Our Farm

Farming has been in our family for seven generations.

Produce from Holmestead Farm is the main part of Sunday evening meals enjoyed by the family representing the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th generation of the Holmes family on the existing property. The farm is presently owned by the 5th generation.

George (Gordy) Holmes (Dec. 2, 1802 – Oct. 26, 1889) came from the county of Yorkshire in England to Canada in 1830 with his wife Mary (Nicolos).  When they got here, all they had was 2 shillings and items given by the Crown to settle in Canada. His mother died in England and his full brother came a few years later. There were 6 boys and 3 girls from George’s first wife and 2 boys with a 2nd wife. They settled west of Pittston Ontario, on section No. 2 (Pittston Lot 11 & 12). There they built a beautiful home with walls made of field stone and mortar three feet thick. The roof was slate brought from England. The original home in Pittston was torn down in the late 1980’s.

One of George Holmes sons from his first marriage, Elias Holmes, left home and purchased the present day farm in Shanly Ontario. Elias Holmes was born March 2, 1838 died September 20, 1893.  His wife Ann Jane Hopper (Aug. 17, 1837 – Dec. 22, 1900) came from Ireland. The farm was purchased from Robert and Martha Wilson in March 1874. The Wilson’s had erected a cheese factory on the farm, but it never went into operation.

The original property owner was Hugh Munro 2nd who was granted the land by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in July 1844. Hugh Munro 2nd was a son of Colonel Hugh Munro born 1794 and died at Cardinal in 1855, aged 90. Colonel Hugh Munro was one of the original settlers of Cardinal, Ontario.

Elias Holmes lived in a log cabin on the property eventually building a clapboard home. While digging new well, Elias took pneumonia and died. The dug well was abandoned in 1986 for a drilled well. His son Elias “John” Wesley Holmes took over the farm after his dad died.

Elias “John” Wesley Holmes (Oct. 2, 1877 –Mar. 3, 1910) was married October 28, 1896 to Ama Lucinda Pitt (Feb. 9, 1876 – Oct. 2, 1956). They had three sons. They lived in the second home on the farm which was a clapboard house east of the cheese factory that had been turned into barns. John and Ama built the existing stone home completed in 1906. It took 5 years to build the home. John died in 1910 of the black measles. Ama and her three sons remained on the farm. They utilized hired help and guidance from brothers, Ama managed to continue farming.

John Holmes’s oldest son Earl “Braynard” Holmes (Oct. 14, 1898 – Oct. 29, 1988) quit school after Grade 8 to help run the farm and support his mother and two younger brothers. The two brothers finished their education then moved on to start families of their own.

The farm at that time was a mixed farm consisting of registered Holsteins milking cattle, pigs, hens, apple trees, vegetable gardens and woodlot. They provided their own meat, canning and jams. Making weekly trips for groceries was unheard of. All bread making and baking was done by wood stove using wood processed off the farm. They bought hundred pound bags of flour and sugar which would last quite a while.

In 1927 Braynard married Alice “Beatrice” Peterson (Feb. 16, 1903 – Mar. 27, 1999). They had two daughters. During the depression of the 1930’s, the farm supported Braynard, his family and mother.

Braynard’s oldest daughter Mabel Elizabeth Holmes would be active over the years helping her dad with the farm. At a very early age Mabel would be seen with a team of horses in the fields. Mabel’s sister Joan would help her mother with the home and gardens. In 1947 hydro was brought in. Horses were used mainly until 1952 when Braynard purchased his first and only tractor. Horses were used along with the tractor until the early 1960’s. The tractor remains on the farm today, but not as active! In 1956 Ama died passing the farm on to her eldest son. In 1968 running water was installed in the home. Milking cattle discontinued, no more shipping milk. Raising and pasturing cattle followed until Braynard passed on the farm in 1982 and moved to retirement.

Mabel left the farm in her teenage years to further her education and career. She married her school sweetheart Melville Bruce raised on an Ayrshire farm west of Spencerville Ontario. They remained around Ottawa Ontario until retirement raising two daughters and a son. Sister Joan Holmes later married and left the farm.

David Bruce showed an interest in farming at an early age spending hours as a young child alongside his grandfather. In June 1982 Mabel Holmes (now Bruce) took ownership of the farm as the 4th generation while her son David and his wife Arlene lived in the home and ran the farm. The farm ownership changed to Bruce but all are descendants of the original Holmes family.

David and Arlene continued to run the farm and pastured cattle. David worked on a full time job and Arlene remained at home raising their three daughters and managed the farm throughout the day.

In June of 1987 David and Arlene became the 5th generation to own the farm. At this time the home was in need of upgrading. The only change in the home since 1906 was the installation of a bathroom. David and Arlene removed a summer kitchen that was part of the second home in the 1890’s and built an addition for a larger kitchen/bedroom. They removed the old lath and plaster in the stone home, insulated, refinished the floors, replaced the windows, updating the old electrical and plumbing trying to maintain the original character of the home. The veranda was upgraded, while doing this as a wish of Ama Holmes years before, extended along the front. They did this work on the house themselves, while still pasturing cattle and maintaining a very large garden. This renovation took about as long as it did to build the stone home!

David now had more time to concentrate on the farm, which not being worked for years, had started to grow up with brush. They purchased a larger tractor in the early 1990’s and started to work and clear the land. Old split rail snake fences were removed and upgraded. Some of the rails can be found at Upper Canada Village today! Over the years the barns were left empty and were slowly degrading. Sadly the decision was made to remove the old structures making way for newer buildings to suit future needs. David tore down the first main barn to build a steel structure for cattle and hay. They quit pasturing cattle, purchased their own beef cattle as well as more equipment for storing hay and cultivating the land. Sadly in 2012 the last building was removed to make way for a corral.

David retired from his Ottawa job in 2011. His three daughters Natalie, Tiffanie and Amanda are starting their own families and careers. They all decided they wanted to work together to further develop the farm for future generations providing food as well as income.

Holmestead Farm is growing. Gardening is done on a larger scale providing natural produce for the four generations, as well as friends, neighbours and farm gate sales. The farm is once again becoming a mixed family farm with eggs, garden produce, canned goods and baking available. David and Arlene stay busy managing the day to day operations of the farm. Custom work for neighbours and selling hay are blended in with everyday chores. Young and old everyone works together to complete whatever task is required.

Beatrice Holmes loved her flowers and large shade trees that covered the yard. Many of these large trees have had to be taken down. There still stands on the north corner of the house, damaged by the last ice storms, a large white pine that Beatrice planted from seed. Tree stumps became flower beds containing an enormous heritage collection of mostly perennials. Arlene takes pride in caring for these, her Grandparent’s (Murphy/Cooney) perennials collected originally by her mother Mary Cooney.

In 2005 after David’s father passed, an in-law suite was added for Mabel to move home to the homestead where she was born and raised. Sunday dinners are again the norm with now four generations together enjoying home products.

The name Holmestead Farm was created to honor the family heritage of 8 generations in Canada. David and Arlene’s now 9 grandchildren are the 7th generation on the farm. Will the future prove to carry on a wish from Braynard Holmes that the farm will continue on to an 8th generation? This is yet to be determined.

Our Employees

Many hands are needed to make a farm work.

We would like to introduce you to some of the faces you will see when visiting our farm.


Farm Security

Bernie is our newest hire in February 2021, and has quickly figured out his role keeping watch over the farm. He makes sure the chickens are safe and warns us whenever someone enters the yard. Always greets you with a happy paw!

The Chickens

Laying Eggsperts

Our egg laying eggsperts spend their days eating grass and hunting for bugs, which improves the overall egg quality. They are always on the lookout for strawberry tops, watermelon or any other treats from the kitchen.


Farm Security

As our longest serving employee, Lily watched over the farm for more than 15 years. She was always close by keeping us company in the garden, and made sure the 7th generation was safe while they played. We had to say goodbye to her in the fall of 2015, and her presence will always be missed. Especially during gator rides, which was her favourite activity!


Farm Security

Claddagh learned the ropes from Lily, and took over top dog of farm security responsibilities when Lilly passed. She eventually moved on to part time employee keeping watch over the farm from afar until we had to say goodbye to her in 2020. The annual Grandkids photo is taken every year in front of her maple tree in the front yard.