What’s New

That’s a Wrap for 2016 Harvest

To say that 2016 was a “challenging” year, here at Harshell, would be an understatement. The drought that made the news in our region was devastating for the crops and prompted us to come up with a tag line … “2016…. the year of 100% expenses for 50% income”.

With the diversity of crops we grow, 9 in total, and the fact that our crops are grown on 9 different farms, one would think/hope that the drought impact would spare some fields.  As it turns out, the lack of rain impacted all crops severely, and the rain station located at the end of our lane-way, supports that analysis.  Not many people watch the weather as closely as farmers do, but many hours were spent staring at the app for the weather network on our phones, watching satellite images of rain storm fronts actually splitting and going around us.  A few kilometres in any direction from our farms, might receive 2″ of rain, while we would receive scarcely a drop on many occasions. We have for sale, one barely used rain gage.

We should have known it was going to be a challenging year when we started out with a crop insurance claim for an 8 acre field of winter wheat which was completed destroyed by Canada Geese.  The field, located along the Mississippi River, was the perfect breeding and feeding ground for several thousand geese in the early spring.  The shear number of geese, feeding on the little wheat shoots, left the crop unable to get a good start and so, we had to write the wheat crop off.  Sunflowers were planted into that field which provided a picturesque crop for those traversing the Mississippi River by water craft during summer 2016.  The field was not visible from any roadway and so, the beauty was enjoyed by only a handful on the river, between Almonte and Blakeney, and by our family while sitting on our dock across the river from the sunflower field.  It’s the little things that keep it real and an 8 acre field of gorgeous yellow blooms, is a spectacle to be appreciated always.

All the crops have now been harvested and this year it seemed to take a very long time to get the harvest done.  We started with winter wheat and malting barley in August, canola, red clover, and millet in September, soybeans in October, and corn in November.  We also harvested a bit of hay in July and September, as well as our sunflowers in November. Our sunflower crop, with one field on the river and one field visible along Martin Street North, was also disappointing as the local birds feasted on an “all you can eat buffet” before we were ready to harvest the seeds.

In preparation for 2017 we have 27 ares of winter rye and 56 acres of winter wheat already in the ground.  Here’s hoping the Canada Geese head south and don’t come back until our rye and wheat get growing well in the spring of 2017.  The crops are all tucked in, under a blanket of snow, as I type this page.

As always, we appreciate your visits and feedback.  We do the work we do because we love it and we will be back in 2017, with an optimistic outlook and our ever popular road signs to keep you “Ag Aware” in the Almonte area.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and much good fortune in 2017.

Harold and Shelley and family

Whole Grains 101

It’s a very good day – I learned something! Glutinous is not the same as glutenous!!!

While doing a little research on millet, since that’s a brand new crop for us at Harshell in 2016, our son directed us to “The Serious Eats Guide to Whole Grains”.

Have you ever tried to explain to someone that not all grains contain gluten, or what the difference is between regular vs “whole grain” bread, or how white flour differs from whole wheat flour?

All great questions and we are always happy to try to make sense of it all, to the interested non farmer.  Admittedly though, it is a little confusing – even for life long farmers.

Check out this website – it’s a very good read.  Amaranth or oats … quinoa or  rye … and what about coixseed (Job’s Tears) …. all you need to know about 14 different “grains”.


Oh … and back to the millet … we launched a new enterprise in 2016 and began bagging our very own black oil sunflower seed as well as a “farmer’s mix” wild bird seed.  We grew absolutely

every ingredient and mixed seed will include millet for the winter of 2016-17.  Check back in the fall and we will have an update on the birdseed business.

Road side signs are going up soon.  Take a drive along Martin Street North, Almonte, to get your “Ag-education” after mid May.
Thanks for checking in.







“License to Farm” Documentary Reaffirms Why We Love to Farm

Took some time this afternoon and we watched the newly released License to Farm documentary.  Congratulations to all involved in the production of this incredible and poignant video.

As farmers, we all love what we do … and we do what we love because we are a proud and passionate group, who are charged with feeding the world.

It’s not a job we take lightly.  We know that, beyond our farm gate, when we are done feeding our families, we are also feeding the masses.  We conscientiously produce the highest quality products we can, utilizing the latest technology and innovation available to us.

We are the stewards of this great land, and when our generation is done with our work, the next generation will carry on …. using innovation and technology to alsoproduce some of the highest quality food in the world.  They too will wake each morning with pride and passion for the job they face and also go to bed each night knowing that they have done their very best to help feed the world, while utilizing sustainable farming practises on the family farm.

Check our License to Farm at:





The Great Ontario Clean Farms Challenge – Harshell Farms wins 3rd Prize

In the fall of 2015 we were humbled and  honoured to be named the 3rd prize winner of The Great Ontario Clean Farms Challenge.

Read our story by visiting;

Click to access Winner03HaroldandShelleyMcPhail_forweb.pdf


Read the press release here:

Ontario farmers recognized for their commitment to good end of life stewardship November 11, 2015 – Canada’s leading agricultural stewardship organization, CleanFARMS has announced the winners of The Great Ontario Clean Farms Challenge, an awards program that profiles Ontario farmers who go above and beyond when it comes to managing waste generated on their farms.

Click to access Cleanfarmschallengewinners_Nov112015.pdf


Home grown, Fresh, and Local Birdseed – New To Harshell Farm

Harshell Fresh and Local Bird Seed

As we resign ourselves to the fact that winter has arrived here at Harshell Farm, we are happy to announce that our local birds love our newest product … bird seed.

In 2015, for the first time, we grew sunflowers and flax.  The feedback was incredible as these beautiful crops took on their vibrant colours … stunning sunflower yellow and gorgeous flax blue.

Photographers loved the opportunity to capture the beauty while friends, neighbours, and strangers greatly admired the transformation of the fields to a kaleidoscope of colours.

In the fall, the flax and sunflower crops were harvested and the abundance of seed was stored for our newest enterprise.  Yes, we’ve added a new piece to our much diversified farming operation.

We are now offering completely homegrown birdseed for our local feathered friends.  Thirty pound bags of black oil sunflower seeds, and 40 pound bags of our “Farmers Blend” bird seed are available for purchase at the farm.

The “Farmers Blend” contains 50% black oil sunflower, along with whole and cracked corn, cracked oats, whole wheat, and whole flax.

We can’t keep our feeders full as the cardinals, doves, pigeons, buntings, blue jays, chickadees, wood peckers, turkeys, and crows feast daily.

If you are out our way, you can also spend some time watching a flock of approximately 100 wild turkeys cleaning up the leftover seed in the field where we harvested the sunflowers.  They are comical to watch as they flit around, seeking out and attacking random sunflower heads.  It might be the cheapest therapy you’ll find to cure the January doldrums.

Take a drive on Martin Street North, Almonte and see for yourself.  If you are interested in purchasing homegrown, fresh, and local food for your bird feeders, contact us and we will arrange a time to meet.
Thanks for now.  Snuggle up and stay warm.


Harold & Shelley


Spectacular Sunflowers!

Sunflower closeup

Sunflower in bloom!

Take a drive on Martin Street North, to harshellfarm.com, in the Almonte area, and you will be amazed by the beauty … 7 acres of sunflowers just bursting with yellow and buzzing with bees.

Over the past couple of weeks we have watched our sunflower fields begin to bloom, burst into full colour, and now, sadly, begin to lose their brilliant yellow petals.  Look closely though …. There are many flowers just reaching their peak.

Since it is our first year to grow sunflowers on this scale, we have been anxiously watching the transformation from tiny sunflower seeds to 4-5 foot high plants with flower heads in all sizes.

While we have been enjoying the view, so have many of our neighbours, friends, and local photographers.  We are proud of our family farm and it makes us very happy to see cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, motorcyclists, tractors, and even airplanes slow to have a closer look.  We have seen as many as 5 cars at one time taking pictures of the sunflowers and yesterday we saw a family setting up with a tri-pod to take a family portrait.

As I sit to write this blog post, I have just had a chat with a lovely young lady from Ottawa, who called to ask permission to have her engagement pictures taken in our sunflower fields.  We are humbled by this request and more than happy to oblige.  Congratulations Asal and Mark!

Although most of the yellow will soon disappear, the plants will continue to put effort into producing the bounty of sunflower seeds which will be available later in the season as bird seed.   We also plan to try small batch sunflower oil production so stayed tuned for our progress.

Check back often for progress on our other crops. We are very close to beginning the harvest of the hard red winter wheat and so, our road way will be a very busy place.  The combine will be in the fields, the tractor and wagon will be hauling the wheat to our farm yard, where the wheat will be augured into our tractor trailer for delivery to its next stop.  Next, a tractor and large square baler will arrive to bale the straw (the refuge from the wheat plant).  The large square bales of straw will be sold for use in vegetable gardens, and as bedding for animals.

Thanks for visiting harshellfarm.com and we will post another update soon.

Canola looks fantastic at Harshell Enterprises!

It’s that time of year when the farming countryside is starting to burst with colour and our canola crop is making an explosion of yellow in the Almonte area.

With two fields of canola in full bloom at harshellfarm.com, we are proud to witness motorists, joggers, motorcyclists, and tractors slowing to take in the colour.  Today I even heard the definite slowing of the engine in a small plane as it passed overhead and took in the view.  A local photographer used the canola field, along the road, to take engagement photos for our nephew last week and this week she will be photographing her children in the field.

The corn is loving this heat after the much needed moisture and on days of heat and humidity you can almost hear the corn growing.  The old saying was that good corn would be “knee high by the 1st of July” but, at the rate this year’s crop is growing it will be “shoulder high by the 1st of July”.

Our sunflowers are looking great but, have recently been hit with “cut worm” which literally eats the plant off at the ground, much like it was cut off with a knife.  In yesterday’s high wind, we thought the plants were blowing over but, closer investigation showed the nasty cut worms at work.  We are hoping that the cycle has already passed with only a small percentage of our crop lost.  The neighbourhood is quite excited to see our ~7 acres once full bloom arrives.

We are keeping a close eye on the flax as we have not grown it before and are excited for the natural purple bouquet it will create on Martin Street North.  The plants look like tiny little Christmas trees so far and they are about 12-18 “tall.

Soon the clover field will be a rich pink colour as the plants begin the process of producing their second crop of seed heads. In May, a local dairy farmer took the first cut of clover off the field to feed to his cows.  Now we will let the field regrow and in September we will combine the field to harvest the clover seed.

Our spring grains are doing well and at present are beginning to “head out”.  This means that the malting barley and the oats have seeds emerging from the tops of the lush green plants. One of our oat fields is a three variety plot and there are obvious differences in height, colour, and time of “heading”.  The combine will tell us which variety yielded the best.

The winter wheat looks spectacular!  On a day like yesterday, with the wind blowing the beautiful, long heads on the wheat, it’s almost hypnotic if you take a moment and just watch the field move in waves.  We love growing hard red winter wheat for many reasons, but its beauty is right up there with its potential profitability.

Today our soybeans were being scouted by our agronomist.  As we use no-till rather than conventional tillage practices, we have found the soybeans into last year’s corn stalks to be lagging a bit behind the soybeans into last year’s soybean trash.  When we get our report, at the end of the day, Stephanie of Sullivan Agro, will advise as to what the population of soybeans is in each field.  There is nothing we can do about population at this point in time but, knowing the yield potential helps us to decide how many metric tonnes of soybeans we need to find a market for this fall.

Now that the planting has been finished up for a few weeks, and the herbicide and fungicide applications are completed, we turn our attention to all of the other tasks necessary on the farm … cleaning up chemical jugs and seed bags to take to the depot that receives them, watching the fields for signs of pest damage, and most important, finding a little time to relax and take in the splendor of this wonderful work we do.

Thanks for reading our update and please take the time to have a look at the pictures of our crops on our website.  There will be updates as colours change and crops continue to grow.  Better still, take a drive along Martin Street North, at Almonte, and take in the beauty and the smells of the season.

We are a proud farming family and being surrounded by the love of our family and the beauty of our crops, while enjoying a bbq on the deck, is just about as perfect as life gets. We are blessed!

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring!

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring time all around the farm. With mud tracking into the house, the snow melting off the fields, and the geese flying overhead – the days are getting longer and warmer and there is a palpable desire to get another season on the farm off to a great start.

There is no way to put into words what we feel at this time of the year … you have to walk in our boots … breathe the earthy air we do … embrace the opportunity that lies in the fields we farm. We know that hard work is required over the next few months but, with a little luck and a helping hand by Mother Nature, we will put another successful season in the books.

We at Harshell Enterprises, are so excited for planting season to get started. Over the winter we invested a great deal of time in planning for 2015 and we can’t wait to implement the plan.

We worked with Foil Media to develop our fantastic new website and with Auni Milne of Sumack Loft to finally have our own logo created. We attended workshops, conferences, and industry meetings … we brainstormed, researched, and picked the brains of our fellow farmers. We have been on the phone, on the computer, and in our vehicles trying to source the seed we desire to ensure that 2015 is the year that Harshell tries a few brand new crops … can’t wait to get the seed in the ground, the signs up along the road, and the neighbourhood talking. What are Harold and Shelley up to now ……????

Stayed tuned … you are going to love it!

What Matters to Us

Shelley and Harold McPhailWe are a husband and wife team who are passionate about our life in agriculture. We have raised four children who, in adulthood, have chosen a variety of career paths, none of them in farming.

Although none are ‘active’ in the farm today, they all carry with them a pride in what the family farm meant to them growing up. They are proud to have that connection to agriculture and an understanding of what it means to produce high quality food for consumption by society.

Learn more about our family’s history in farming on Our Story page.

Our Road Signs

Every spring we look forward to posting signs about the crops we grow on our farm. Situated on a busy road through our community, our farm’s fields are visible to all who pass by. It’s a wonderful opportunity to tell folks more about what we’re growing, what the crops are used for, and for people to become familiar with the life stages and appearances of a wide variety of commercial crops.

Photo Gallery

Learn More

Find out more about our current crops here.