Joyce Stein still remembers her father’s prophetic words as she recalls her venture into full-time agriculture
By Courtney Denard
Overwhelming, fun, daunting, awesome and a dream come true. A few simple words that could represent a lot of things but in this case they’re how hog producer Joyce Stein describes her life on the farm.
Joyce owns and operates Steinamic Pork in Dunnville with her husband Mike. Together, the couple runs a farrow to feeder operation while raising their three small boys Caleb, Cooper, and Wyatt.
The young woman, who grew up on a dairy farm near Ingersoll, told her father Wim that she would never be involved in farming as an adult and to that he would laugh and tell her “once it’s in your blood, you’re screwed.”
As it turns out, Wim, who passed away in 2011, was right.
After graduating from the farm management and technology program at McGill University’s Macdonald College, Joyce says she wasn’t sure what to do next so she took a job at a greenhouse.
Eventually she met and married Mike, a born and bred hog farmer from Tavistock, and the two started their lives together on his farm in Listowel.
As time went on, Joyce and Mike wanted to expand the business but prices in the area had recently gone up so the search for a new farm took them to Dunnville, a small town near Hamilton.
“It was a bit of a surprise but at the same time it was what made sense for us so we went for it,” Joyce says about the move, which took place two years ago.
Relocating is never easy and for Joyce it meant a whole lot of change.
“Everything was new,” she says. “New town, new house, new farm, new feed company, we even switched to a new lender.”
As one of the only new hog operators in their area, Joyce says she and Mike were inundated with salespeople vying for their business.
“We had a lot of people making a lot of promises that didn’t come to fruition so you start to wonder who you can trust,” she says.
There was also the case of not being taken seriously as a woman farmer, something Joyce says she’s experienced countless times over the course of her career.
“I remember when I was working full-time on my family dairy farm and salespeople would refuse to speak to me. They only wanted to talk to my dad even though I knew what was going on.”
Joyce’s Dad once again had a few wise words about that.
“He would say to them ‘I wouldn’t piss her off, she might own this farm one day and she doesn’t forget.’ He was always so supportive.”
Joyce isn’t as hesitant to voice her opinion as she once used to be and perhaps her involvement with the direct sales company Thirty-One Gifts has something to do with it.
Looking for an activity that would get her out of the house and give her a break from the farm and kids, Joyce signed on to be a consultant with the company almost a year and a half ago.
Becoming a consultant has definitely pushed Joyce out of her comfort zone.
She says she’s never been at ease being the centre of attention or speaking to a group but it becomes less challenging the more she does it.
Her favourite part about working with her direct sales team is the friendship and support that comes with the position.
“They told me it was a sisterhood and I thought that was just a marketing scheme but I was wrong,” Joyce says breaking down into tears and then apologizing for being emotional.
“I know I can really count on them and that’s important now that my family isn’t close by,” she explains.
Joining the Ag Women’s Network is another way Joyce has expanded her support system.
The farmer says AWN is different than some of the other ‘mom groups’ she belongs to in that the discussions remain positive and friendly even when people disagree.
This was evident in a recent conversation on the AWN Facebook page that centred on Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and her request for more help in her role.
This topic hit close to home for Joyce who admittedly feels guilty at times over the fact that she and her husband rely on a nanny to help with the children.
But even throughout the online debate that garnered over 80 comments, Joyce says the AWN members remained respectful of one another.
“We have opinions but it’s usually a nice discussion, which is good because some other groups can get really nasty.”
Joyce plans on continuing to contribute to the AWN conversation online- something she says she’s doing more often now that’s she’s been a part of the group a little while- and eventually getting out to some of the events.
“It’d be great to finally meet the people I’ve been talking to in person,” she says.