Belfast Telegraph

Disillusioned dairy farmer to swap Dungiven for fresh start in Canada

By Chris McCullough

Growing tired of the daily grind is an issue that many of us can identify with.

But when Andrew Evans, a farmer from Co Londonderry, grew disillusioned with his lot he opted for a radical course of action - and is selling up the dairy farm that has been in his family for three generations for a new life in Canada.

The 42-year-old and his family are relocating to Dauphin in Manitoba, the country's fifth-most populated province.

He will set up home thousands of miles away with his wife Sandra and their children Daniel, Adam, Rhoda, Ruth and Jordan, who are aged from nine to 16.

It has been a tough decision for Andrew and one he hasn't taken lightly.

But he said frustration with the weather, calendar farming, working for a subsidy and a 'top-heavy' local department of agriculture has prompted his decision.

Andrew is the third generation to run the farm near Dungiven in Co Londonderry, which has been in the family since the 1940s.

He was running 200 cows plus followers which have all been sold along with the farm machinery in preparation for the big move.

Andrew said: "I worked hard to build up this farm following in the footsteps of my late father and grandfather. We built the herd up to 200 cows, producing just short of 8,500 litres per cow per year.

"The herd was performing well, the business was doing okay, but I was getting disheartened with our top-heavy Department of Agriculture (Daera) and farming simply for a subsidy.

"Certainly the inclement weather does not make it easy to farm here, and neither does the calendar farming restrictions imposed by Brussels, such as the slurry ban.

"But I am more concerned about farming just for a subsidy from the European Commission.

"Farmers are just breaking even these days. In my opinion subsidies have ruined farming here."

He added: "I want to farm in a way that puts less restriction on me, in terms of developing a business. And Canada seems to be that type of place.

"I travelled out there with my two eldest sons last November. We were all very impressed with what we saw."

Andrew was impressed with the farming systems he saw in Manitoba, and more so in the Dauphin area.

He already has a farm in mind that he would like to purchase but intends to travel to Canada soon to spend three weeks in Dauphin to get a better feel for the area.

Manitoba is a Canadian province bordered by Ontario to the east and Saskatchewan to the west. Its landscape comprises lakes and rivers, mountains, forests and prairies.

"Dauphin is a town that really appeals to me," added Andrew. "The area is nice and I did visit a good farm last time that is for sale.

"I hope to go back there and see if a deal can be done."

Another reason that Andrew claimed had pushed him over the Atlantic was our Department of Agriculture, which he said is "a drain on the country's finances" and top-heavy with bureaucracy.

He said his wife and family are all very supportive of the move, and they have already started the emigration process.

"Our own farm is not sold as yet but I am confident it will sell once the Basic Payments (which supplement their main business income) have been applied for. We have already started emigration procedures and are really looking forward to getting over to Canada to start our new lives.

"I am hoping to leave my 222 acres here behind and work with around 2,000 acres in Canada. The pound to dollar exchange rate is currently working in our favour," he added.

Andrew joked that his wife will not let him return to milking cows on the new farm but he admited his heart is in livestock farming.

"I think my days milking cows are definitely over if Sandra gets her way," he added. "The farm I am looking at has around 800 acres of arable land. I would hope to grow my own cereals to feed cattle on the farm. My heart is in livestock production and I hope to contract rear cattle for other farmers when I get started in Canada. Cash flow is a real necessity on any farm and I think the combination of crops and rearing cattle will bring us in a regular income to get us going.

"The move is a big one but my three sons all want to farm and there is no room for all of us on the home farm."

Belfast Telegraph

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