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Jeff Nurse: This Dairy Gentleman Walks the Talk

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Sometimes when a person is presented with an award in the name of an industry icon, your mind just goes “click” with the realization that he is the perfect fit for what was intended. Such was the case when Alberta Holstein Director, Orville Schmidt, announced the 2013 winner of the Curtis Clarke Achievement Award. “Jeff Nurse of Monteith Holsteins.”  (Read more: Jeff Nurse named 2013 Curtis Clark Achievement Winner) As this quiet dairyman from Georgetown, Ontario took his place as the 27th recipient of the award, the crowd roared their approval.

Jeff Nurse receiving the 2013 Curtis Clark Achievement Award from 2012 Winner Don Schwartz and Orville Schmidt.

Jeff is A Man of Few Words and Many Talents

Although Curtis Clarke was an entertaining story teller, like Jeff Nurse, he preferred to talk about cows, friends and family much more than updated the list of awards and achievements that hard work has earned him.  The Curtis Clarke Achievement Award seeks out those dairymen who possess “the ability, sportsmanship and character necessary to be respected by fellow breeders and showmen.” It was pretty emotional at The Royal. I really didn’t expect to be considered so I was kind of in shock. I had a world of respect for Curtis Clark and for the group of men who made the selection so it made the Award really special.”  In addition to having his name added to the distinctive Clark trophy which bears a bronzed version of one of Curtis Clark’s hats, Nurse also received a gold belt buckle as a personal keepsake of the honour.

Nurse Appreciates a Great Lineup

Whether it’s Holsteins, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss or Jerseys, Jeff has enthusiastically milked, shown and judged them. In fact, his interest in the Royal Brown Swiss Show on November 8th definitely increased the difficulty his family had in getting him to Holstein ringside for the award presentation. Once focused on where he was expected to be, Jeff probably saw moments of his Holstein history playing in his memory. “I grew up with Jerseys and was reluctant to get into Holsteins at first. There were a lot of really great Jersey people in our county at that time. When Kenda and I married, she brought a few Ayrshires with her but I always admired things about Brown Swiss so was interested in working with them too.” Having said that, Jeff saves a special place for the black and white breed. “I’ve never found anything to outshine the Holstein Breed.”

Jeff and wife Kenda and son Lee accepting the 1985 Premier Breeder and Exhibitor award at the Canadian National Exhibition.

Jeff and wife Kenda and son Lee accepting the 1985 Premier Exhibitor award at the Canadian National Exhibition from Joe Snyder. Peter Christie won the Premier Breeder Banner.

Nurse Family Legacy from Rural Roots to Urban Setting

My father gave me the pick of a pen of Nurseland heifer calves when I was 16 to start my own herd and prefix.  Five decades later he milks 40 Holsteins and 4 Brown Swiss and is farming with his own son, Lee. Monteith owns 150 acres and rents another 150 to grow corn, soybeans and wheat. The circle of farm life may see further turns in the future. The time is coming when they hope to relocate to another farm further from urbanization where they can expand and grow their herd and land holdings. Nurse has bred many Excellent and Very Good cows and in 1994 was recognized with a Master Breeder Award from Holstein Canada.

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Jeff Nurse and his son Lee farm on 300 acres south of Georgetown Ontario.

 “They Have a Good Mother”

Jeff and Kenda have also grown their family.  “We have four great kids that I`m really proud of.” says Jeff, who can talk much more comfortably about the achievements of Lee, Jodey, Cristy and Troy and two granddaughters then he can about himself.  Of course he credits each one with exceptional talents individually but also knows it takes more than that. In fact he points out, “Number one! They have a good mother.” From the outside looking it is also fairly obvious that both parents encourage and empowerment and utilized their unique talents to achieve their own goals. (Read more: Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower and Cristy Nurse – Standing Tall) In talking together after Jeff achieved the Curtis Clarke Award, Kenda reports that some of Jeff’s reminiscences were somewhat unexpected. “He surprised even me and we have been married 33 years!” Together they make a great team with a shared philosophy on child-rearing. “We have tried to give them all a chance to try a lot of different things and support them but not do it for them.”

Jeff is a Man of Many Hats

The iconic Curtis Clarke was recognized everywhere for his hat.  Jeff Nurse also stands above the crowd with his quiet presence.  However, he prefers to wear many hats figuratively speaking. “I enjoy a variety of jobs – not in the barn all the time and not in the field for days on end.” He has seen many changes over the years and sees many of them as good. “Round up ready soybeans have been great! We can have a totally clean crop with just one spraying. We used to plow everything – now minimum tillage on some land works well. On the dairy Theracalcium treatment for fresh cows has worked miracles!!” Jeff knows that each generation faces challenges and knows that the future will have them too. “I hope the next dairy generation can enjoy working with cattle as much as I have – only in a more efficient way.  It may not be efficient but the way Jeff supports and gives back to dairy youth is definitely encouraging. Gives 110% of time effort and farm and calf resources to assist 4-Hers both farm and nonfarm as a leader and role model.  This puts him at ringside at numerous fairs which he professes to be “my idea of a great holiday!

Monteith Shows Their True Colors

Jeff Nurse clipping Nurseland Texal Rose Marie at The CNE 1971

Jeff Nurse clipping Nurseland Texal Rose Marie
at The CNE 1971

Nurse, 67, has shown cattle locally, regionally and at the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo. My mother and father were great help in getting started. My father would borrow my Uncle’s truck to get our cows to the local fairs before I started hiring a commercial trucker, goose necks were not invented at that time. Monteith Model Lana was a favorite for a lot of reasons. Shown in 71-72, she was a big bodied cow with a great udder, terrific temperament and could really milk with a high test. She was second at The Royal and Reserve All Canadian. I sold a Rowntree Northern Prince daughter to England for $10,000 (a lot of money at the time) that bred really well for David Alford; leaving one of the top bulls in England in Whipton Landlord. Unfortunately, Lana developed a problem in her reproductive tract that prevented a third calf.  Nurse was an Official Judge for many years and in 1987 judged the Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show. In addition to judging many shows across Canada, he has judged internationally in Mexico, the United States, Scotland, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina.  Many things – the level of professional preparation at the cattle shows and the quality of cattle right down to the bottom of the classes…the mixing of the different breeds within the rows….the greater expense of showing cows at the major shows. In 1983, he and his family showed the Grand Champion Ayrshire at the Canadian National Exhibition and today they have a few Brown Swiss animals in the herd, one of which was exhibited at the recent Royal.

Nurses are Always Ready with a Warm Welcome

Whether it’s the cattle business, 4-H, Christmas trees or heavy horses, there are always numerous activities taking place at Monteith and you can always be sure of a warm welcome. This generous spirit was also a character trait of Curtis Clarke who lived large, laughed often and opened his heart and his home without reservation.  If there was any chance you had not yet been bitten by a passion for dairy cattle and Holsteins, Curtis made certain that the oversight was corrected before your visit ended. Jeff Nurse is also obliging and generous with his time, feeling that he benefits the most. “It is really enjoyable because we get to work with a great group of young people. Unlike school, 4-H members are in clubs because they want to be. Their interest and enthusiasm make it fun.” No doubt the interest and enthusiasm that is reflected back from this caring and extremely hard working leader is an inspiration as well. Jeff happily shares advice learned over his career. “Try to find a good balance between getting away and seeing new systems, management styles and different philosophies; and getting things done at home! Some people are on the road too much and others don’t “get away enough”. Jeff is an observer and urges others to keep an open-mind and “Try to reference successful operations whether for nutrition, breeding philosophy or whatever management you need to improve.”

Exhibiting livestock has certainly been a big part of Jeff Nurses life, and he passed that passion on to his children.  Daughters Christi and Jodie (seen here) and son Lee showed their animals at many local and national shows.

Exhibiting livestock has certainly been a big part of Jeff Nurses life, and he passed that passion on to his children. Daughters Cristy and Jodey (seen here) and son Lee showed their animals at many local and national shows.

Great Role Models inspired Jeff’s Enthusiasm for Cattle

Of course every excellent role model will tell you that they had excellent people to learn from as well. “Joe Snyder and Henry Stanley were probably the biggest influence on my ideas about cattle. Joe Snyder was an outstanding fieldman for Holstein Canada and I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with him on herd visits in our county, then Judging schools, and later Holstein shows. Joe was a terrific person and a wonderful role model in many ways. Henry Stanley was an exceptional Agricultural Representative in Halton County for many years. He came from Eastern Ontario and had a dairy background but was interested and knowledgeable in all types of livestock. Henry coached The Halton Judging Team when we won at The Royal and I was High Individual. Many other individuals come to mind including staff with The Holstein Association, many Holstein Directors and former Canadian President, Ross Segsworth. I was fortunate to be a neighbor of Claude Picket’s and Claude gave me a chance to show some outstanding cattle and meet a lot of Holstein people.”

Jeff Nurse winning High Individual at The Royal Judging Contest in 1967

Jeff Nurse winning High Individual at The Royal Judging Contest in 1967

Family Man – Gentleman – Man of the World

Forty years ago Curtis Clarke welcomed Murray and I to his farm and home in Carstairs Alberta.  To say he left an impression on both of us would be an understatement. Like Jeff Nurse, if you meet him once, you feel you have known him all your life. The Nurse family shares this hospitable nature with many tours for schools and other groups at their farm and have willingly participated in agricultural education days, loaning animals for displays. “It’s been a lot of fun!” acknowledges Jeff who neatly sidesteps all the hard work that makes such fun possible. The Christmas tree operation is another connection point with dairy and non-dairy friends and neighbors. “People enjoy the animals we have on display- the wagon rides to the field- the bon fires.” It isn’t the least bit surprising that his well mannered gentleman is happy with the response he and his family earn. “We get a lot of ‘Thank yous’. Sharing his passion for dairying is something that comes easily to Jeff whether at home working on numerous dairy committees or visiting or judging in other countries.  It is only slightly surprising that this quiet but respected man has a somewhat unspoken goal.” I would like to learn to speak Spanish. I often wished I could speak to all the breeders when traveling in Mexico and South America judging shows and visiting farms. It’s a beautiful language.” Jeff has happily fulfilled many roles in the dairy industry and sees the future in a positive light. “I hope our family can stay healthy – be more progressive; but most of all I hope they enjoy what they do.”

Jeff and his amazing family at son Lee's wedding.

Jeff and his amazing family at son Lee’s wedding.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Men like Curtis Clarke or Jeff Nurse are men whose actions as they say “speak louder than words”. They are positive ambassadors wherever they go. Congratulations Jeff Nurse on becoming the 2013 Curtis Clarke Award Achievement winner.  Thank you for walking the talk and leaving a country gentleman’s trail for others to follow.  

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Cristy Nurse – Standing Tall

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

An unfortunate injury sidelined Cristy Nurse from competing in the London Olympics.  (For those of you who wish to know more about Cristy, check out our article Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower).  However, the part that has inspired this article is not that she did not compete but rather the class and dignity that she handled it with.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to know the Nurse family for almost 25 years.  One of my first recollections of them is Kenda (Cirsty’s mother) judging me during 4-H dairy competitions.  Kenda was the first female judge I had ever showed in front of and I was extremely impressed.  Women like Kenda and Nancy Hazeleger have been great role models for many of the young female 4-Hers who were looking to make their way in a male dominated industry.

The fine examples set by Kenda and Jeff (Cristy’s father) are probably a big part of why Cristy has been able to handle this very challenging time with such class and dignity.  The passion the Nurse family puts into everything they do is outstanding.  Whether it is dairy cattle, Clydesdale horses, or rowing, there is always a focused effort to achieve a very specific goal.

christy and robThat is why the way Cristy has handled this only amazes me more.  Imagine all the time and effort she has dedicated while putting her life on hold to train for the London Olympics. “To be named to the team is great, but to be sitting in the starting gate on race day was what I have been striving for, so yes, it’s a real mix of emotions”, comments Cristy in an email.  “I am still very proud to be part of the Canadian contingent in London, but of course it’s extremely disappointing to have gone through all the selection and to have been successful but ultimately not be able to race,” she said. Her boyfriend, Rob Gibson, was a member of the Canadian Men’s eight Team.  She is there seeing all the success of others around her realizing their Olympic dream.  It could bring most people down.  Cristy stands tall.  A beaming and passionate support of both teams.

During the interviews that aired during the coverage, the team members were asked what makes London 2012 different from Beijing in 2008, where the Canadian team suffered a heart breaking 4th place finish.  Each and every one of them said that it was the “seat race” they had internally to determine who would be on the team.  No one was guaranteed their seat.  Everyone had to prove themselves.  Cristy was selected to be the London 2012 team.  What a testament to how far she had developed since taking up rowing in 2006.

On her Facebook page, she said, “The power of sport – hundreds of crazy Canadian fans in tears (of joy) this morning at Eton-Dorney.  So amazing to be there and so proud of Rob and the boys.  Spontaneously bursting into tears every few minutes.  Back tomorrow to watch the girls give it their everything – Go Canada.”  Wow!  It shows the quality of person, friend, and athlete that Cristy is.  All of these attributes she humbly says are ones she learned from her parents and growing up on the dairy farm.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It’s interesting in our first interview with Cristy she pointed out “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on.  Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Well Cristy, I would think that this is another.  Your handling of this has shown once again, how classy you are.  I am sure we will be seeing you at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil or wherever your passion leads you.  You have achieved many amazing things and no doubt there are many more to come.  Thank you for being an exceptional Canadian role model and showing us how to stand tall!  Olympian indeed!!

Whether it`s at the Royal Winter Fair or The World Rowing Championships Cristy Nurse aims high! In September 2011 she was part of Canada’s women’s eight team and brought home the silver medal from the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Today she is giving everything she’s got to earn a spot on the team that will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, England. Focused, excited and committed to standing on the podium, she modestly gives a lot of credit to her farm background for the opportunities that have opened up for her.

“THE FARM HAS PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN HELPING ME TO COMPETE”

Cristy Nurse ShowingTwenty-five year old Cristy grew up on her parent’s dairy farm, Monteith Holsteins, in Georgetown, Ontario. “My parents exhibit both dairy cattle and Clydesdale horses, so I became involved with competing at an early age. I also began competing in hunter/jumper competitions when I was young and continued to keep a horse and compete until late in high school. Through 4-H my sister and I also acquired and began breeding and showing sheep, so we truly had a well-rounded experience in terms of animal care and competition.”

FAMILY SUPPORT

Cristy is well aware that many kids from farms don’t get to compete in a lot of sports or activities because of their responsibilities at home and then she adds, “For me, it was the exact opposite. My dad would always say ‘You can milk cows for the rest of your life if you want to, but you only get a chance to do these things once. He often stayed home and would do chores alone so my mom could take my siblings and me to our practices and games. I really could not have achieved much in sport without that kind of support from both my parents.”

FROM THE SHOW RING TO THE WORLD

Jeff and Kenda Nurse deflect praise saying, that “From the time she was a little girl, Cristy always gave 110%.” Both parents are qualified judges but they are quick to note. “Cristy started showing young but we never pushed her into it. She started showing at several small fairs, where it was fun and she was successful. She would get nervous but not frightened. We always had Cristy show her own calves at all the major open shows we went to as well.” Jeff feels strongly, “I think it is a mistake to bring in a ‘ringer’ to show a 4-H member’s calf. This gave her confidence that we believed in her ability.”

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS – ROW CANADA ROW!

Beyond their obvious family fondness for livestock, the Nurse family enjoys watching and participating in sports and have always been big fans of the Olympic Games. Cristy recalls that “Rowing was a sport we watched together and I always found it exciting to see how much the country gets behind its athletes during those big Olympic moments but I never had access to a club.” Fortunately, as Cristy proceeded toward her career goal of becoming a lawyer she was able to give rowing a try. “In 2006, I got a summer job interning at a Mississauga law firm that was reasonably close to the Don Rowing Club, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

As Cristy Nurse prepares for the Olympics she shares three medal winning success secrets:

“CHASE NEW GOALS AND CHALLENGES”

After playing a year of varsity basketball at the University of Guelph, I was looking for a new sport and a new challenge. At the Don Rowing Club Cristy recalls, “I took to the sport very quickly and began to have race and physiological testing results that caught the attention of the national team coaches. By 2010 I was invited to move to the National Training Centre in London, Ontario.” This has meant raising the bar on her goals. “Right now, I am in Olympic Selection Camp, which is essentially a narrowed-down group of athletes who are still in contention for spots on the Olympic team. I won’t know until the end of May if I will be on the Olympic team, so my biggest goal right now is to be re-selected to the women’s 8. And, of course, to stand on the podium at the London games if I do so.”

“ACCEPT CRITICISM AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY”

Cristy points to her farming background as the place she first learned her work ethic. “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on. Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Far from being discouraged by these experiences, Cristy is grateful. “My parents were always very big on sportsmanship and they definitely would not indulge us if we wanted to pout after getting beat, whether it was at a cattle show or in athletics. “ She advises those who are following their dream: “Learn to take criticism from a coach or teammates and use it to improve rather than get upset about it. This has been crucial in my development, and that’s something that a childhood of competition prepared me for.”

“COMPETE EVERY DAY and AIM HIGH”

Everything is a competition. You are constantly being watched and compared to your peers. I try to remember that – every workout is its own “race”, and I just keep trying to be the best competitor I can be. One of Cristy’s early coaches, Paul Westbury, told her “You are only limited by what you are willing to put into the sport. To which this rising medalist adds, “He taught me to never settle for small results – to believe that I could wear the maple leaf one day and always keep striving for that.”

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue

THE FINAL WEEKS OF PREPARATION MEAN INTENSE FOCUS and COMMITMENT

Cristy’s focus at present is totally on intense training. “The summer is closing in so fast. I train 5-6 hours a day, eat and try to rest as much as possible so I can perform my next workout.” She admits that this schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun, in the usual sense, but says she feels fortunate that several of her close friends from undergrad, who are also the girls she grew up showing cattle with, live and work relatively close by. As her focus narrows to Olympic tunnel vision, the media focus is shifting to Cristy herself and she was included in Sportnet Magazine’s “30 Most Beautiful Athletes on the Planet” in its March 12 issue. “I hope the photo helps bring some attention to rowing leading into the summer Games, because we have a very strong team on both the men and women’s sides, who deserve the coverage.” Having said that, she immediately restates where her full focus is at the present: Training for the Olympics!

BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

“I try to make sure every decision I make at this stage puts rowing first so that when I’m sitting in the start gate of the Olympic final: I will have absolutely no regrets” – Cristy Nurse

Want to support Cristy and the Woman of Canadian Rowing as the drive to bring home gold in 2012?
Visit http://www.werow.ca/

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