What’s New

Sunflowers! Sunflowers! Sunflowers! 2017 is Spectacular!



We’ve got sunflowers by the thousands this year and despite the unfavourable weather for most of our other crops, the sunflowers are having their best showing ever.

We’ve got 22 acres destined for birdseed in the fall, but, for now, come on out and enjoy the view.  We encourage you to take lots of photos and welcome you to share them with us on twitter @mbashelley.  If you do stop by, feel free to pull off the road and onto the grass to the left or our laneway.  As we are farmers, we often need to come in and our out laneway with large farm equipment so, having the laneway blocked is never ideal.

This past week was likely the peak for beauty and for traffic to the field.  We were honoured to host several maternity and engagement photo shoots in our sunflowers as well as lots of family portraits.  Our field was also featured on the “photo of the day” at 6:00 p.m. on CTV news.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit, please do so at your earliest convenience as the flowers will not be spectacular for much longer.  As always, we ask that you enjoy the sunflowers, without cutting or damaging them.  The flowers produce the seeds which are an integral part of our farm family bird seed business.

We have been overwhelmed by the genuine appreciation shown and expressed by our community.  We are proud of our place in agriculture and happy to share what we do, with you.

See you soon,

Harold & Shelley

Harshell Family Farm

Almonte, ON


Harshell Family Farm and Other Local Farms Struggling With the Weather in 2017

It’s no surprise to anyone that farmers are struggling in the Ottawa Valley.  Every time @YOW_Weather tweets that another weather record has been broken, it means more stress and frustration for area farmers.  After the 2016 drought in this region, area farmers never dreamt that they’d be struggling again in 2017, especially with such extreme opposite weather conditions.  Last year we couldn’t make it rain and this year we can’t make it stop!

Spring planting started later than usual, mostly due to extremely wet fields that weren’t able to drain.  For those, like us, farming along the Mississippi River, the fields had nowhere to drain since the tile drain outlets were below the river level.  Then came the rain … and it rained … and it rained … and it rained.

While homes and cottages were being damaged by high water levels in cities and towns, farmers’ livelihoods were being damaged by the same high water levels.  Once we did manage to get most of our acres planted, in less than ideal soil conditions, the rains continued and drowned out large areas of fields.  Corn, soybeans, spring wheat, malting barley, sunflowers, winter wheat, and winter rye, were all impacted by the wet conditions and continue to struggle today. While some parts of fields are completely devoid of plants, other parts are stunted to the point that harvesting crop will be difficult if not impossible.  Each time it rains, the puddles return to the fields and we can literally smell the crops rotting in the mud.  There are a few tiny glimmers of hope where some parts of a few fields appear to be unscathed.  There are also, within Eastern Ontario, a few regions where the weather has not been as much of an issue as here in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills.

Add to the delayed planting and damaged crops, the fact that timely application of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, all beneficial to producing the quality and quantity we strive for, was delayed or missed on many acres.   At this point, with harvest set to begin in the next couple of weeks, we keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to salvage a marketable product from the fields.

We are keenly aware that, while our crops are struggling on our farm, our neighbours are facing a huge challenge trying to make hay this year.  While most first cut would normally be completed in May/June, and second cut in July, many farmers have not even started to make hay in 2017.  The quality of hay that is coming off the fields at this point is poor due to over maturity and the fact that much of the hay has rotted in the bottom of the fields.  Livestock farmers are wondering how the low feed value will impact their dairy and beef production going forward and how they will balance rations to ensure production requirements are managed.  Horse farmers are desperately trying to find hay to meet their needs as well.

As I write this update for our website, I am pleased that many area farmers, businesses, and organizations recognize that farmers are frustrated and stressed and are lending an ear of concern for the industry.  As an industry we are proud and passionate and we always try to find the good in the bad.

For us, here at Harshell, the “good” is the fact that tomorrow will be the first of many days that 22 acres of sunflowers, at our farm on Martin Street North, will greet passersby with an amazing show of beauty.  There’s something quite fulfilling, as a farmer, in knowing that so much joy, can be brought to so many people, just by sharing the beauty of what we do.

If you’re in the area, please feel free to drop by our farm and take some pictures.  We’d be more than happy if you wanted to share your photos with us on twitter @mbashelley or @haroldmcphail.  You can also email us info@harshellfarm.com.

Thanks for now and wish us good luck and good weather for the rest of 2017.

Harold & Shelley

“Harshell” Delivers Malting Barley to Barn Owl Malt

We are excited that we have made our first delivery of Newdale Malting Barley to Barn Owl Malt at Belleville.


Devin and Leslie are a keen young couple with incredible work ethic and excellent marketing skills.  They’ve made their mark on the craft brewery scene with their malt being used in over 25 Ontario breweries already.

We wish them great success as they work to grow and secure their place in the Ontario Craft Brewery industry.

Harold & Shelley


Harshell Enterprises Does Well at Ottawa Valley Farm Show

That’s a wrap!  Another Ottawa Valley Farm Show is complete and our small family farm did well again this year.

Judging of the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec Championship Seed Show took place at Greely on March 11th.  Harshell entries, in several categories, placed well and were then displayed at the Court of Honour at the Ottawa Valley Farm Show from March 14-16 at the EY Centre.

Harshell took first place in canola, 2 row malting barley, sunflower seed, and the sheaf of wheat.  We are very pleased with the results and look forward to next year’s show.

We are especially pleased with our first place showing in 2 row malting barley because, we are entering the “malt” market for the very first time, in 2017. A craft “maltster” will be malting our Newdale Barley and then marketing it back to approximately 20 craft breweries from all over Ontario.   The maltster feels that our Ottawa Valley terroir, will add the perfect colour and flavour to his IPA malt.  Terroir is flavour from soil, climate, seed, and farmer which influences the flavour of food/beverage.  

Also, our Harshell Birdseed, which had a fantastic launch on the local birdseed market, through Levi Home Hardware this past winter, can now be distinguished as containing  Ottawa Valley’s First Prize Black Oil Sunflower Seed.  Look for that added piece on next year’s bird seed bags.  Small wonder the local birds love our bird seed!

A huge thanks to all our local customers who have supported our bird seed enterprise.  It is rewarding to be producing an excellent quality bird seed, for the local market, and receiving such positive feedback.  Watch for this year’s sunflower crop, at the end of our lane-way, and feel free to stop by and take some photos.


Harold and Shelley



Birdseed Now Available – Your Local Birdseed Supplier Located at Almonte

Looking for the perfect “fresh and local” Christmas gift?

At Harshell Family Farm  we have the freshest, most local, bird seed you can buy.  Straight from our fields to your feeders, local birds love our products.

We offer 35 lb bags of black oil sunflower seed and 40 lb bags of our “field to feeder” mix which is sunflower, corn, wheat, and flax.

Stop by the farm at 6443 Martin Street North, Almonte or call/text us at 613-978-4464. Volume discount and delivery available for large orders.

New this year, we have partnered with Levi Home Hardware, in Almonte, to have our birdseed available for purchase there.  While at Levi’s you might want to also pick up a   new bird feeder, or a steel garbage can to store your seed.

We are proud to be a local farm family, producing a local product, for the discerning consumer who is looking to support the “local” movement. We are also proud to partner with Levi Home Hardware, another local, family business, in our community.

All the best of the season, from our family to yours. Happy birding!

Harold & Shelley

Ottawa Valley’s LOCAL Bird Seed Company

At Harshell, just outside of Almonte, in the Ottawa Valley, we are producing “local food for local birds”.  Since “local” is all the rage, we thought it might be time to hop on that train of thought and promote the fact that we are a local farm family, growing and bagging our own line of sunflower seed, as well as our “farmer’s mix” bird seed.  It doesn’t get more local than this.

From our fields to your feeders, it’s hard to argue with the preference your back yard birds have for our great products.  After all, those same birds were feeding in our fields until the crops were harvested. Now, we are able to offer you that same quality seed, as we begin bagging and selling local bird seed, for our second year.

Black oil sunflower seed is flying out the door in 35 lb bags.  We guarantee that this is 100% 2016 crop and so, you will be feeding nice plump sunflower seed that is fresh from the field and not empty shells due to issues with carry over inventory you may purchase at retailers.

As well, we offer a “farmer’s mix” which contains 50% black oil sunflower, cracked and whole corn, whole wheat, and flax seed which has a high oil content for the little birds.  100% of the content is local and this line of seed was a huge success last winter as well.

Bird seed is available here at the farm and it’s always best to call or text before coming to make a purchase. 613-978-4464

Also check back soon as we finalize a deal to have our products carried exclusively at a local retailer.  It’s a win/win/win where one family business supports another family business and you, the consumer, have access to an excellent, completely local product.

Shop Local, Buy Local, Support Local.

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