Lachlan, FMT‘22, Ross, FMT’23 and Gavin McDonald, FMT’24, have a long family history with Macdonald. The brothers grew up on Kerrydale Farms established by their ancestor Donald McGillis, an immigrant from the Scottish Highlands, who arrived by canoe on the banks of the Raisin River in Williamstown, Ontario in 1784. Over the next two centuries, the McGillis family grew Kerrydale Farms into a successful operation that is now in the hands of brothers William “Bill” McDonald, FMT’97, and Thomas “Tom,” DipAgr’93 – father to Lachlan, Ross and Gavin.
While the history of Kerrydale Farms and the McGillis-McDonald family is a fascinating one in its own right, the maternal side of the family has been connected to Macdonald Campus for over 90 years. This unique relationship, five generations in the making, began with Walter Sydney Keeler, a farm manager in Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec. In 1928, when a flood contaminated the farm’s soil with chemicals from a nearby mine, Walter Keeler enrolled in courses at Macdonald College to learn how to decontaminate the soil. Although he did not graduate with a diploma or degree, he learned what he needed to do to keep his farm operating.
Upon graduation, Walter’s son Winston “Wink” Woodard Keeler, DipAgr’45, BScAgr’66, took a job rebuilding the post-war agriculture department at the Feller Institute in Grande-Ligne, Quebec. In 1953, Wink returned to Macdonald to work as the Field Superintendent of Agronomy while pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree, and later went on to become Superintendent of the Provincial Seed Farm.
Although the Keelers did not have a family farm, their interest in agriculture ran deep. Wink’s sons Roy Rexford Keeler, BScAgr’72, and Richard “Dick” Brian Keeler, DipAgr’72 (grandfather to Lachlan, Ross and Gavin), both graduated with second class honours.
Dick subsequently accepted a position in the Soil Science Department under Dr. Angus “Gus” MacKenzie, where he became reacquainted with Monique Ouellette, a former classmate at Macdonald High, who worked in the same Department as a Lab Technician and Supervisor. The couple and daughter Tawnya eventually settled at the Blair Farm in Franklin Centre, Quebec – a McGill-owned property – that conducted research on farming marginal land.
In 1979, Dick moved to Valcartier Village, Quebec, to join brother Roy on his large-scale turkey farm. Six years later, upon selling the farm, the pair and their families relocated to Lancaster, Ontario, to start Dandylawn Lawn Maintenance, a company that remains in operation today.
Roy’s elder son Cory Michael Keeler is a three-time Macdonald graduate (DipAgr’93, BScAgr’96 and MSc’99), who now teaches in Kingston, while son Leigh Richard Keeler, FMT’97, expanded the Dandylawn business to include Pest Control.
Dick’s daughter Denise Tasha Keeler, FMT’99, worked with her father and uncle at Dandylawn Lawn Maintenance and later moved to California. Daughter Tawnya pursued a degree in early childhood education and worked as a tour guide for elementary school groups at the Morgan Arboretum in the mid-nineties.
Ironically, it is Tawnya who now lives on and operates a family farm: she married Tom McDonald of Kerrydale Farms and is the mother of current FMT students Lachlan, Ross and Gavin McDonald.
While Lachlan and Ross are planning to come home and work on the family farm, Gavin and brother Tavish, who is in his final year of high school, remain undecided and are considering other careers in agriculture.
The Keeler family history has been closely intertwined with that of Macdonald Campus over the last century, each contributing to the other’s success: a true symbiosis that will hopefully continue for many generations to come.
View this article in French.