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 story of Vickie and Robbie Ripplinger and their four children.
Please introduce your farm family.
“Our family consists of my husband Robbie Ripplinger and myself, Vickie. We have four girls: Nevaeh, age 11; Kelsey, age eight; Avery, age six and Berkley, age three.
“With four outgoing girls, there’s no shortage of future CEOs on our farm,” laughs Vickie.
Where do you farm?
“We farm about 14 kilometres southwest of Montmartre, Sask. We are on the original Ripplinger family farm.”
What do you grow?
“We grow mainly canola, wheat, durum, soybeans and green peas. We have grown coriander and lentils in the past. We also hay about 100 acres to feed our horses.”
“We find that square-bale season builds good character for everyone,” says Vickie, referring to the help the couple receives from their four daughters in order to feed the girls’ horses.
How long have you been farming?
“Neither one of us really ever left our farming roots. I grew up on a mixed farm at Odessa, about a 15-minute drive from here. After high school, I didn’t last long off the farm and quickly returned to my calling.
“Robbie was off the farm for a few years after high school and soon was offered to farm in partnership with his dad. His parents moved to town in 2005 and that’s when we moved to the farm. We were married in 2007 and have been full-time farming since.”
Who do you farm with?
“You’re looking at our crew — it’s Robbie and I — all hands on board. The girls honestly play a huge role too. They each have their responsibility to help make our busy seasons run smoothly.
“Robbie’s dad passed away suddenly in 2011, leaving a huge void on the farm. We are grateful for the tools, resources and knowledge he passed on to us and we still to use his wisdom daily in our operation.”
You could have done anything. Why did you choose farming?
“Ultimately, the year we had to make the decision was in 2011. We both wanted to continue in farming even though we knew raising a family on the farm was going to come with much heartache, frustration and possibly even failure. But we also knew it could come with much happiness, reward, success and, most importantly, a lifestyle that was perfect for raising a family. We jumped in with both feet and bought the farm and equipment from Robbie’s mom in 2011.”
What farming season do you enjoy most?
“Robbie enjoys spring. He’s a true farmer so he always looks forward to getting back to scratching the dirt. I enjoy harvest and always have. I love the feeling of taking the crop off and seeing the reward of pouring our heart and soul into the land throughout the year. The kids also seem to enjoy harvest as everyone loves combine rides and supper in the field. The older ones really like semi ride and are intrigued with all the new gadgets.”
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
“We would both agree that our John Deere high-clearance, 120-foot-boom sprayer is our favourite piece of machinery. We have used it in all four seasons. We use it in spring, summer and fall for burn-down and desiccants, but most recently have been using it to apply fertilizer after harvest for the following crop year. Taking care of the fertilizing in November or December means a greater distance to seeding time in spring and not having to stop as often to fill.”
What good decision have you made that turned out well?
“Probably when we purchased a zero-till seeder in 2014. We were seeding with two older and smaller seeders prior to this, which meant two tractors and more labour. We needed to be able to have one person seeding and the other spraying, rolling and keeping the seed-tender trucks full, so we went to one seeder with two tanks and one tractor. The time savings has allowed us to justify the upgrade.”
Have you made a decision on the farm that you regret?
“There hasn’t been anything that we really regret, but when we look back, maybe we could have bought land a little more aggressively when we started out and the prices were cheaper.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge over the next five to 10 years?
“There are many concerns and challengers that we face. Some more important ones that stand out are grain logistics, the passing on of the family farm to the next generation as well as educating the public and keeping an open discussion between farmer and consumer.”
What do you see as the biggest opportunity over the next five to 10 years?
“We look forward to sharing the farm with all of our children. It’s already exciting to hear them making plans for after high school. We are also excited to try new farming practices and to try innovations that may ease the workload. One thing we’ve tried is a mapping system for our sprayer, seeder and combine. It’s beneficial in the off-season to be able to make use of that information and make better decisions because of it.”
What do you like to do for fun or to relax?
“We generally sneak away for two weeks in July to our northern oasis to enjoy some family time fishing and quadding. We also like hunting, snowmobiling and skiing when time allows.
“The kids and I really enjoy ‘horsing around!’ All four of the girls are involved in 4-H and barrel racing. They each have their own horse and have learned what it takes to look after them. We try to do as much together as a family as time just seems to be flying by. Our passion is here and we hope our kids will continue on the same journey.”