It was great to receive a letter from retired Manitoba farmer, Francis Poulsen, that described some of the problem-solving “fixes” he applied to equipment and the land during more than 50 years of farming near Elm Creek, 50 km west of Winnipeg and about 35 km southeast of Portage la Prairie. Now retired for about eight years, the 81-year-old Poulsen also made it clear how fortunate he was to have a long career as a farmer.
Born and raised on the family farm, Poulsen worked off-farm for a few years in his mid teens. He worked for a Hereford producer near Claresholm, Alta., also for commercial Angus producer Ivan Ohler at Carmangay and in the mid-’50s combined for Bill Lainge at Claresholm.
Poulsen seeded his first crop on a quarter section of the Elm Creek farm in 1957, went to college for his first year of an ag diploma, worked as a poultry inspector for three years and was a bang’s (brucellosis) disease inspector for four winters. He married Ellen in 1960.
On the family farm he raised purebred polled Hereford cattle for 25 years before switching to a commercial beef operation — the last were sold in 2016. Along with commercial crops and pedigreed seed, it was also a mixed livestock operation that included beef cattle, laying hens and hogs. He had the first Specific Pathogen Free pig herd in Manitoba.
Throughout his farming career Poulsen has been active in and long-time supporter of youth and 4-H programs, and as a cancer survivor himself as a young man, he has been a dedicated fundraiser for cancer research.
Poulsen’s letter touched on a few of the home-made ideas that over the years worked to solve a range of machinery and cropping problems. Here are a few:
- A good lubricant for releasing seized shafts and nuts: about a half-and-half mixture of red power-steering oil and household vinegar. Let it soak for half hour or more, and experience proved the seized part should be free to turn.
- Two grader blades and a 2×12-inch plank across part of a 14-foot Graham cultivator made an excellent land leveller and helped move dirt to fill low, wet spots in a field.
- When growing field peas, he attached screens to the back of the truck to catch weed seeds in harvested crop and made for a cleaner seed batch when it came time to seed the crop again.
- With green millet seed coming in from a neighbour’s field at harvest, making a weedy mess on Poulsen’s land, he suggested the neighbour reduce the fan speed on his combine. The neighbour appreciated the tip which also resulted in a much cleaner sample in his own harvested crop.
- With flax straw wrapping around the gear box of his TR85 New Holland combine, which led to an expensive oil seal repair job, Poulsen fashioned a piece of a double “V” drive belt and round baler belt attached with clamps over the gear box to keep straw out and in seven years never had another seal go again.
- He also described retrofitting tractors and balers with heavier tire assemblies than the original factory-installed equipment to better withstand routine field operations. That begged the question, “Why can’t they make these models heavier to begin with?” says Poulsen. “So darn frustrating, believe me.”
While there were temporary frustrations, Poulsen often figured out solutions for challenges in what ultimately was a very satisfying career. “I am so proud to have been a farmer for (30 plus) years and raise my kids on the farm, surrounded by and working with nature,” he says. “It has been an exceptional honour.”