A Look at Purple Hill Farms - its Owner and its Potential

A place where farming blends very nicely with history, specialization, diversification and a unique sense of vision. On a map, it’s Purple Hill Farm, on Purple Hill Road, north of Evelyn Side Road, just east of London.MFor the people of the local community and surrounding area, it’s a testament to time, a symbol of success and a jewel that is both treasured and meant to be shared.

To listen to George Taylor is to appreciate the length individuals will go to succeed. Taylor, a fourth generation farmer - and proud of it - has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and a desire to go beyond conventional livestock or cash crop farming. He’s never afraid to try something new, always willing to share his many ‘secrets of success’, and yet he holds a great deal of reverence for the past, all the way back to his Great Grandfather, who homesteaded Purple Hill Farm in 1853. Although he’s unsure of the origin of the name, it is definitely front and centre of the family business, as well as a tremendous source of pride.

“We know the farm was homesteaded first and called Purple Hill Stock Farms,” says Taylor, often referring to his Great Grandfather, Samuel Taylor. “First he had shorthorns here, and he even put a team of horses on Queen Victoria’s stagecoach, so that was quite an achievement.” And so is the building that now bears the family farm name.

The current structure has gone through various incarnations, beginning in 1992 as an auction barn. Taylor, who was a dairy producer at that point, dispersed his herd and built the barn with the intent of holding beef cattle auctions. However he quickly realized he could also hold estate or furniture sales, as well.

An auction barn on its own may not be that remarkable, and as Taylor was building his 15 years ago, he was visited by a young farm equipment salesman who happened by one day. Their conversation had a profound effect on his life. “The doors weren’t even on it when we were building this place, but he came in and said, ‘This is quite the thing, but what are you doing here?’” , recalls Taylor, with a smile. He told the young man that he was putting in an auction barn with standard bleachers and a walk-around underneath. “And he said, ‘Why would you do that? As soon as you do that, you can’t have another thing here’.”

That brief encounter opened Taylor’s eyes, and not being afraid to try something different, he decided to keep the floor open with a balcony on its east and south walls, facing an elevated stage in the opposite corner, putting those on the balcony at eye level with the auctioneer. The floor itself is smoothly-finished concrete and the walls are adorned with a variety of farm implements, hand tools and kitchen items, all accented with harrow wheels that are painted purple and yellow.

Nowadays, on top of the occasional cattle auction in the spring or fall, the barn at Purple Hill Farm is in demand for weddings, anniversaries, reunions and performances by local entertainers. The hand-made, wood-crafted arbour is a favourite for mothers-of-the-bride, and its wheeled design makes it easy to move anywhere in the barn. Among the musical acts, Terry Sumsion has performed four times, and Roy LeBlanc, a well-known and highly respected Elvis and Roy Orbison impersonator, has entertained audiences. And when the local cemetery was in need of financial assistance, Taylor hosted a benefit concert with 17 acts.

Taylor is currently engaged in a large addition to the barn, and he notes that with London Airport expanding its services across the country, the potential to attract larger shows, ventures and exhibitions is literally going sky high.

Yet in spite of its drawing power, Taylor makes no apologies for his rural roots and simple approach to life. “Whenever we have a function, I make sure I get on that stage and I tell everyone that they’ll never get any closer to the country than they will here, because on the other side of that wall, someplace, there are 350 head of cattle,” he explains, matter-of-factly. “That’s how we make our living; we’re in agriculture and we’re proud of it, and we don’t make any excuses for what we do. And you’re our guests, and we love having you, but no one’s making you stay.”