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 British immigrants David and Sharon Rimmer. Ten years ago, they were new to Canada. Now they are raising two children, born in Canada, on their own small farm in western Manitoba.
Where do you farm?
David and Sharon Rimmer farm in western Manitoba, near the village of Cardale and about an hour northwest of Brandon.
What crops do you grow?
“We put in around 1,300 acres of cultivated crops,” says David. “Last year we had wheat, seed barley, canola and soybeans.”
How long have you been farming?
“We came to Canada on March 18, 2009,” says David. “We married in Cardale. Our son Christian was born here seven years ago. Our daughter Jessica was born on March 18, 2015.”
David and Sharon each had farming history in northwestern England. David’s family has a farm supply business, and were also engaged in farming, custom trucking and grain drying. David did a college level program for farming, similar to a diploma in agriculture.
Raised on a mixed farm in the same area, Sharon did a degree in agriculture, then worked as an agronomist for several years. “I helped sell chemicals out of the store, and that’s where I met David — about 15 years ago,” she says.
What’s your favourite farming season? Why?
Sharon says, “I like the harvest especially. You spend the whole year planning and planting and looking after it, then at harvest you see what you’ve actually got.”
David says, “I like the seeding part, putting the crop in and the anticipation. All the potential is there when you’re putting seed in the ground. With care and effort and luck (and there’s a lot of luck in this game!), you get to the point where you’re putting it in the bin.”
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
“Really, that is a difficult question. On the machinery side, it’s one complete package,” David says. “If you haven’t got a tractor you’re not going to put in a crop. If you don’t have a seed drill, you’re not going to put the crop in. And you don’t have a combine unless you have something to use it for.”
After a little discussion, a second answer emerges.
Sharon says, “If it’s a single implement, it would have to be the seed drill because it starts the process. And David adds, “The drill, closely followed by the grain vac because that makes it easier for getting grain out of the bin. The vac has been a great addition to this farm.”
You could have done anything. Why did you decide to farm?
The Rimmers have skills they could use to run a business or work in another field, but farming is in their identity.
David says, “I think farming is in the blood. It’s something that’s in you. I’ve never said it’s a job, never said that I have to get up and go do this. I just get up and go and do it. There’s no ‘have to’ about it.”
Sharon agrees, “I think it’s about what we as a family can do together. When something has to be done, it’s not really a job, it’s just when and why.”
Tell me a good decision you made on the farm.
The answer is obvious: coming to Canada, specifically to the Cardale area. “We have great neighbours and a great community,” Sharon says. “It began when we Googled ‘farming in Manitoba’ and a realtor’s name came up.”
The realtor in Brandon offered to take them on a farm tour if they came for a visit. They came, toured, went home and started an application process. They returned, looked at more farms, put in an offer, got the visa for permanent occupancy in mid-February, and were putting in their first Cardale crop in May.
David admits, they arrived as “strangers” in a foreign place, but that didn’t last long.
“The community of Cardale helped us begin. They pointed us in the right direction, from the start, whenever we had a problem. We looked at a lot of places, but buying this particular farm in this particular area, at Cardale, has been a very good decision,” he says.
Is there a decision you regret making? Why?
Looking back, the Rimmers recall a few choices they wouldn’t make again. Those were learning experiences, not regrets.
David says, “If you never make mistakes you’re not learning. We grew flax one year, and didn’t do it again. Maybe, our second soybean crop was something we regret, because we’re not doing a third.”
What do you anticipate your biggest challenge will be over the next five to ten years?
Trying to get ahead in farming — with more land or better equipment — is the biggest challenge they see on the horizon. “There are massive costs,” Sharon says, when they consider new machinery or more land.
David adds, “A piece of land cannot pay for itself. You’ve got to already have a land base to spread the cost and make it viable. The biggest challenge for me, if I wanted to do it, would be how to get more land to farm.”
What do you do for fun?
There are different ways of doing this, but family time is what fun is all about for the Rimmers.
“A main attraction for coming to Canada was the amount of time people spend with their family,” David says. “There’s a lot more family-oriented things to do here. We noticed, in the local rink, from toddler-size children to the oldest generations were together every morning. I now have our son in hockey, so we’re off doing hockey. He likes archery, so we’re doing archery too. It’s those sort of things that we like,” he says.
Sharon adds, “It’s OK here to all go together to a game, if we want. There’s no going off separate ways. I think it’s just family time, spending time with our kids, really.”