The Donnan family have been at Donnandale Farms since 1917, and there have been Donnans farming in West Huntingdon, since around the 1860s. Donnandale Farms is now one of the biggest and most progressive farming operation in Hastings County. The business is owned by Keith Donnan and his sons Mark and Shawn. Mark’s son Tyler now works on the farm.
Donnandale Farms is becoming more and more self-sufficient. All the food for the cows is grown on the farm, except protein and mineral supplements, and they have been able to gradually reduce their energy inputs by first putting in a corn-fuelled boiler and now by putting in an anaerobic digester. Back in 1996, the Donnans decided to expand and they built a new facility. They had had a 90-cow tie stall and they expanded to a 150-cow free stall with a state-of-the-art milking parlour. In 2000, they bought Gordon Donnan’s (Keith’ brother) farm across Highway #62 and added his 80 cows to the herd. Milk from Donnandale Farms goes to supply the local cheese factories and Reid’s Dairy, as well as elsewhere.
The Donnans look to the future, and are the third farm in Ontario to put in a biogas anaerobic digester. The digester will convert manure from the cows and other organic waste into energy, bedding material and nutrients for the fields. The system they are putting in will provided 500 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power 400 households. They will power their farms and put the extra energy into the grid, selling it to Ontario Hydro. They decided to put in a system of this size when the Province of Ontario annouced grants for biogas production. The Ontario government has committed $11.2 million to promoting biogas production. Donnandale Farms has a contract with Organic Resource Management, which will provide the digester with organic waste, oils and fats, collected in the Quinte area. In the anaerobic digestion process, micro organisms break down the waste in the absence of oxygen and release a gas, which is used to create hydro. Powerbase Energy Systems Inc. from Carleton Place is putting in the system and will run the opertion for the first year or so. Setting up the anaerobic digester gives the Donnans the potential to diversify into selling compost and bedding material. They find going green makes sound business sense.