Doing a better than average job is the mantra Timmins dairy farmer Frank Haasen who works from sun up to sun down.
As the winner of Company of the Year (1-15) Award he says, “You’ve got to have better than average production, and put out a better than average product.”
His goal is to be “in the top 25 per cent all the time.”
He adopted this work ethic from his parents, John and Dina Haasen, who emigrated from Holland in 1958 to Northern Ontario, where they purchased 159 acres with 23 milking cows. Throughout the years, Frank and his family built up the successful dairy-farming operation to 500 acres, maintaining a herd of about 175 holstein cattle with approximately 80 milking cows.
Today, Frank and his wife, Ivy, the principal shareholders and operators, run the farm, along with their semi-retired father John, youngest son Eddy, and herdsman Jim Kirkman.
As one of the few dairy farms left in the Cochrane District, the prospect of transferring the family farm to the next generation is often a questionable one. Succession plans are in progress bringing Eddy, third generation and recent graduate from the agricultural program at Kemptville College, into the family business.
“Family transfer of a farming operation is a win-win situation, Frank explains. “My dad gave me a break, my son is getting a break, but we continue working at something we really enjoy doing.”
When John first arrived, there were more than 30 milk-producing operations in the region. Over time, consolidations and large capital expenses negatively impacted some of the smaller businesses. Frank recognizes that the local farms didn’t go out of business because they weren’t viable, but possibly because they didn’t have another generation to take over. He credits much of the farm’s success to the pivotal role Ivy has played on a daily basis as life and business partner, just as his mother Dina, before her, was to his father. In a business that is so integrally connected with family, Frank acknowledges the cohesiveness necessary to move forward.
For almost half a century, Haasen Farms has developed and grown the business. Competent and innovative management skills have resulted in increased sales from $411,700 in 2001 to $598,000 in 2006, despite high capital costs. Striving for the top quarter has placed Haasen Farms as a recognized producer of quality milk and prime breeding stock. They have maintained excellent performance placing the farm consistently in the top 20 per cent of dairy farms in Ontario for production per cow as determined by CanWest Dairy Herd Improvement and measured by the Breed Class Average. In 2006, Haasen farms attained a level of recognition only credited to the top five per cent of dairy farms with the Gold Seal Certificate of Excellence under the Milk Quality Recognition Program of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.
These accolades are achieved by the collective effort of all involved.Quality of milk is produced by attention to detail.
“The information is all there…Everyone has it and makes use of it, but the details are important.”
Animal husbandry, maintaining healthy cows and methods used to harvest the milk all impact on the end product.
“All our cattle are bred artificially and we have certain goals in mind when we select a certain type of bull for mating,” Frank says, emphasizing that cleanliness and handling of the milk affects the composition, which in turn impacts on flavour and shelf life.
They remain current on topics such as artificial breeding, pesticides and medicine-handling.
Haasen Farms is one of the first 25 per cent to adopt and implement newer farming technologies, such as GPS technology for the cropping program when applying pesticides or fertilizers. Not only does it help apply a more uniform coverage enhancing crop production, it reduces overlapping, which has an environmental and economical impact.
Described as an exceptional ambassador for agriculture in the North, Frank is a delegate to the Dairy Farmers of Cochrane District Dairy Herd Improvement, and is a longstanding board member of the Rotary Club. He participates in a monthly donation of 500 litres of dairy farmer’s milk to Ontario Food Bank program and is presently running for a board position on the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
Although many marvel at how anyone can farm in Northern Ontario, the Haasen’s have adjusted well and work with what is there, as opposed to fighting it. It is this ability to thrive that have made them a valuable contribution to agriculture in Northern Ontario.