A lot has changed since Jack and Kathleen Frew started farming in the north end of Norfolk County 100 years ago.
The couple married on March 4, 1921 and purchased a farm on Windham Road 2 shortly after. Three generations later, and transitioning to a fourth, the farming tradition is continuing for the Frew family.
Jack’s story is one of fighting for survival. He was brought from Scotland by his parents at a young age. His mother abandoned him in Brantford and it’s unknown what happened to his father. He and his brother were adopted. His brother became a vet and was widely recognized as Doc Frew from Vanessa.
After Jack and Kathleen married, they had 10 children. Most stayed in farming, but Gordon and his wife Marie purchased the farm across the road from the original homestead when they married in 1958. He continued the tradition of growing cash crops and raising beef cattle.
You take pride in raising a good quality animal, especially when they’re well looking after.
Gordon expanded the operation and purchased additional farms, while continuing to own the original. He also built an elevator system for the grains.
Gordon and Marie had three boys, Jack, Mark, Darrin and a daughter Joyce. Unfortunately, Darrin, died in a tragic car crash, but the others are still involved, directly and indirectly, in farming. Gordon passed away in April 2019. Between their own land and they rented, they have 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat under production in Norfolk, Oxford and Brant.
The beef operation is for finishing cattle of different breeds, but most are either Charolais heifers or Angus-Simmental steers. The Frews purchase yearlings between 600 and 800 pounds and finish them for market to a weight of 1,500 pounds. This typically takes 6.5 to 8.5 months. Usually they have about 600 head at once, split between the feedlot on a farm one road south of the home farm, and the home farm.
“I like seeing them be raised to finish ready for slaughter,” Joyce’s son Troy said. “You take pride in raising a good quality animal, espe-cially when they’re well looking after.”
“You are born with a farming gene but sometimes you are born with a beef cattle gene too,” Joyce said. “My dad had it. My son has it and my brothers Jack and Darrin that passed, have it as well.
“I’m the numbers, business side of it so I sometimes wonder why we are in beef cattle, but they love it. It’s an honour for the legacy to continue.”
The family is currently in transition to the next generation. Joyce, who is a real estate agent in Otterville, moved back to the farm with her partner Jerry Martens to assist. Her son Troy Wilson, along with niece and nephew Aidan and Victoria Frew, will be the next generation.
And there could be a fifth generation on line. Joyce’s grandson Bodhi, who is three, likes to spend time at the farm.
“My dad called him the boss,” she said. “He likes to come and let us know what we are doing right and wrong.”
With the Frew’s land varying between clay and sand, one thing the next generation is working on is learning better farming practices.
“It’s pretty exciting to see them find better ways to increase yield,” Joyce said.
Another of Frew Farms enterprises is hauling and spreading manure for use in tobacco, vegetable and ginseng farmers. There are 10 to 11 people on staff to get all the work done.
One of the goals is to continue to get the best yield possible with the land they have available.
“It’s neat to see the progress from my generation to the next with better farming practices,” Joyce said. “I can’t imagine what my grandfather would say if he could see us now.”