By Gail Paquette
Twenty-seven Estonian milk producers traveled over 6000km to tour dairy farming operations in Ontario, Quebec, New York and Vermont.
They stopped Monday afternoon at the robotic milking farm of the Tummon family
in Thurlow, near Belleville.
“Robotic farms have been in Estonia for six years,” said Estonian dairy farm advisor Nelly Oinus. In Canada the technology has been in existence for 12 years. Farmers in both countries are switching to robots because of problems with labour.
“We can’t find people to work or want to work on farms anymore,” said Estonian farmer and translator Piret Puru-Lemett.
That is echoed by the Tummons.
“Labour is hard to find. It used to take my dad and I six hours just to do the milking, now it takes one person, two hours to do all the chores. We can do it all ourselves, it’s easy,” said Gerry Tummon.
Organized by Agro-Tours this is the second overseas tour group to make a stop at the Tummon’s six-month-old robotic milk producing farm, Elmvilla.
With an interpreter present, the farmers asked each other questions, exchanged techniques and learned about each other’s operations.
“Farmers are farmers no matter where,” said Puru-Lemett.
The biggest difference besides the size of the countries, Estonia is 45,000 sq./km compared to Canada’s 9.9 million, is Ontario farmers are praying for rain, while Estonians farmers are praying for it to stop. They fear if it doesn’t crops will be lost.
“Another week of rain and our crops will be ruined,” said Puru-Lemett.
The Estonian farmers said farming in Canada is quite similar to their country but their reason for coming to North America, besides a holiday, was to learn all they could.
“One small tip or trick in farming can save massive amounts of time and money,” said dairy farmer Vladimir Maloh.
The group will spend two weeks touring 10 farms and visiting attractions, like Niagara Falls, the CN Tower and old Montreal.