Every farm has its own story. No two farms (or farmers) are exactly alike. Everyone got started in a different way, and every farm has a different combination of family and hired staff who make the decisions and keep things running. But, in general, even after you consider all of the details, Prairie farmers are more alike than different.
This is the second article in a new feature where we’ll profile farmers from B.C. to Manitoba. We’ll tell you how they started out, and what they see ahead. Maybe you’ll find a story just like yours, or maybe you’ll get an idea for something new to try.
Where do you farm?
“I farm with my husband, Kris, and his parents, Laurie and Monica Wakefield, at Maidstone, Saskatchewan. We operate about a 4,000 acre pedigreed seed farm. And in addition to that, I operate my own Pioneer Hybrid seed retail.”
Tennille and Kris also have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, who keep them quite busy.
What crops do you grow?
“We grow canola, peas, barley, hard red and soft white wheats. And soybeans.”
How long have you been farming?
Tennille grew up on a family farm and then married a farmer after finishing university. She has been involved in agriculture for 33 years, and farming for 13 years.
“Farming is in my blood. I’ve always known that I wanted to live and work either on a farm or in the ag industry. I grew up on a farm, attended the College of Ag at the University of Saskatchewan and have either worked in the ag industry or have been directly involved in farming all throughout my life.”
“Currently I get to see both sides. I co-own and operate my own ag input business — KenDen Ag — while working with my husband and parents in-law in their pedigreed seed operation — Wakefield Seeds.”
What’s your favourite farming season?
“I love harvest. I love the colours of it.” Tennille says she also loves seeing all their hard work culminate as in crop in the bin. Plus, she’s able to spend some quality time with her kids in the field.
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
The farm implement Tennille can’t live without is a good farm truck.
“If you run into a snag with your machinery, the first vehicle you turn to is your farm/service truck. It has all your important tools where you need them in mobile form. You can’t carry all the tools you may need with you in the equipment you operate.”
The farm truck is also a taxi service, Tennille says, moving people where they need to be. She relies on it for parts runs. She uses it to haul fuel. It always needs to be “stocked and ready to go when needed,” she says.
It’s also a mobile kitchen, running meals to the field. “The tailgate/deck can be used for a buffet meal in the field or as an extra seating spot if you run out of chairs.”
The farm truck is even a mobile office and impromptu meeting space, she adds, when you run into the neighbour on the road and stop to chat, windows rolled down.
You could have done anything. Why did you decide to farm?
Tennille lists the sense of community, the work ethic farming fosters, and the life lessons for people of all ages. She also appreciates the creativity and innovation inherently involved in farming.
“I love the freedom and flexibility that comes with farming. No two days are the same. You get to punch your own clock, and see the results of your decisions and hard work (good or bad) and celebrate that feeling of accomplishment — especially when it turns out as good or better than expected — knowing that you had a direct role. And getting to spend the days outside during our nicest months of the year. It’s pretty tough to beat.”
Tell me about a good decision you’ve made on the farm.
Tennille says the best decision she’s made is to be on the farm, and give their kids, Aiden and Kenzie, the chance to experience it and grow into it. It’s about work ethic, and learning where their food comes from, she adds. Both Aiden and Kenzie ride with their parents in the trucks and combines.
Is there a decision you regret making on the farm?
“Building my house so close to the bins, at harvest time when the augers are running all night,” she says, laughing.
“But realistically, I can’t say that there is a regret. I call them all learning experiences.”
What opportunities do you see ahead?
“Technology is huge.” She thinks we are just starting to see the next wave of technology, with things like autonomous equipment, drones, “and the list goes on and on.”
What challenges do you see ahead?
Tennille sees consumer perception as a challenge. “Consumer confidence and engagement is a huge one that we need to deal with as an industry.” She also sees a need to have a more unified approach to putting out that message, rather than individual silos.
“Another challenge is land ownership and land management.” That includes issues ranging from absentee landlords to disease, insect, and pest management.
What do you like to do for fun?
“Spend time outside with my family. Whether it’s looking for crocuses or squishing mud between our toes. Any day outside with them is a great day. I enjoy playing rec sports. I am currently playing on a ladies Rec hockey team and am also planning on entering a team into a couple Bonspiels in the area later this winter.
“In the summer I like to get away to a lake and spend some time out on the water. Visiting around a fire is always a great way to wrap up the day.
“I currently volunteer as a member of the executive on our local playschool co-op board. In addition, I’m also volunteering as a leader for the Maidstone youth curling program.”