FARMER COMBINES AERONAUTICS WITH AGRICULTURE
IT’S BEEN NEARLY 112 years since the Wright brothers successfully completed the world’s first heavier-than-air flight, and almost 113 years since Norm Lamothe’s farm was first cultivated by his wife’s family.
Why are these two facts relevant? Both helped elevate Norm to the place he holds today — happily farming, teaching, and even flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones) on the family farm near Peterborough.
For 2016, Lamothe is the face of October in the eleventh annual Faces of Farming calendar. His page is sponsored by Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Good in Every Grain campaign and the calendar is published by Farm & Food Care Ontario.
Lamothe and his wife Emily, a full-time nurse, have three children — Noémie, 8, Alec, 5, and Max, 3. He has been a co-owner of Woodleigh Farms Ltd., his in-laws’ 500 acre farm business, since early 2014, but he has been involved in its operation for the past decade. The family grows approximately 400 acres of corn and soybeans, while the remaining acreage is either rented to neighbouring farmers, used for hay and garden crops (vegetables), or remains tree-covered.
“The farm used to be a hog operation for a long time. We got out of that a while ago and started focusing on a number of different crops,” says Lamothe. “We have a really diverse farm. It’s undergone a lot of changes over the years.”
Lamothe explains that his family maintains a number of wood lots on the more marginal land of each farm property, which helps decrease their environmental footprint. Some of those wood lots grow naturally while other parts are planted strategically, but all serve to increase the farm’s biodiversity and reduce soil erosion. As an added bonus, the maple trees provide the family with sap, so maple syrup can also be counted on the roster of products produced by the farm.
Another prominent farm feature Lamothe likes to highlight is a large pond they stock with trout. It is used as a swimming pool by his children, a supper source by his father-in-law — who reels in a fish every week — and as an irrigation source for their market garden.
While Lamothe’s current farm business was originally purchased by his wife’s family in 1902, Norm himself was exposed to a less-common version of agriculture at a young age. His father was the manager of a prison farm in northern Ontario which meant Lamothe didn’t have to do much in the way of chores because they were done by the inmates. Regardless, though, he was intrigued by the work.
Lamothe eventually went to flight school and flew planes in the commercial airline industry for ten years. However, this career meant he was often away from home, and Lamothe eventually decided to leave the skies and take an active role on the family farm. That decision also had the benefit of letting him spend more time with his family, while maintaining a private pilot’s licence.
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE
Even though he transitioned to the farm, Lamothe didn’t completely forget about flying. Just this year, he started his own aerial UAV field scouting business, Eagle Scout Imaging.
“The drones use an infrared camera to measure plant health through chlorophyll density,” he says. “It’s a pretty efficient tool for doing things like scouting for harmful pests or measuring what parts of the field might need more fertilizer.”
In addition to his farm and field scouting work, Lamothe teaches the Entrepreneurship Course in the Food and Farming Program at Durham College. He also sits on a number of different boards, including the Millbrook Agricultural Society and Millbrook Figure Skating Club.
As for future plans, Lamothe says he and his family are focused on further diversification. They are considering delving into the world of value-added crops and they also plan on incorporating wheat into their seasonal crop rotation — that, says Lamothe, will do a lot to help maintain soil quality.
“We have some ideas on next steps, but we are still playing around right now,” he says.
Lamothe sees farming as much more than a career. He loves the diversity, the time with his family, and the opportunity to be creative in his own environment.
“With an acre of land you can grow a million different things on it, all of them unique,” he says. “It never stops being interesting.”
The 11th annual Faces of Farming calendar is designed to introduce the public to a few of Ontario’s passionate and hardworking farmers — the people who produce food in this province. Copies can be ordered online at www.farmfoodcare.org. •