The First Lady of Farming

This farming story takes place in the small community of Bruce Mines, Ontario with Ron and Cathy Bonnett.

The Bonnetts operate an 800-acre farm with 200 head of Angus. Ron is the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and his business travel (200 days each year) regularly takes him away from the farm. That puts the first lady in charge…


The First Lady

Cathy is a strong, confident woman who absolutely loves farming. Her morning begins at six o’clock when she checks on the bulls, cows and new calves. By lunch, she’s off to the fields to bale hay.

The Bonnett’s calves are sold to a specialty market where they ship abound eighty, 270 kg calves a year to a buyer in southern Ontario. The weaned calves are raised on hay and grain, without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.

In the early 1970’s, when Ron worked as a steam fitter, he was attracted to the independence and the challenge farming offered. That’s when he decided to become a risk-taker.

“Even though I had a family to support, I left my job and borrowed every penny I could to buy our farm.  Working the farm in those early days was tough. In the 1980’s interest rates went sky high. Cathy and I had lots of sleepless nights.”

When asked what kept him going, Ron smiles. “I was young, full of pride and didn’t want to give up. And I guess I wanted to keep those ‘I told you so’s’ at bay! You see, we farmers are stubborn. It’s something that gets us through hard times.”

Hard times are made easier when there is a community to rely on, and there is no other place than Bruce Mines, where Cathy would like to live. “We are an old-style rural area where everyone looks after each other.

“The community of agriculture people is so cool.”

Cathy’s love of baling and her affection for animals—bubbles to the surface. While we walk through a muddy field, she laughs and describes the perfect cow.  “She’s black and she’s beautiful! She has a nice neat udder, deep chest, full butt and gentle eyes.

“We have a round baler that makes 500 kg bales. Our tractor is equipped with a computer on the baler that gauges the size of bale and starts the wrapping process. It takes three minutes to bale, wrap and eject a bale destined for winter storage. On a really good day I can make about 100 bales!”

The contribution to Canadian agriculture by hard-working innovative women like Cathy is rarely recognized. She is one of thousands of women, whose lives are spent building close-knit families, creating community, and actively participating in our food production industry.