Family, Self-Sufficiency, and Innovation

July 11th, 2017

In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, Dairy Farmers of Canada has produced a book, Dairy Farmers—Deeply Rooted for a Strong Future that honours Canada’s dairy tradition and the contributions dairy farmers have made to Canada’s emergence as a nation.

Download the book here.

It was the Porter family’s resiliency and perseverance that led them to found Porter’s Dairy Farm. The farm provided for the family and has fed the community for the past 120 years.

When Charlie took over the farm in 1938, he decided that bottling and selling milk door-to-door was the best way to support his family. He began his milk run that same year. His fledgling business flourished and his herd increased to about 55 cows.

For 10 years the Porter family hand-milked cows, but in 1947, Charlie brought in their first milking machines. His son, Don, remembers carrying the machine from cow to cow and manually hooking it into the line.

In 1978, the dairy moved to a larger location less than two kilometres away from the original farm.

Today, Porter’s Dairy Farm is run by Charlie’s son Don and his wife Karen, their son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Brianne, and nephew Travis Waller. They milk 250 cows on 400 acres of cleared land. Don’s daughter is also keeping the family farming tradition alive. She married a dairy farmer from the island and farms with her husband and children.

The Porters have embraced science and technology to ensure their farm remains viable for the next generation. This includes regular testing of their soil by agrologists so they know what to plant to be successful.

Brianne calls the cows the true bosses of the farm and they are the biggest beneficiaries of new technologies. “Today we weigh every component of the cows’ diet and we mix everything in a nutritionally thought out way. That’s a huge change in the 20 years that I’ve been at Porter,” says Brianne.

Don and Ian made sure the modern milking parlour fit the needs of their family and their farm, but they also wanted to maintain a human connection to the milking process, which is why their milking equipment still requires manual attachment. “It’s not always easy to find balance between modern expectations and keeping the traditional family environment. We think we are able to do just that, and we are proud of what we’ve accomplished,” says Brianne.

The farm has undergone many changes over the last century and the parlour was a major transformation. When it was completed three years ago, a very moved Don told Karen that he wished his dad and grand-father were here to see how far the farm had come.

The Porters are aware that consumers will determine how the next generation farms. Brianne is excited by the growing farm-to-table movement. Most of the high quality milk produced at Porter’s Dairy remains on Vancouver Island.

“It’s a great feeling when you can go to the grocery store and see, wow, my family probably produced that milk,” she says.

The Porter’s dairy farming legacy is secure as the family prepares for its sixth generation of farmers. Brianne and Ian’s three boys are already working on the farm and can’t think of a life without farming.

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