woman show managing her dairy farm and full-time job
March 29, 2013

BRANT COUNTY — Twenty-nine-year-old Julia James lives by a simple motto.”Once you know what you want to do, you have to go for it,” she says. “You have  to take risks. As long as you love it, do it.”

That motto led to a whirlwind summer last year, as the dairy farmer started  caring for 400 pigs for another farmer and moved to the 56-acre farm she had her  eye on for four years. She hopes that a dairy facility will be ready by mid-2014  as she now milks 30 Holsteins on a rented farm about 15 kilometres away at  Norwich and also works full-time as a reproductive specialist for Select Sires,  sellers of bull semen. The job includes teaching farmers how to breed their  cows.

Her energy has not gone unnoticed. Farm Credit Canada recently announced she has  won this year’s Rosemary Davis award for female agricultural leadership in  Canada.

The 2006 University of Guelph animal science graduate defies a provincial  farming trend. Ontario lost nearly 70 per cent of farmers under the age of 35  between 1991 and 2011, even though female farmers are on the rise. But female  farmers going it alone are few and far between. She doesn’t know any others.

She knows only one guy dairy farming alone but he lives with his parents so  meals and laundry are included. “I’m a unique specimen.”

Being a one-woman operation can be scary at times, she admits, especially when  it comes to making decisions. Instead of having a partner that she can bounce  ideas off, James has to think all the decisions through herself.

“Being the sole decision maker for everything is something I struggle with,” she  says, adding self-confidence goes a long way to handling that pressure. “It  creates unique challenges when there’s only one person. You have to build your  own empire.”

James doesn’t have any employees on her farm, and would only consider bringing a  partner on if he was to bring in more quota. “Finding a partner at university  wasn’t so easy. It’s hard to find a guy who can keep up,” she giggles loudly.  She employs a Grade 8 student who helps out twice a week with chores, and then  there are the occasional co-op students from local high schools.

“I don’t get to have a sick day,” she laughs, adding the size of her farm is  manageable for one person. “I chose to be this way.”

Last year, James decided it was time to own a starter house for a few years to  earn equity, and then move on to buying a farm. By luck, the farm she fell in  love with four years earlier was for sale.

“It’s my little dream dairy farm,” she says, of the house she bought last year,  where the plan is to go robotic. “My heart and my passion and my dreams are in  dairy.”

James has 78 dairy cattle. She purchased them from her parents in Lanark County  — an hour’s drive from Ottawa where she grew up and where her parents still  live. She trucked the cattle to Norwich five years ago and started milking cows  with quota transferred from her parents’ farm.

James tries to learn something new every day. Even if that means visiting a farm  and finding out they are doing something wrong while she is doing it right. She  says she uses every experience as a learning opportunity. “It’s not a mistake  unless you do it twice,” she says. “You need to learn from doing it the first  time.”

Although she’s up at 4:45 a.m. and in bed by 11 p.m., James makes sure she takes  time away from the farm for soccer and curling, which is important to her mental  health, she says.

“A lot of it, I don’t see it as work. It’s my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t want  to be doing anything else. When you’re on a rollercoaster and having fun you  don’t think about being tired.”

Source: Farmers Forum



CURRENT ISSUE

Fall 2018