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, farmers are more alike than different.
This is the story of Tyson and Kristin Swan, their two-year-old son Jack and the twins that are on the way.
Where do you farm?
Tyson Swan farms with his father, Jim, southeast of Kindersley. Their farms are two miles apart and located roughly between Kindersley and Eston, Saskatchewan.
What crops do you grow?
Tyson says, “We grow durum, canola, red lentils, canary seed and peas.” Tyson and Jim have their own separate land but farm together. “All of our land combined, we farm just over 8,900 acres.”
How long have you been farming?
Tyson took the pre-employment ag mechanics course at Saskatchewan Polytechnic at age 18. When he completed the year-long program he worked with Jim for an hourly wage.
Tyson says, “I was also working for an older neighbour cleaning bins and barns and doing grunt work. After two years the neighbour had bad luck and a combine fire and decided to pull the plug on farming. He walked into our yard and said, ‘My wife tells me that I’m done farming. Do you want to farm my land?’ My dad and I decided we could do it and that was my first land.”
This year will be Tyson’s sixth crop, but has been farming with his dad for probably 12 to 14 years. He also spent time in Australia doing custom combining in 2011 which gave him a better idea of how farming is done worldwide.
What’s your favourite farming season?
There’s a difference of opinion on the Swan farm when it comes to favourite seasons. Tyson says, “For me, it would have to be seeding. I know my dad likes harvest because you get to see all your hard work pay off. But I like seeding because it sets the stage for the entire year. Growing up running the air seeder I really fell in love with the smell of the broken ground in the mornings and in the evenings. It’s a hopeful time of year.”
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
A real workhorse on the Swan farm is their sprayer. Tyson says that the technology in the sprayer has gone so far and that they are getting some of the cleanest crops they have ever had.
He says, “We can manage exactly what we want to get on per application. It’s all about timing to be successful with spraying, but it’s our sprayer that puts it on in the right amounts. This past year our sprayer made us a lot of money.”
You could have done anything. Why did you decide to farm?
For Tyson, there is no question that he was destined to be a farmer.
“I always wanted to be a farmer. There isn’t anything I would rather do. I knew as a kid that I would farm. I need to work with my hands and farming has always been such an interesting combination of different skills and knowledge.”
Tell me about a good decision you made on the farm.
Planning ahead and cutting out residual chemicals has been huge for the Swan farms.
“I’ve been getting a better understanding of the variances in chemicals. I cut all things with a residual out of my crop plan, and this year especially showed it big time.”
“Another big success is setting up a long-term crop plan. I know for the next five to six years what I will be planting and on which field. The planning allows me to make informed decisions.”
Is there a decision you regret making?
Tyson is able to put a positive spin on things no matter what… like the fact that he will have to throw his lentil crop a birthday soon.
“I didn’t sell my lentils at 25 cents when I should have. I don’t like giving 20,000 bushels a birthday party, that’s for sure, but I’ll probably have to go buy a cake soon.”
What opportunities do you see ahead in the next five to 10 years?
Tyson has a real interest in the microbiology of farming.
“Micronutrient advances seem really interesting. My father-in-law is using humic acid granular right now and I think it’s going to be huge in the near future. Also, once there’s a variety of soybean that can handle our growing region that will become a huge crop for us.”
What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenges for the next five to 10 years?
“I would say adapting to the market is a big one. Learning how to correctly market your grain and seeing what you want has become a real challenge. With the big farms and their grain power, it’s difficult to compete with.”
What do you do for fun?
“I hunt and fish and we try and get out to the lake as much as we can. We head up to Loon Lake and my dad has a permanent spot at the River Landing. With the twins on the way and the kid we already have it makes it a little tough to get away, but we make the most of our time when we aren’t working.”