Producers enjoy hands-on approach

Couple upgrades heritage homestead while operating a mixed farm they hope will some day pass to the next generation

As ancestors pass, the barn still remains and remembers their calloused hands

— excerpt from The Old Barn 
by Bea Janssens

HARDING, Man. — They live in a 1900 house a stone’s throw from a 100-year-old barn on a farm homesteaded in 1881, and they have vacationed at Alberta’s historic Bar U Ranch.

“We are history buffs,” said Cameron Dodds, who operates a mixed farm with Bea Janssens.

“We’re lucky we have a heritage to preserve.”

Dodds is happy to do upkeep on his family farm’s heritage buildings because they are among the few that are still standing on the Prairies.

“It honours the people who were here before us but can be used today as well,” he said.


Cameron Dodds and Bea Janssens are preserving the historic buildings on their farm at Harding. | | Karen Morrison photo

The one-and-a-half storey brick farmhouse with a peaked roof included a parlour, summer kitchen, fieldstone foundation and cellar hatch and retains much of its original woodwork.

“There’s a lot of character in the house, and it takes a character to keep it up,” said Dodds, who noted upgrades in insulation values and the foundation.

Dodds said the 40 x 64 foot barn was built by Arthur Drummond for $5,000 in 1917.

He was one of seven children born to Matthew and Margaret Drummond, who moved here from Ontario. It later passed to Dodds’ parents, Les and Bessie, and then to Dodds in 1992.


The bunk barn was designed with a gambrel roof with a double slope on each side to create more storage in the loft, which is accessed from the side hill.

Roof top lightning rods and a hay claw grapple on a rail that was used to unload racks of hay remain in place today. A large wooden tank in the loft was filled from the well at the reservoir on the property by a pump jack and supplied water for livestock in the barn.

Overhead bins were built in the loft for grain storage along with bins with chutes to carry grain to a box below for ease of feeding. A mechanical barn cleaning system on a rail carrying a manure bucket ran down each side of the barn.

Today, the main floor’s stalls continue to be used for the couple’s 60 head cow-calf operation. Nearby corrals secure a handful of horses.

Their 480 acres produce wheat and canola, and additional pastureland is rented for the herd, said Dodds.

He also plants corn for fall grazing.

“It affords a lot of feed in a small area,” he said.

They received deep snow last winter and are content with the amount of rainfall this growing season.

Janssens, a mother to two adult daughters, worked for a restaurant before meeting Dodds through a dating club but longed to live on a farm and work with animals.

They work as a team, sharing the workload, getting help at times from Dodds’ retired brother.

“We do things the old-fashioned way, hands on, so cattle are quieter, easier to handle,” said Janssens.

“We treat them as we would like to be treated,” she said, recalling the blankets used to warm calves during a March blizzard.


Added Dodds: “We love our animals.”

The barn, built in 1917, is still used for their cow-calf operation. Their home dates back to 1900.| Karen Morrison photo

They use a cow cam installed in the barn’s maternity area to keep watch at calving in February and March.

Dodds said they survived BSE by feeding calves for the fat market, avoiding spending and minimizing debt.

“You’ve got to do without to not have debt. It makes for hardships at times,” said Dodds.

Added Janssens: “We never bought anything new.”

They say marketing can be challenging.

“You watch the market the best you can and hope you can make the right decision,” Dodds said.

He said the love of the land and a desire to remain on the family homestead keeps him here.

“I’ll keep at it until I get it right. It’s hard to quit,” said Dodds.

The couple will likely downsize the herd in the coming years but hope the farm will always be here for them and their family.

“I’d like to see it go to someone in the family so we can walk back in here at any time,” said Janssens.


  • Janet Bradley

    Good article , it is a shame that the irresponsible liberals and Trudeau have no idea about the pride of owning a century farm .With their new tax laws that they want to force on ordinary Canadians is criminal and threatening our young people’s futures . He is threatening the bread basket of Canada and taking away Canadian freedoms .

    • Harold

      None of them to my knowledge have had the experience of starting a small business or maintaining their own small business to understand anything about a small business. When I examined, the Liberal Ministers have all been either takers from government programs, employees, or beneficiaries of inherited wealth and trust funds of another ones doing. (on the tit) The finance minister married into the McCain Empire so I do not see him as a comparison. The Liberals therefore would offer a tax plan and not have a clue about what they are doing. This is why it is good that the Farmers are now protesting and they should maintain it relentlessly. The farmers know; the Liberals do not.
      There are a few Liberals who are NOT backing the proposed tax plan and it is because the farmers, in numbers, have approached the MP at the MP’s office in their own riding. Those farmers knew exactly what to do “re- capture” their own MP, but farmers nationwide need to do the same and “capture”/ educate the MP in their own riding at their MP office in numbers (not an individual)- to gather the rest of the Liberals. That is how the public gains control of the house or the Legislature MLA’s for that matter. It only requires a public Unity and peaceful numbers at each office with one spokesmen, representing the peaceful group, but speaking in no uncertain terms. Any MP can understand: “stop doing what you are doing”! – and no explanation is owed or even necessary. There is power in numbers; they just need to go to the right places.

      • ed

        If the farmers fight relentlessly and get their way, they will in fact save the Finance Ministers McCain family empire’s tax loop holes and thise kinds of things will reduce the cash treasury totals on which good farm policy depends. It seems odd that you would point out that the MPs do not know what they are doing, when it is clearly the farmer that is fighting against closing tax loop holes that do not apply to them and that they would be too honest to use anyway, that is a bit clueless here. It is not the first time that farmers have been convinced into fighting for things that will hurt them. With a Conservative always good/ Liberal-NDP always bad attitude you can see how it can happen. Anti middle of the road/ socialism all the way. Except when it comes to Fed/Prov heavily subsidized Crop Insurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriRecovery, Ad Hoc bailouts, zero percentage cash advance loans, subsidized farm loans and young farmer loans and rebates, Fed/Prov highway/road projects, subsidized ag. extention programs, seminars, soil testing, grain testing, Ag. Reps. and Vet. Clinics. It goes on and on. The rest of the time farmers like to independently stand on their own two feet and tout the advantages of a capitalist existence and the benifits of a free market no matter how corrupt and fraudulent it is. Hell, they can always ask for a few more tax payer funded programs, right. As long as the tax loop holes for the rich that get preserved by the farmers fighting doesn’t drain those funds down too low.

        • Harold

          I stand by my comment to Janet. Does your use of the word ‘clueless’ add any extra weight to your argument?
          The news will soon bring out the truth.