By Connor Lynch
WINCHESTER — Most of us can only hope we’ll still be upright at 95 years old. But Allison Fawcett, who turned 95 last month, was not only plenty upright but, up until his accident last fall, plenty busy on the farm.
Last November, he broke a leg and a hip in a nasty fall visiting a friend in Shawville, Que. He was plowing a field just two days before the accident, said his son Hugh Fawcett. Though he mostly did tractor work, including raking and cutting hay, he wasn’t a seasonal employee. Working year-round, “it wouldn’t be unusual for him to put in 8 or 10 hours a day. Not every day of course,” Hugh Fawcett said.
He’s in a retirement home these days. Bayfield Manor to be precise in Kemptville. He likes it fine, he said. But he wouldn’t be there if not for his fall. Taken to hospital, doctors told him he “couldn’t stand the operation,” but he did. Not the first time he was told that either. Around 20 years ago he had open heart surgery and a triple bypass to repair three of the five arteries that supply his heart. “They told me that time, I might not make it, told me I had 2 or 3 things wrong with me. Too old, too fat. But I made it.” It took some convincing that at his age, taking a fall like that meant taking a break for a while. The retirement home was a good fit, especially given that he needed physical therapy.
Born on a farm about a mile from his own, Fawcett grew up in the dairy and purebred industry. Milk wasn’t much of a moneymaker in the 1950s when he bought his own 175-acre farm with about 20 cows in his 30s.
“Milk was a pretty poor price,” he said. “All it was, was to help keep you living.”
So he focused on breeding and selling animals. It paid off; not only did his father earn a Master Breeders shield, but Fawcett himself earned two and one of his sons, David, earned one as well at the same time Fawcett won his last. They remain the only farm to have earned shields across three generations. The farm stayed focused on quality, rather than quantity, and by the time he stepped away from milking in 1995 they were milking around 30.
These days, of course, the industry has changed. “The value on cattle is not near as high today as they were,” thanks to sexed semen and embryo transplants making it way easier for producers to build up their herds. “In fact, I was selling cattle 30 years ago for more than what they’ll bring today,” he said. Making a living selling cattle made it necessary to show cattle and with that comes a face people recognized and a name they respected. These days, showing isn’t nearly the boon it was, said son Hugh.
Fawcett’s had a busy career both locally, around the country and even the world. He sold cattle into the United States, Mexico and Cuba. “I don’t know how many countries I sold cattle into.”
A former president of Holstein Canada, he’s judged cattle in every province except Newfoundland. He used to judge as many as a dozen 4-H shows a year. “I’ve judged maybe more 4-H shows than anybody else I know.”
He’s judged the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair twice; once for Holsteins and once for Brown Swiss. Locally, he was also a mainstay at the South Mountain Fair. The first time he ever showed animals was at that fair when he was five-years old. He didn’t miss a year until he was 90, he said. He ran a sale barn for dairy cattle with his brother for at least 20 years.
These days, his focus is getting on his feet.
Daughter-in-law Dianne Fawcett recently asked him: “When are you going to able to walk all the way to the dining room by yourself with your walker?”
“Never,” he shot back. “It’s too far!”
He was quick to change his mind. He planned to make it to the dining room on his own by July 20. He hit his target by July 19.
EASTERN ONTARIO: Turning 95: If he had it his way, he’d be back on the tractor
By Connor Lynch