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The ground may be frozen but that doesn't mean farmers get to put their feet up

The crops have long been harvested, but farmer Rick Willemse of Yellowgold Farms in Southwestern Ontario gets little in the way of leisure time during the winter. There's always something that needs doing.

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Winter time is maintenance time. Rick Willemse of Yellowgold Farms in Parkhill, Ont., rebuilds a tractor's engine after an O ring failed, causing oil and engine antifreeze to be mixed.

Mark Spowart for The Globe and Mail/mark spowart The Globe and Mail

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Farmers and brothers Jack Willemse, left, and Simon Willemse share a laugh over a morning coffee in the back room of McGee Farm Services, in Parkhill, a farming community in Southwestern Ontario. While the ground is frozen, they're using their time to plan for next year's growing season.

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Rick Willemse is the third generation to work Yellowgold, the family farm in Parkhill, Ont., about 50 kilometres northwest of London. Crops grown on the 1,000-acre property include feed corn, soybeans and wheat.

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Farmers gather in the back room of McGee Farm Services in Parkhill, Ont., for what they call the morning 'bull' session. Farmers use the time after fall harvest and before spring planting to catch up on the goings-on in the region.

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At 10:00 a.m. each day, farmers in the Parkhill, Ont., region gather at McGee Farm Services to shoot the manure. In 2009, agriculture contributed $22-billion in 'gross economic stimulus' and employed over 164,000 people in Ontario, according to a study commissioned by the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition.

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The days may be short but there's still plenty of work to be done around the farm. Rick Willemse crosses the back of his family's property in Parkhill, Ont., to deliver lunch to a farmhand.

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Rick Willemse of Yellowgold Farms crosses frozen ground after delivering lunch to one of his farmhands, who is busy clearing brush. The farm, visible in the distance, grows corn, soybeans and wheat.

Mark Spowart for The Globe and Mail/mark spowart The Globe and Mail

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Simon Willemse is part of a family that has been farming in the Parkhill, Ont., region for close to 60 years. Yellowgold Farms is now run by his son Rick Willemse, but Simon still works on the farm he helped to grow.

Mark Spowart for The Globe and Mail/mark spowart The Globe and Mail

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During the winter months, farmland may appear to be asleep. But farmers are still occupied with planning and maintenance for the upcoming season. In the distance, farmer Simon Willemse rides a four-wheeler back from inspecting work on another area of his property in Southwestern Ontario.

Mark Spowart for The Globe and Mail/mark spowart The Globe and Mail

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