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There’s always more to learn

Toban Dyck is all in, learning what he needs to know about farming at full speed

I didn’t think to turn on the bin fans last night. I needed to be told. And when my dad asked what I’d be growing next year, it completely escaped me that fall is when I should make that decision.

Jamie and I have been on the farm for six years; land renters for nearly three; and landowners for less than one. Each one of these stages came with a package — an attractive, square box, if you will, the contents of which was everything we are now expected to know.

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When we registered our corporation, Burr Forest Acres, this package contained share structures, tax considerations, reporting obligations, cash flow and dividends. (I’m convinced these terms have been made more complicated than they should be so some adults can believe they are occupying their minds with meaningful pursuits.) There was a lot in there. It will take time to fully digest what it means to run a farm corporation.

The expectations that come with three years of land management are different. At one point I wrote with some excitement about all the great things happening in the areas of agronomy and research. I stand by this: There is a lot of fascinating research being done.

But this is not my point.

I should be a better scout. I should have dealt with those flea beetles gorging on my canola sooner. I should know more agronomy. I should be able to detect disease pressures, pest pressures and otherwise make sound farm-related decisions. I’m starting to. I’ll get there.

This is where I find myself: keenly aware of all that I don’t know and a sense of urgency and obligation to know it. All of which is self-imposed. My level of interest in farming and agronomy has outpaced my understanding.

I want to grow novel crops, but don’t yet know all the right considerations before taking the plunge. I want to start implementing new and unique practices. I want to explore ways in which to make this whole farming thing truly sustainable.

And I want to be able to walk into my local elevator, place my sample pail on the counter and dive into any conversation on any topic: agricultural news, basis, futures, agronomy, trends, you name it.

It’s a lofty goal. But if there’s one thing Jamie and I have learned over the last six years, it’s that we’re all in. My job off the farm is farm-related, my columns are farm-related and, you guessed it, my work on the farm is farm-related. It’s full immersion with room to dive deeper.

I had the opportunity the other day to walk through the mobile home Jamie and I lived in when we first moved to the farm in 2012. When we lived there, every day was filled with wonder. Everything was new. And all I needed to do was offer a helping hand on the farm and observe.

The farm was our playground. Our responsibilities were minimal and our commitment was at that point only verbal. We were going to give this a try.

I was a city boy returning to the farm. I’m no longer that. I’m a farmer and considered one by those around me. It’s both an honour and a duty.

I’ve learned to appreciate these stages. Call it the weeds. Call it rounding a blind corner. It doesn’t matter. As scary as it is in practice, in theory you and I both know that pushing through, diving deeper and pursuing interests is the stuff of life.

I don’t yet know what Burr Forest Acres will grow next year. But I do know the sun’s out and those bin fans should probably be turned off. Also, I hear my dad working on the yard. I should probably join him. At the time of this writing, we’ve got just under 200 acres of soybeans until we’re done harvest.

Sidenote: when I first moved to the farm, I didn’t understand the euphoria farmers felt getting their crops into the bin. I do now. After a season of wrestling with whether I should get hail insurance, and then ultimately rolling the dice and opting not to, it feels great knowing my canola is safe, in a bin, getting lightly fanned.

About the author


Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]



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