Nation Valley News
FINCH — Instead of a honeymoon trip, newlyweds Riky and Herman te Plate travelled across the Atlantic to live and work as farmhands in the Ottawa Valley. That was in 1960. The young couple, just 23 and 21 years old at the time, saw no prospect of ever establishing their own farm in their native Holland.
But by 1966, they had achieved this goal — in Canada. Paynebranch Farms celebrated its 50th anniversary just over a week ago, with a large group of well-wishers gathered under a large tent pitched on the front lawn Sept. 18.
Herman te Plate first scouted out Canada during a trip with a junior farmers’ organization, spending several weeks here before immigrating later that same year. With a twinkle in his eye, Herman says he delivered the verdict to his fiancee upon returning to Holland: “I came back and said, ‘I’m going back [to Canada]. You can come with me if you want to.’”
He adds, “It’s been a good move.”
Riky acknowledges that distance from family members in The Netherlands was a challenge in the early days, long before the Internet, and a time when trans-continental telephone calls and travel were both rare luxuries. “If you had a baby, you couldn’t show it off to your family. But I’ve never felt sorry that we came.”
Within a couple years of arriving, the te Plates managed to rent a farm close to Ottawa while gradually building up a herd of cattle, according to Riky. They still wanted their own place, however, and a real estate agent got them in touch with J.D. Shaver on Concession 1-2, south of Finch. The farmer privately mortgaged the property and sold them the 150-acre farm, including 20 to 25 cows and “calves and machinery, lock stock and barrel,” she recalls. The te Plates named their farm after the creek meandering around Finch.
The operation gradually grew, producing milk that initially went to Montreal. And the family put down roots in an era of greater camaraderie among farmers. “In the beginning, the farming community was really helping each other a lot,” Riky recounts, adding that farmers sometimes bought machinery together to share at harvest time. Their children also grew up together with other children from neighbouring farms, she says.
Today, the te Plate farm is operated by Henry and Kenda te Plate, although Herman remains a regular in the free-stall barn that replaced the original 1917 structure a decade ago. And as of this summer, a Lely robot handles the chore of milking their 58 production cows. They also crop about 1,000 acres these days, again with lots of help from Herman.
But will there be another 50 years for te Plates at Paynebranch?
“It would kill me if this didn’t continue,” offers Kenda. She and her husband are the only ones left dairy farming in a group of 10 friends, she acknowledges, all of whom have sold out of the industry.