Looking across the open fields toward Acredale Farms’ new barn you can’t tell how much hard work went into rebuilding, but it certainly looks like it was worth it. Tinkess Photo

By Terry Tinkess
AgriNews Staff Writer

KARS – Whether you’ve seen the movie “Field of Dreams” or not, you are probably familiar with the phrase “If you build it, they will come.” That was certainly the case at Acredale Farms in Kars, Ontario on Sat., April 20, where their open house had cars parked on both sides of the road out front for about a half-kilometre in both directions.

One of the people greeting all these visitors explained that they thought maybe 400 people would stop by, but when they started to run low on the foot covering required to enter the barn, they realized that the total number would be much larger than that.

People, it seems, like a celebration, and when a family farm can recover from the effects of a devasting fire, then a celebration is certainly what is called for.

On May 20, 2021, a fire tore through their tie-stall barn. They lost 127 dairy cattle, including 85 milking cows. They have been in their new barn for about a year now, and although it has been a long and expensive road back, when your life revolves around a farm that has been in the family for five generations, what other choice is there? Agriculture is far more than just a career.

Janet Acres-Smiley and her husband Robert Smiley along with daughter Jasmine Rooney and her husband Cole are the partners at Acredale Farms. In addition to the cows, they also have 400 acres and grow corn and soybean. “Yeah, we have a little bit if it’s a good year,” said Janet. “Ideally, we’ll sell, and we usually have enough crop to sell to help out with the seed and fertilizer for the next year.”

Farming is in the blood for Janet. “Oh, I’ve been in farming since I came home from college,” said Janet.  “I’ve been farming full-time… 36 years this year I’ve been home farming. I’ve came home and farmed with my parents.”

Acredale Farms currently has 150 head and are currently milking 90. The main structure is 330 ft. by 115 ft. The 100-stall milking parlour and the feed room are roughly the same size at 62 ft. by 80 ft. The automated systems lighten the load a bit, but there is a misconception by some that automation means there is less work to do.

“Yeah, a little bit of misconception,” said Janet, “There’s still almost the same amount of work. It’s just easier. The automated feeding system takes out one full-time like my dad when I first start was farming. My dad did all the feeding. You do need my son-in-law, Cole, he’s the man on the loader tractor always filling the feed kitchens, so to speak, to use that name loosely. And the milking, instead of two of us always milking at the same time, my daughter Jasmine does primarily all the milking.”

What it does is provide a bit more free time for other things. “Jasmine doesn’t need me in the parlour, and that frees me up,” adds Janet. “I do all the calves and I do have more time for grandkids now.”

Acredale Farms chose to not go with a fully automated milking system for several reasons, including that they enjoy it. The feed system, however, is fully automated.

“The Lely, it’s all 100% automated,” said Janet. “The feeder goes down, makes different batches for different age groups like the milk cows, the dry cows and there’s heifers down the far corner. They all get different rations.  In there (the feed room) it’s all automated.”

The farm is definitely a family operation.  “My daughter and her husband are in it. And my husband, is a retired firefighter. (Their son followed that path and is an Ottawa Firefighter.) He originally took over all the cropping duties for my dad when he became not able to plant corn and soybean. He’s always helped here and there. He’s now retired, so he was key in helping us get ready for today.  He did a lot of scrubbing.”

Many hands, and a bit or automation do make light work.