Family enjoys close interaction with animals

On the Farm: Couple moved from B.C. to Alberta to Manitoba, where they now live their dream on a dairy operation

LANDMARK, Man. — The Meinens have had to move between three provinces and three farms to arrive at this, their dream.

But it’s all been worth it.

“Going to the barn in the morning with two cups of coffee with me, despite whatever the weather is, and having that time with Tim in the barn office, just being together, where else can you do that?” said Inge on a busy day on her family’s dairy farm.

“The kids work alongside him. I get my girls in the garden. You’re together. That’s it.”

The Meinen family operates a 55-cow dairy operation on a seven-acre farm in livestock-rich southeastern Manitoba.

They’re the fourth family to work the farm since it was created in the early-1980s, with the previous three families who moved through it still in the business.

The Meinens came to Manitoba specifically to go into the dairy business, after operating a beef operation in southern Alberta and a poultry operation in central Alberta. They met in Abbotsford, B.C., where Tim grew up around farming. Inge was born in the Netherlands.

“Dairy was the dream, but we never thought it would happen,” said Inge.

Why dairy?

“There’s more personal interaction with the animals, versus the chickens,” said Tim, who loves working with livestock.

And unlike beef cattle production, dairy offers predictable earnings, which makes it easier to manage a family.

The Meinens managed to get into dairy farming through Dairy Farmers of Manitoba’s New Entrants program, which both makes quota available to new farmers and helps finance the purchase. The family buys half the quota and the organization lends them the rest of the quota while they’re getting established.

It’s been quite a jump going from Alberta poultry and beef into Manitoba dairy production, but Tim and Inge are thrilled with how it has gone since they arrived in 2016.

“We moved to Manitoba and discovered what ‘Friendly Manitoba’ (the licence plate motto) is all about,” said Tim.

“We have really good neighbours.”

They’re also blessed with good part-time workers, and a couple of teenaged sons who can do some of the work when needed.

Reuben and Kaitlyn Meinen are at home in the family’s dairy barn. | Ed White photo

That’s a good thing with the never-ending chores and demands on a dairy farm, and also because Tim sometimes has to drop everything and race off to fight a fire. He’s an on-call member of the Tache Fire Department, and those calls can’t be predicted.

Inge works a few hours per week off-farm too, as a counsellor for women who have suffered sexual abuse.

“I love working with people,” she said.

The family enjoys working in the barn, which is filled with sociable and curious cows.

The kids like being in the barn. On this day three-year-old Reuben and five-year-old Kaitlyn were enjoying being with Mom and Dad while they checked out the cows.

A 55-cow herd isn’t going to make anybody rich, but Tim and Inge are happy with how things are going. Tim just built a shop and Inge just painted the house, so they’re clearly in no rush to run off to a bigger operation.

That’s been their pattern so far, with their moves coming from unexpected opportunities rather than aggressive plans.

“We’ve never been in a hurry to make a transition,” said Inge.

When they move, “it’s Providence, really.”

They know life on a farm, especially a dairy farm, means they have more concerns and have fewer liberties than people who work in town or for others.

But they got into farming so they could be together as their six kids grew up.

“Maybe this is our forever-farm,” said Tim, who would like to sometime have some land rather than having to buy all his feed, but loves the present farm site.

Inge enjoys her daily life with farm and family, so any sacrifices caused by farming seem worth it.

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