By Connor Lynch
VANKLEEK HILL — One of Eastern Ontario’s best-known show families is getting out of the dairy business.
The Mode family of Bonnie Brae Farms at Vankleek Hill had a complete herd dispersal on Sept. 20.
The top-selling animal was the first one in the ring. Bonnie Brae Doorman Marlee, this year’s reserve grand champion at the Prescott County show, sold for $15,500 to Chris Uhr, who runs Knonaudale Farms at Crysler. Bonnie Brae Prospect Madison was named Prescott County’s grand champion and sold for $6,000. The average sale price was $2,715. The farm sold 120 purebred Holsteins.
Bruce Mode, who farms with his daughter Kelsey, is a Holstein judge and has judged at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair four times.
Retirement had already been on the radar for farmer Bruce Mode, 65, and his wife Susan, said daughter Kelsey. Then Susan died in May at age 61 after a brief battle with cancer. Kelsey married nearby dairy farmer Tim LeRoy, of Yorellea Farms, and they recently had a child. Kelsey has three siblings, Shauna, Heidi and Kerri, but none of them are on the farm. The relatively small farm, which milked about 50 Holsteins, was having a harder time keeping up.
Dairy farming ties you down, she said, and her father is looking to get away to spend more time with family. He recently purchased a cottage for the family at Arundel, Que., about an hour north of Hawkesbury.
He plans to keep the home, 500 acres, and crop for a while. With only three cows left to milk after the dispersal sale, he got to sleep in until 6:30 a.m.
The Modes first landed at Vankleek Hill in 1821. The Scottish family started in the dairy industry with purebred Ayrshires in 1906, a tradition carried on until 2002, when they made the move to purebred Holsteins.
The farm has been a regular appearance at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for over a century. They have 13 Grand Champion cows to their name at the Royal. One of their best known is six-time grand champion Des Prairie Toutou.
Since making the switch to Holsteins, they’ve been at their winning ways again. Last November they had the top female intermediate calf at the Royal, and the junior champion at last October’s Eastern Ontario Western Quebec Championship show.