Adam and Craig Voith are brothers who work smarter, not harder.
Talking from their 150-year-old farmhouse in Battersea, the brothers’ banter with each other good-naturedly as they talk on a cold Canadian morning about the farming operation around them.
A woodstove in the corner of the old kitchen fills the air with a comfortable heat and a warm glow. Their father, Mike Voith, sits in a chair near the fire. He smiles as his sons talk about their accomplishments and dreams.
“These guys are the brains behind the place,” Mike says kindly, gesturing towards his sons. “I think it’s nice that young men like these are trying to get a business going.”
Young and ambitious, Adam, 25, and Craig, 22, are shareholders with their father in a family sheep farm called Sugar Hill Rideaus located 20 kms north of Kingston. The farm was purchased by the family in 2012 and covers approximately 90 acres, 35 of which is tillable.
“Our main focus is direct marketing,” explains Craig, the main labourer on the farm and a construction worker off the farm.
“Our real goal is to direct market as many lambs as we can to consumers,” echoes his father about their sales method of a product that is gaining attention for its quality.
Born on the family farm, the lambs are Canadian purebreds called Rideau Arcott. Raised ethically and humanely, the animals are watched carefully for optimal health.
“They’re all good quality,” says Adam with a smile about the 300 sheep on the farm.
“It takes dedication,” adds Craig about the work required to feed and care for the animals 365 days a year.
“You can’t just call-in sick,” says Adam who works on the farm and off the farm as a combat engineer officer with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Leading the way to the barn, the brothers show a group of lambs that have just been born for Easter sales. Two more batches of lambs will be born in March and May to coincide with other Canadian holidays.
“Right now we’re still growing,” says Mike about the operation. “We want to get up to at least 600 animals.”
Raised until they are 100 pounds, the sheep are sold by the half or whole. The farmers are diligent to avoid disease, worms and coyotes to minimize lost time and animals. It is a model based on efficiency and quality.
“We want to make sure we keep our flock clean from disease,” says Mike, who helps with the operation while running his own beef farm nearby. “Raising the flock in the barns is a little bit more expensive, but we don’t have a worm problem or predator problem.”
Proud of what they have built, the men are working hard to expand the business to meet a growing demand by consumers.
“There’s a huge demand right now for sheep,” confirms Craig.
Talking about the growing ethnic diversity in the country, Mike says about the market for lamb, “There’s tremendous opportunity right now.”
Asked if he enjoys the work, Craig answers with a smile and laugh. “It’s a lot better than a 9-5 job. It’s a nice change of pace. Every season is a different task such as planting, cutting wood, getting ready for harvesting. You’re your own boss here. Everything is better.”
Working hard to build their business, the men are excited about the future. They describe their challenges as balancing growth with infrastructure capability.
“I think our land base is good now with other land we own,” Mike says about the land needed to grow crops for the flock.
Walking around the property, the Voith men talk about their operation with equal parts humility and pride. It is a common trait in farmers.
A glaring difference on this farm is the efficiencies built into the housing and feeding systems.
Enclosures have been modified for the care and comfort of the flock, and services have been added to the water and feeding systems. The men’s skills can be seen everywhere.
“We’re trying to be as efficient as we can with our time,” says Mike, a retired combat engineer officer with the Canadian Armed Forces who also works off the farm.
Walking around the property that was designed as a dairy farm and later converted into a horse farm, the men’s hard work and ambition has resulted in a prosperous sheep operation with a bright future.
Summing up what is obvious to a visitor, Craig notes “We’ve come a long way.”
To learn more about the Voith Family or Sugar Hill Farm, visit www.sugarhillfarm.ca or call 613-353-6380.