Check­ing in on the neigh­bour­hood farm

The New Farm The di­vide be­tween ru­ral and ur­ban is shrink­ing

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - The New Farm - Owen roberts

If you live in or near Toronto, lo­cal food hardly gets more au­then­tic than the beef that, for more than a cen­tury, has been pro­duced by the Sheard fam­ily at Sun­nymead Farms.

But can Bill, Sheila and son Will — as well as hun­dreds of other farm­ers like them on Toronto’s fringe — keep grow­ing lo­cal crops and rais­ing live­stock with mount­ing pres­sure from housing and in­dus­try?

Ab­so­lutely, says Will, a re­cent grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Guelph agri­cul­tural busi­ness pro­gram. And he be­lieves his neigh­bours far and wide sup­port him. “I’m com­mit­ted to farm­ing here,” he says. “This is my home, my com­mu­nity. I def­i­nitely want to stay put and con­tinue our fam­ily tra­di­tion of be­ing an On­tario beef farmer.”

The Sheards raise some 3,500 cat­tle and grow 1,400 acres of soy­beans, corn, wheat and al­falfa at Sun­nymead, just north of the Bramp­ton city lim­its. On a re­cent me­dia visit, I found their farm sur­pris­ingly serene, even though High­way 410 goes by their front gate, and their feed­lot was full of cat­tle.

Even in the farm’s in­fancy, when they were truly ru­ral, they had a close con­nec­tion to Toronto. And they’ve worked hard to be good neigh­bours. For ex­am­ple, when Bill’s fa­ther Wil­liam was young, in the 1940s, he was the point man (or boy, rather) on morn­ing cat­tle drives from the farm, down Eglinton Av­enue to the Toronto stock­yards.

His job was hu­man and an­i­mal safety, some­times even at his own peril. He’d pedal in front of the herd, wav­ing cars off to the side of the street to avoid col­li­sions with the driven live­stock.

Of course, times have changed. But decades later, the fam­ily con­tin­ues to em­ploy farm­ing tech­niques that

SIAN RICHARDS/FOR METRO

will Sheard a re­cent grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of guelph agri­cul­tural busi­ness pro­gram, be­lieves his neigh­bours sup­port his fam­ily’s farm, Sun­nymead Farms.

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