I just finished talking to a few Prairie farmers for a
regular feature I do for Grainews called the Farmer Panel. It will be published
in early October. I don’t think any of them had any earth-shattering news, but
it is always interesting for me to talk to farmers about what they are doing
and why they are doing it. I hate
writing about it – that is the work part – but I love to talk.
Linda Nielsen of Starbuck, Manitoba (just west of Winnipeg)
was just so relieved to have finished combining a crop produced under a crappy,
wet growing season. How wet was it Linda? She even had a muskrat living in the
flooded wheel ruts in a canola field.
While all the way across Western Canada to a northwest point in the B.C.
Peace River region, Martin Moore, near Fort St. John, was joking about whether
he would live long enough to see another ‘good’ farming year in that part of
the country. After another exceptionally dry growing season, rain and showers
finally did come but now the moisture was holding him back from harvesting what
little crop there was out in his fields. It is a business where I am sure many
feel, “boy, I just can’t win.”
(Photo captions: Crazy farmers the Nielsen family of
Starbuck Manitoba – Linda, husband Dave, kids Erik and Kylie, mom Helen,
brother Andy taking a break from harvest for a field dinner supplied by
Brian Corns, who farms at Grassy Lake, east of Lethbridge in
southern Alberta had a nice crop in the field, but weather was holding him up.
Bill Rusk at Nipawin and Tim Charabin at North Battleford, in northeast and
northwest, Saskatchewan, respectively were stalled because of rain and frequent
showers. And at Dawson Creek, B.C. Ross Ravelli had been able to pick away at
harvesting part of his crop, but again rain was holding him up from combining
fields likely to produce 50 per cent of an average yield.
I didn’t sense any pessimism among this group of producers –
how they will approach things next year. Maybe it is a little bit of the Vegas
or Lotto syndrome – you play this game long enough and sooner or later those
winning numbers have to line up.
So along with talking with these guys, for a different
project, I also spoke with Chris Procyk, a bright young fellow, who works for
the Southern Applied Research Association and the Southern Alberta Conservation
Association in Lethbridge, and he and his wife and soon-to-be expanding young
family are making plans to head back to Saskatchewan next year to join his dad
full time in the family farm at Fillmore, south of Regina. What is he thinking
– is he nuts?
Chris was born and raised on the family farm. Took off a few
years ago to seek fame and fortune and pursue a totally different career. But,
damn it all if he didn’t get caught up working in the agriculture industry, and
now he thinks he wants to farm. I have often heard farmers and management
consultants say farm kids should work away from the farm for at least five years,
just to experience some other life before they make up their mind about a
farming career. And Chris agrees.
It is the old ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ influence. He says when he was a kid working on
the farm it was just work, but since being away and going home for a stretch
each year to help in the busy seasons, he’s decided he really loves farming and
that’s where he and his wife want to raise their family.
I suppose we could start a fund to pay for their psychiatric
counseling in hopes of restoring them to sanity, but in reality, my gut feeling
is ‘go for it Chris!’
I left the family farm about 40 years ago, and there were
many times over the years it crossed my mind to go back to the family farm.
But, damn this fame and fortune stuff. Once you get caught up in this magical
world of agriculture journalism everything else just seems so mundane.
Truth is I love what I do, and I don’t know if I would have
been a great farmer anyway. There is something very satisfying to me, in this
job, to be involved with three views of the agriculture industry. There is the
right way to do things, the wrong way to do things, and then when I talk to the
actual troops who are trying to catch muskrats with the combine, or wearing
dust masks at seeding I learn about “this is what works for me.”