Well there was no “white smoke” coming out of the chimney of
the Legion Hall in Olds last week, but Alberta does have a new top farmer for
Grain farmers Michael Kalisvaart and his wife Karen Jansen
and family who farm at Gibbons, just northeast of Edmonton, were named Alberta
regional Outstanding Young Farmers at the judging competition in Olds.
and Jansen will now continue to the national competition later this
year in Regina where they will compete against six other farm families from
across the country for the title of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer. (Karen
and their oldest daughter Anna, couldn’t be at the Olds event as they were away
of the Kalisvaart family, from left, Tim, 11 and Marijke, 13 join their father
Michael at the OYF regional awards in Olds. At right is Karen Hunter of ATB
Financial who presented the trophy.
Kalisvaart, a second generation farmer here in Canada, crops
about 8,000 acres of grains, oilseed and pulses under the Kalco Farms Ltd.
name. The farm was first established by his parents when they immigrated from
Holland in the late 1970s. (But Michael says he can actually trace the farming
history of his family in Europe back to the 1500s.)
His dad, Jack, first built a successful farrow-to-finish hog
operation, In fact, I remember going to the farm about 25 years ago to do a
story for Country Guide on some new feature, which may have been a computerized
sow feeding system. But we all
The Kalisvaarts began to focus more on the grain side of
farming in the mid 1990s and when Michael took over, the hogs went and wheat,
canola and peas moved in.
The family developed a very smart succession plan, which
eventually transferred farm ownership to Michael. His parents are able to enjoy
a good part of the winter where it is warm and migrate north in the spring to
help with the field work as needed.
I had the privilege of being one of the judges for the
Alberta regional competition. Karen Hunter, director of business and
agriculture with ATB Financial based in Didsbury was chief judge and we were
joined by Ian Marshall who farms at Bowden. Ian his wife Karilynn and family
produce crops and run a cow/calf beef herd along with an 8,000 head feedlot.
The Marshalls were named Alberta’s Outstanding Young Farmers in 2004.
Kalisvaart, 39, is one of the “younger” generation of
farmers today with great management skills, is a profitable crop producer, uses
new technology that makes sense, pays attention to the environmental footprint
of the farm, farms safely, has important human resources skills with employees,
makes sure there is still family time, and is also involved in community
He looks for ways to make the farm as efficient as possible.
For example, a change in practices which saves a few minutes each time they
have to fill the air seeding equipment in the spring, adds up to an hour a day,
which over a 20 day seeding season means he can seed an extra 800 acres with
one machine. Little changes like that, add up to make a difference. In the
winter they shut down Friday afternoon and invite neighbors over for a
community skating party on an ice rink housed inside one of the hoop-style
buildings that formerly housed hogs. And every Sunday, regardless of the
season, is a day of rest for everyone to spend with their families.
He runs a very nice, well-managed operation. He’s not a
shoe-in for the national title, because in my experience the OYF brings
together a very talented group of regional candidates for the national award,
but Kalisvaart is certainly setting the bar high.
And they fed me pizza and a nice turkey dinner as part of
the event, so they had me at “help yourself.”
Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at [email protected]