Farmwife #12: Jennifer Doelman
Age at this writing: 36
The connection with Jennifer Doelman is another that was made thanks to the wonders of social media. She currently resides outside the village of Douglas, Ontario in Renfrew County which is a part of the Ottawa Valley. She and her husband Mike, farm her family farm in partnership with her parents.
Jennifer had a wonderful answer when I asked Nancy what the term farmwife meant to her and if she considered herself to be one. You won’t want to miss it when Farmwives 2 launches THIS March!
Here is a sneak peek of Jennifer’s interview:
Q: How long have you been married, and if you have children, how many do you have? Is this your first marriage?
A: “Mike and I have been married for ten-and-a-half wonderful years. We lost our first daughter, Emily, at twenty-weeks gestation due to complications from Turner Syndrome. She was born during planting season so I had to go right back to running our farm supply crop inputs business a couple days after giving birth. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. Thankfully we have since been blessed with two beautiful, healthy children (born during the winter to avoid the trials from Emily’s pregnancy). AJ, our son, just turned four years old and our daughter, Becky, just turned two. This is the first marriage (and hopefully only!) marriage for both Mike and myself.
Q: Briefly describe your family farm business and it’s key players. If you have a business or career “off the farm”? Tell me about that, too.
A: “Mike and I are farming my family farm in partnership with my parents. We also operate a full-service crop inputs business from our farmstead. The business is called Barclay Dick & Son Farm Supply Ltd (named after my grandfather, Barclay and my father, the ‘& Son’). It has eight shareholders, including my husband, myself and my parents. The other shareholders include one of my brothers and his wife (she is a manager and agronomist at the business) and our main salesman/agronomist and his wife. The business is very busy and thriving with a young management team and employees. Many key players have young children so it has definitely been a struggle to find balance but it has it’s rewards, as well. We are one of the few remaining independent crop suppliers and we service a large and diverse geography.”
Q: What is a hilarious story you can share about life on your farm?
A: “The first wheat harvest after Mike and were married, we put in a long day hauling straw off the field ahead of the rain. My mom brought our whole crew KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), which was a pretty rare treat. Unfortunately, she underestimated the size of the crew so by the time she got to Mike and I there wasn’t much food left. We were exhausted and hungry so when we finished our meager ration, Mike turned to me to see if I would think less of him for licking the plate off (honeymooners worry about the silliest things) – and caught me doing the same myself!
It was a pretty good icebreaker into the reality of married and farming life – and we made sure that mom went back to the usual routine of burgers or sandwiches for field suppers after that!”
Q: What do you consider your primary role?
A: “My primary role in our farm supply business is Chief Financial Officer. I have that role as well as lead agronomist and marketer in the farm business. I’m aggressive and fairly good with numbers so it gives me a chance to use my talents but it is a role that also lets me plan my working hours around childcare availability and cropping – more so than when I was primarily customer service.”
Q: On some Canadian farms where multiple families are involved, there are a variety of land and home-ownership complexities that still exist today. In terms of the ownership setup of your farm – is there anything that worries you about your own or your children’s security?
A: “Farming is a highly capitalized, low margin industry. We have been very active in our succession plan – but even with that wills and partnership agreements become out of date, operating agreements never get finished because we are too busy RUNNING the business that we don’t run the business.
I am the eldest of four children: one of my siblings is a business partner in the crop input business but I am the one taking over the family farm.
My husband and I haven’t really been paid fair wage because we are ‘investing in the farm’. We are full partners who bought into the family business- and have the mortgages to prove it. Unfortunately lately my father keeps talking about needing to be ‘fair to the other kids now’ – which leaves us wondering what that really means?
My siblings and I are thankfully all on good terms but as my father ages, there appears to be a growing split in how he believes the future of the business should be and where Mike and I want to see the farm head. With everything leveraged to the hilt financially it doesn’t give much room for new business ventures or sale of some essential assets. Moving ahead, we need to find some financial autonomy between my parents and ourselves to reduce conflict. We also need to somehow get dad committing to what he wants to do in the next ten years.
I genuinely worry more about losing our home more to a partnership breakup than to weather or market forces. I also worry that my father’s legacy will be a conflict between my siblings and I simply because everyone wasn’t on the same page.”
You can see the rest of JENNIFER DOELMAN’s interview (plus her recipe for “TACOS”) when Farmwives 2 launches in March 2018! YOU CAN BUY BILLI’S FIRST BOOK HERE.
THE AUTHOR BILLI J MILLER LIVES WITH HER HUSBAND AND 2 DAUGHTERS ON A 106-YEAR OLD MIXED CATTLE & GRAIN FARM ON THE BORDER OF ALBERTA AND SASKATCHEWAN IN THE CANADIAN PRAIRIES. SHE IS AN AWARD-WINNING FARM PHOTOGRAPHER, FREELANCE WRITER & AUTHOR WHO HAS NO PLANS TO STOP TELLING THE STORIES OF INSPIRING CANADIANS. SHE’S ON INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK AND TWITTER AND YOU CAN FIND MORE OF HER WORK HERE.