Robert Chadwick graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. His approach to dairy and grain production is a mix of science and art, coupled with the knack for accounting he acquired during his college diploma.
It’s worth mentioning that Rob’s father Brian and uncle Wayne are also university graduates, both with degrees from the University of Guelph Agricultural College—one in Crop Science, the other in Animal Science. With educations like that, it’s no wonder that Chadwick Farms, in Deseronto near Napanee, is on the cutting edge. It’s big, too, with 100-kilowatt solar panels and 1,400 acres of corn, soy, winter wheat, forage and cover crops soaking up all that sun for free, plus 72 cows in milk for a quota of 100 kilograms. The cows have just recently surpassed that amount in fat—another notch in Rob’s belt. Rob thinks big: a rise, a rush, as he says. Clearly, the farm’s growth and acquisitions fuel his entrepreneurial spirit just as much as his bottom line.
After his bachelor’s, Rob could have gone on to graduate school. But when Wayne and his wife, Sylvia, decided to spend a month travelling in Asia, Rob had the chance to try on the full-time farming lifestyle and even ended up moving into the farmhouse soon after. During this pivotal period, Rob realized that he was seriously interested in taking over the farm one day, knowing full well that he had in his hands a valuable piece of his family’s history and legacy. He took the same slow-burn approach when it came to marrying his wife, Jillian, originally from Sarnia. The pair lived together on the farm for two years before Rob proposed!
In 2010, the farm added a new barn for raising heifers. In 2014, another cow barn was built and is now already at full capacity, with expansions in the works—we weren’t kidding when we said Rob thinks big!
The farm succession process involved 18 months of regular meetings with the family accountant, which Rob says were pleasant and far from boring. The assets accumulated by the previous generation were valuated and held in trust to protect the family nest egg, with Rob’s wholehearted approval. With that done, everything was put to paper in official agreements to prevent any future ambiguity or misunderstanding.
Growing up, Rob spent more time with his father in the fields. Dairy production, on the other hand, was new to him. So his uncle made for a helpful mentor as Rob honed his skills in husbandry and herd management. Gradually, he also began to take over the farm’s accounting from Wayne. With no debt and a solid amount of liquidity at the time of the succession, the transfer was simple on the financial front. There was even a possibility to achieve growth, despite the share redemption schedule. But it wasn’t all fun and games—Rob now had to prepare his first production budget, with inflation soaring.
The transfer also went well in terms of interpersonal relationships, thanks to the mutual respect between the predecessors and Rob, his wife and their two daughters. Rob knows that he has a team backing him up, and that Brian and Wayne, 68 and 73 respectively, will give him the latitude he needs to run the farm and make decisions. The secret to this smooth succession? They know how to put themselves in each other’s shoes and see things from a different perspective.
That first month of 2008—much of that year actually—Rob was no stranger to the fear of failure. He would analyze each decision from all possible angles, trying to make the best decisions with the information available at the time. He was often stressed and did not get much sleep. Taking over a business comes with its share of burdens—Rob has experienced that firsthand. But since 2014, he has been keeping a journal of the decisions he has made. Now in his thirties, he also includes goals for the years to come, from 2023 to 2030 and beyond!
Take it from Rob—always shoot for the moon!
Photo by Christophe Champion