Dairy farmer making strides in Harcourt


Published on May 18, 2017

Luke Strong poses with some of his cows. There's about 100 more elsewhere on the farm.

©Mark Squibb/The Packet

HARCOURT, NL — Ever since he was a young boy, he wanted to have a farm. 

Mark Squibb/The Packet

Luke Strong grew up on a family farm in Lethbridge, on the Bonavista Peninsula.

"My grandfather was a farmer. He's been farming for over 50 years. I've been on the farm since I was born.  I've always liked the farm.  I've been working on the farm in my summers since I was probably 10."

Now, with ‘agriculture’ becoming the buzzword in political circles in this province, many young people are considering food and livestock production as a career option.

"Everyone wants to farm now.  It seems like having your own garden and raising your own animals is the thing to do," he said.

Just last week Premier Dwight Ball announced a Cabinet Committee on Jobs, to work with industries with growth potential to encourage new business activity and creation of jobs in various sectors.

Agriculture and aquaculture are the industries they will focus on first, the Premier announced.

Strong says the government has already done a fair bit to encourage people to get involved in agriculture.

"They'll fund you for equipment, forage equipment, seeding and tilling equipment … they help you get land. For a young farmer, they do help a lot. Newfoundland is one of the most welcoming places to become a farmer.  The government is really good here, best in Canada I would say," said Strong.

Strong’s parents, Bill and Suzette, have also helped him pursue his dream of having a farm of his own.

Luke’s father Bill noticed a farm property in Harcourt was up for sale and, after six months of wrangling a deal, they were able to make a purchase.

That was two years ago this month, and what started as a simple hay operation at Hillside Holsteins Farm has expanded into much more.

"Hay wasn’t really what I wanted to do.  It was easy work, you had winters off … but I wanted to get into dairy."

"Our cows can rest wherever they want, they can eat as much as they want, they can get milked whenever they want … the brushers are automatic, so it keeps the cows nice and clean. Their bedding gets done every 8 hours. Fresh water everyday. The water bowls are automatic, but we clean them everyday. Fresh feed everyday. Cows are comfortable here."
Mark Squibb/The Packet


"Alvin White of Port Blandford Beauty View Farm was selling his (milk) quota.  I told him I wanted to get into dairy.  He waited for me to get a business plan and the finances together and I purchased his quota Dec. 1, 2016.”

Strong used White’s barn to milk his cows until April 18, when he moved the animals to his barn in Harcourt.

His first shipment of milk from his own farm was two days later, April 20.

Luke with one of the youngest heifers. This one is only a couple of weeks old.
Mark Squibb/The Packet

A week later, Luke helped birth the first calf to be born in the new barn.

It's been a busy business venture for sure.

Today, on top of 180 acres of forage to tend, the 20-year-old farmer has 109 cows that need attention every single day.

He says there are lots of potential options for growth and expansion to explore in the future, including grain.

"It would cut down on feed costs.  We truck in grain from Moncton … it's expensive,” said Strong.

The growing of hops is another idea he hopes to tackle in the near future.

"We ordered some seed this year and we're planning on putting in a fifth of an acre or so of hops plants; diversity helps."

He says that he would not be able to do it without the support of his parents, who helped with the necessary finances to start up, as well as help with the day-to-day activities of the farm.

"I wouldn't be here today without my parents, without them believing that I could do it.  They're the only reason I'm here.

"The biggest thing getting into farming is you got to have financial support.  It's not cheap to get into."

"The hardest part is keeping records. Making sure they have their vaccinations and that their hooves are taken care of. You got to keep track of what you're doing to what cow."
Mark Squibb/The Packet


While automated machinery — everything from feeding to milking to manure cleanup is now the tasks of machines — every day is still a busy day for a farmer.

Days off are rare.

Still, Strong can’t imagine working at anything else.

"Farming is good.  You can live a good life, your home, your around your family, you can make good money if you work at it … I'd advise anyone to go farming, if you have the land, the opportunity, and you want to work hard.  You see your hard work when you farm.  You see results everyday."

Mark.squibb@tc.tc

Young heifers on the farm.

©Mark Squibb/The Packet