Hendrik Feenstra may be too young to hang out a shingle as a crop consultant, but the southern Alberta teenager certainly knows his lygus bugs from a flea beetle.
Feenstra, who is just 13, is the youngest person in Canada, and perhaps North America, to have completed and passed an intensive examination process to become a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA). Because he is too young to actually practise as a CCA, he was issued a certificate of accomplishment. If he is still interested, at the ripe old age of 16, the certifying body will wave the exam fees and he can write the exam again to become a full fledged CCA.
This wasn’t just a lark for the very focused Grade 8 student, who lives with his parents Jack and Anna Marie Feenstra on the family farm north of Monarch, just west of Lethbridge. He’s always had an interest in crop and livestock production, and when the notion of writing the CCA exam was posed, he took on the challenge.
“He’s always been interested in learning about crop production,” says Jack Feenstra, a CCA himself, who in 2006 launched what is now a complete family-based consulting service — Chinook Crop Care Ltd. “He was always coming with me on field work with clients and one day I suggested he might like to do this work one day.”
That suggestion got the then 12-year-old Hendrik thinking he would like to study and take the exam. Anna Marie, a school teacher by training, who focused on the business end of Chinook Crop Care Ltd. decided it would be good for her to learn more about crop production as well, so in late 2008 they both decided to study for the CCA exam.
“It took a lot of work,” says Hendrik. “There was a lot of material to study and learn. We worked at it steady — day and night — for six weeks, there were no breaks.” Hendrik and Anna Marie decided to take the exam in early December 2008 and after studying intensely for nearly two months, both successfully completed the two CCA exams, the international and prairie exams, by February 2009. They were part of a group of 35 consultants writing the exam at Alberta’s Olds College. They were proud of their accomplishment considering statistics show 50 per cent of applicants fail the exams first time around.
“It has really helped Hendrik and I better understand crop production and the consulting business and now we can be more help with our consulting service,” says Anna Marie.
Chinook Crop Care provides a wide range of crop consulting services including soil testing, fertility recommendations, and crop scouting, while specializing in manure management and irrigated crop production. Areas of knowledge and expertise include field mapping and planning, soil bed management, seeding rates and depths, post-harvest management, weed, disease and insect identification and management, and pesticide recommendations.
Over the past two growing seasons, since completing the exam, Hendrik is actively involved with his dad in field work such as soil testing, sweeping crops for pest counts, plant identification, crop-density plant counts and collecting tissue samples. He has a keen interest in plant and insect identification.
Anna Marie also does field checking and manages samples and reports on tissue testing, and also provides advice to producers.
“I am very proud of both of them,” says Jack, who is also an agri-coach with Agri-Trend Agrology Ltd. “It is quite an achievement for such a young person such as Hendrik to pass these exams. I am proud that he put it altogether. He has great focus, set a goal for himself and achieved it.”
Hendrik, who has plenty of time to consider his options, hasn’t decided on his future career plans. He is also actively involved in local 4-H horse and sheep clubs, and says he may be interested in being a veterinarian one day.