In this September issue of the Georgian e-news, we are shining the spotlight on Andrew Gallaugher from Dufferin County. Andrew, his wife Allison, and their 2 boys, Jack (5) and Charlie (3), farm outside of Mansfield, on the rolling hills of Mulmur.
The Gallaugher name has been on mailboxes in the Mansfield area for over 150 years. Farming is certainly in Andrew’s blood. Andrew’s parents had a beef operation, and a roadside fruit and vegetable stand. Early on, Andrew determined that he was not a cattle person, nor did he want to grow vegetables. Instead, he wanted to have equipment, which was confirmed by working with his Uncle Doug, who cash crops nearby. Andrew went to Ridgetown college, graduating in 2004. He started working on his parent’s farm, and on land that the family rented. At the same time, his uncle was struggling to find labour, so they started working together. Andrew credits his Uncle Doug Gallaugher, for helping him start farming in 2005.
Andrew purchased his own 100-acre farm in 2011. He and Allison were married in 2013. Allison works at Devil’s Glen, a private ski club. By working part time in the summer, during Andrews’ busy season, she is able to be more flexible as Mommy, when the demand for Andrew to be gone is at its highest. Allison has a deep passion and connection with their business, and the agricultural industry. She supports Andrew when and how she can. She commented that she has never met anyone that loves their job as much as Andrew does. She continued, “He truly loves watching his crops grow, and I can see his passion developing even further now that he has others to share it with”. Their young sons are showing that the passion for agriculture runs deep in their family, and they spend a great deal of time “farming with daddy” and play farming at home. The Gallaughers both expressed that they are excited to raise their family with a focus on an agricultural lifestyle. Allison added that Andrew loves that he has carried on his family heritage. In 2017, he was acknowledged by Mulmur, as being one of the few remaining residents, who is a current generation of a family that has been farming in this township for 150 years.
Today, Andrew still works very closely with his Uncle Doug. They have two distinct operations, but they share equipment, and labour. Andrew currently farms 1100 acres (1000 acres rented), and his uncle farms an additional 700. Andrew has one full time, and one seasonal part time employee, and Doug’s brother-in-law assists Doug. Andrew aspires to gradually take over the rest of Doug’s land once he retires, to reach the acreage that they need to be efficient. He adds, “How big you need to be is a tough question. It never seems like you have enough land.”
Andrew grows corn (245 ac), soybeans (380 ac), wheat (330 ac), canola (60 ac) and hay. He has grown canola for about 10 years. Andrew acknowledges that “When canola is good, it is really good, and you get rewarded really well, which keeps the drive alive!” Andrew has a lot of rough ground that is very suitable for hay, and it helps with erosion control. He and his uncle use minimum till practices. They have a vertical till that they use on a lot of their ground. Usually they no till their wheat into soybeans or canola, but the rest of the crops get some sort of minimal tillage. They strip till their corn to reduce compaction, open up their ground, and prevent erosion.
In the past 3-4 years, the use of oats as a cover crop has been a regular practice to improve soil health and reduce erosion on their rolling hills. Initially Andrew found it hard to locate oats to purchase in the area, so this year he began growing his own, and will store them in bins for the following season. Because of his knowledge and experience of spreading cover crops for other farmers with his high clearance spreader, he was able to determine that oats worked best with his equipment, and has experienced that they typically cover the ground better, and germinate faster to do their job.
In 2007, Andrew purchased a high clearance fertilizer spreader. Andrew describes it as a sprayer body with a fertilizer box on the back, allowing one to spread fertilizer in-season, put it in the right place/at the right time/when the crop needs it, to boost yields. He commented that purchasing it was probably the best thing that they ever did on-farm. In the beginning, with the first high clearance spreader that he purchased, the demand for the machine and the new techniques took him as far as west of London for jobs. As he was hired out by a variety of local input suppliers, he brought this new trend to the area. The benefits of being able to have split application of fertilizer with minimal impact on the established crops was evident, and this new practice quickly caught on for others. Over the years, he has upgraded his equipment and technology. He has evolved to have multiple styles of tires to maximize his spreading time frame and be adaptable and flexible to the jobs he is asked to do. He was one of the first in the province to work with New Leader, and purchase their G5 technology with swatch control. He has identified the importance and related success of staying current with innovation when it comes to fertilizer application. He also noted the advantage of industry connections he has made travelling to spread for farmers in the Georgian Bay area. He gets to see first-hand what other farmers are doing and expand his knowledge and idea base to bring home to his farm. In the first few years, they spread fertilizer on 5-6,000 acres, and now they custom spread 25,000 acres. In addition to the custom spreading, Andrew has also been doing custom combining for local neighbouring farms. He truly values being there to help neighbours, to interact and make connections with his industry peers, and preserve the sense of community in farming.
I asked Andrew if there was anything in his 15 years of farming that he would have done differently. He illustrated a great attitude in his response. He commented that, “There is always a reason for trying something, and every year is different. If you try something one year and it does not work, don’t give up, it may work another year.”
Like many farmers, Andrew believes that extreme weather conditions are a challenge. Every year seems to be different – it is either really dry/wet/hot or cold. Other challenges are input costs, land rental rates and equipment costs. Rental rates are reasonable in their area, but availability of land is a concern. Andrew added that “Land gets gobbled up pretty quick!” He is experiencing some pressure from farmers from the west coming in to expand. Luckily, Andrew has family and friends that are realistic on their rent expectations. They want Andrew to be successful, and if they can make some money along the way too, it is a win-win. Andrew notes that you have to effectively manage the acres that you have, in an attempt to get the most out of them.
Going forward, Andrew plans to expand and increase efficiencies. He hopes that they can make the farm profitable so that their boys can step in and continue long after them. Right now, at three and five, they cannot farm enough. Allison noted that, during the pandemic she has been even more thankful for their farm life. She added that “The boys were very lucky to spend so much time in the field with Andrew. That kept us all sane!”
We would like to thank Dufferin County for selecting Andrew to be highlighted in this issue. It was a delight to speak to this cheerful young farm family. Their enthusiasm for this industry is infectious. Andrew truly has a positive attitude, seeing each day as a learning opportunity. Perhaps we should all take note!