by Ruby Arsenault
Mark Gaudet is a third generation farmer, following in the footsteps of his dad Michael and his grandfather Guillaume. The family farm is located off the Western Road near Tignish, and has survived many years of challenges and changes in the agriculture industry.
“Our farm may be small in comparison to others,” says Mark. “But it’s our way of life and we enjoy each and every day of carrying on the tradition of small Island family farms. I hope one day I am able to pass the family farm to a fourth generation.”
The farm has 38 milking cows. The milk is picked up every second day by ADL truck drivers, and the Gaudets are proud of their contribution to Island milk production.
“Cows needs to be fed and tended to 365 days a year,” says Michael. “No matter the weather or the season, a farmer has to remain dedicated to two daily schedules, which on the Gaudet farm means milking at 5:30 am and 6 pm.”
In spring, the farm is busy with planting potatoes on its 120 acres. The summer of 2018 proved to be a challenge with late spring frost and a very hot and dry summer, resulting in smaller spuds.
“Some of our product does not meet certain standards this year,” says Michael, as he watches his crew grade the day’s fall harvest. However, smaller potatoes are still a high quality product, and are trucked to Cavendish Farms daily during the harvest.
Unlike caring for cattle, growing crops is more seasonal, so some farmers seek off-season employment. During the past few winters, Mark has travelled to the Alberta oil patch to operate vac trucks, which suck liquids, sludges, or slurries into the tank of the truck to transport to another location. This work offsets the slower months on the farm, and offers Mark an opportunity to travel and see the country, along with making an extra income.
“I was considering staying home to take over the cattle milking operations, because my father wanted to retire from that aspect of the farm,” says Mark. “But we were fortunate to find a good, capable staff member, Shana Crockett.
“Part of owning and operating a farm is hiring staff. Finding the right person who is interested and dedicated to long hours and committed to daily caring and milking of cattle can be a challenge.
“When Shana first applied, I was nervous she wouldn’t like it, and I was so pleased she turned out to be great at the job,” says Mark. “Often other farmers comment to me that women are excellent farm labourers, as they are gentler with the equipment and show strong attention to detail, so we certainly lucked out when Shana joined out team.”
Mark says hiring for seasonal work has its own challenges. “We depend on being able to hire a handful of truck drivers and labourers in spring and fall. Sometimes when we are short staffed I call upon some of my friends to help. When we need to fill a position such as permanent farm labourer, we visit our local Tignish Employment Resource Centre to help with posting a job ad.”
In addition to year-round milking, summer duties include crop spraying and equipment maintenance. “During harvest, we can put in 14 to 16 hour days to try to beat the bad weather and get the potatoes out of the ground and stored as soon as possible. I am up early and after breakfast the day begins with helping with the cattle, and then off to the fields.”
Requirements for Truck Drivers
- Class 3A or 1A license
- Mechanically inclined
- Strong hand and eye coordination
- Ability to work long hours
- Safety oriented
- A good team player
Requirements for Farm Labourers
- Able to perform manual labour
- Able to work long hours
- Dependable & flexible
- Safety oriented
- Ability to operate and maintain farm equipment
- Attention to detail
Requirements for caring for cattle
- Passionate about cattle
- Ability to monitor cattle behaviors
- Ability to recognize any health issues/problems
- Dedication to the job (356 days a year)
- Strong attention to detail
Anyone interested in working for Gaudet Farms in the spring and fall may contact Michael Gaudet at 902-853-7466 or Mark Gaudet at 902-237-6407.