A little farm family history
We are so thankful to be able to farm on land that has been in the family for so long. Here is a brief history of Netherleigh Farm, as told by Phil.
The tall red brick farm house, with its large white verandahs overlooking the Ottawa River, was built at the turn of the century by David Russell for his new bride, a school teacher, Amelia (Aunt Millie) Smart. Together they farmed the 100 acres of rich river bottom clay soil, growing crops, and raising livestock. They milked a small herd of cows, had a large vegetable garden and raised heavy horses for the First World War. They built the barns and buildings that are still used on the farm today. They chose the word Netherleigh, meaning low lying pasture, as the name of their farm.
Uncle Davey and Aunt Millie's wedding photograph. Her beautiful mauve dress is still at the farmhouse.
A beautiful original window on the farmhouse marked 'Netherleigh'.
Uncle Davey and Aunt Millie where unable to have children, and when David passed away Aunt Millie, along with a hired hand, continued to farm the 100 acres for many years. Aunt Millie often had family come to stay and work on the farm and one of the most regular visitors was her niece (my grandmother) with whom she shared the name Amelia. My grandmother loved the time she spent at the farm as a child fishing in the creek with a bent pin and walking through the field of grain and hay. Having no children of her own, Aunt Millie thought of my grandmother Amelia asher daughter and they remained close, as Amelia grew and married my grandfather, Gilbert Bretzloff. Gilbert and Amelia had three children and my mother, aunt and uncle spent many of their young summers on the farm with Aunt Millie, chasing after chickens and being chased by the geese and sheep.
Phil with his father David on the family farm.
Gilbert Bretzloff (Phil's grandfather) working the land at Netherleigh Farm.
At the age of 89, Aunt Millie, who was still farming, passed and left Netherleigh Farm to Amelia. Amelia was a teacher, and her husband, Gilbert, was a draughtsman and artist, but they found time to continue to raise livestock and work the land at Netherleigh Farm in the summers until they sold the land to my parents, David and Carol, who were also teachers and part-time farmers. My father raised livestock and taught, giving me the opportunity to grow up on a working farm. 20 years ago he retired from farming and rented the land to a neighbour to be used for hay and pasture. When our first son Mason was born my father decided to purchase a small flock of laying hens so that he and Mason could collect the eggs together. Unfortunately Dad was diagnosed with cancer soon afterwards. I decided that I would keep the laying hens, and thus started my daily visits to the farm to chore and spend time with my parents. Over the next three years the 12 laying hens turned into 80 and we brought cattle and pigs, meat chickens, and turkeys back to the farm. We began selling meat and vegetables at a local farmers market and started a small vegetable CSA. My father loved seeing the farm come alive again and even as he fought the cancer he would check the cattle daily, cut hay, and do whatever he could to help with the farm. David passed away in August of 2017 but thankfully was able to see the farm he loved so much growing once more.
I was the first child to be born in that red brick farm house that had stood for over 100 years, and I feel very lucky to be farming the same 100 acres that my family has worked for 5 generations.