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  • Norfolk Farms

Carpenter Bros: Gonna Carry On

The Carpenter family has a long history in the area. Great grandfather Wellington worked on the rails near Onondaga. Grandfather Sturgeon purchased a homestead west of Springvale in the 1920’s, where he worked a dairy operation.

Bev and Lee Carpenter stand in front of their farm shop.

Dad Ivan moved to that farm with his family in 1967 when Lee was 11. He raised beef cattle, grew crops and owned and operated Ivan Carpenter Bulldozing.

Lee helped on the farm as a boy but took on a full time job at Stelco in 1974. Lee married Bev in 1981, the couple farmed her family’s farm, just one concession south of the home farm.

They eventually purchased this farm in 2005 after her mom passed.

In 1984 Lee’s twin brother Lyle returned from spending some time in the west and the brothers decided to work together as Carpenter Bros. Both worked off-farm full time, Lee still at Stelco and Lyle as a trucker. “It started off as a hobby,” Lee joked, “but more and more acres were acquired and it kind of ran away on us.” Still, it became apparent that they needed to, “Go big or go home …. and I didn’t want to go home.” Together the men worked up to 2400 acres as well as some custom work.

Lee and his brother chose to invest in new equipment rather than land, renting acreage instead of purchasing for the most part. This decision was made due to their both working off-farm jobs, with no time to waste on breakdowns. They chose, “The best – red! (Case/IH),” Lee declared. They also purchased their own truck, as they wanted to be able to transport their own product.

The partnership thrived for 20 years before tragedy struck. Lyle developed cancer and passed in 2008 after a four year battle. Lee carried on, retaining the name of Carpenter Bros in honour of his brother.

He hired Ritchie, a local man, and put on a second truck. He continues to work about 2000 acres, partly owned, partly rented and partly custom worked. He grows wheat and soy, but has not grown corn for the last three years as input costs have risen too high.

He now grows IP (Identity Preserved) beans on 1200 acres per year which are sold to Huron Commodities in Ingersoll. His wheat is sold to LAC (London Agricultural Commodities) or Great Lakes Grain in Delhi.

Bev is an important part of this operation as she takes care of book keeping duties and is able to drive tractor when needed, although there never seems to be a shortage of help to run the big machines. She is only a call or text away if the men need help.

All farmers are constantly faced with challenges. Lee says the biggest ones facing him are ever increasing fuel and input costs, weather and availability of parts, referencing a hydraulic motor ordered last March which failed to arrive till October. 2021 has been a difficult year, but true to farmers everywhere, the Carpenters keep plugging on. As to the future, “Gonna carry on I guess, see what happens,” Lee said. Bev added, “There’s always next year.” 

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