Brothers & Sons in Seed Business
The Hedley family has been a part of the Haldimand farming scene since 1870 when great grandfather William immigrated from England. He established a mixed farm with sheep, Yorkshire hogs and Shorthorn cattle.
Grandfather Alec continued and father Roy took over from him, adding another 100 acres to the farm. Brothers Neil and Allan are at the helm of the family business now, joined by Neil’s son Colin and Allan’s sons Byron and Cameron.
Since the early 70’s the family started renting land and purchasing more as it was possible. There were still pigs and commercial cattle, but they were leaning more towards grains at this time, particularly corn, but also transitioning towards seed production. Hedley Seeds Ltd. was established in 1981. The 80’s were tough times; expansion just wasn’t possible due to the economic climate at the time. Allan stated, “Likely made us sharper managers because of it.”
As they became busier with the seed business, there was less time for the livestock. The pigs were sold in 1992 and the cattle were gone by 1998 – a lucky thing as BSE came along shortly after that. The business was incorporated that year as Hedley Farms Inc.
Main crops now include soybeans, winter wheat and hay along with red clover for seed. They work 4000 acres, part owned, part rented.
Byron purchased a few purebred Angus cattle in 2008, which Neil calls, “an expensive hobby.” He shows them a bit and provides beef for the family and for a few local customers.
The Hedleys have always tried to keep up with technology. They used a “follow the line” system for 15 years before employing a GPS system for another ten years. More recently they have used “field view” which works with GPS. This system monitors planting rate and maps how harvest goes across the field, indicating which section of a field gets the best or worst yields. Fertilizer can be applied where it is needed according to soil analysis and the climate view alerts to pests or disease problems and records rain. “Tools like this helps us plan for the future,” Byron explained, as future land purchases can be based on information gained.
Neil and Allan work together for most management decisions but are in process of transitioning to the younger men. Cameron is responsible for most day-to-day operations, Colin is the seed lead man, and Byron, who also works off-farm as a fire fighter, is responsible for the cattle.
The 80’s were tough times; expansion just wasn’t possible due to the economic climate at the time. Allan stated, “Likely made us sharper managers because of it.”
Challenges to the family include Haldimand’s infamous clay soil; Neil commented, “clay is a three-day thing, first day it’s wet, second day it’s perfect, third day it’s dry.” They have bought a tiler to assist with this problem. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to rent land due to strong competition. There is also the need of, “staying progressive while also staying financially responsible,” Allan added.
The Hedley family has always been community minded – you can find members of this family involved in 4H, the Caledonia Fair, many other agricultural committees and the local hospital.