Continuing to expand their seed retail business in Manitoba, and building on the partnership they have with other potato growers in Prince Edward Island, are the priorities of the two farm families who were named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for 2014.
Myron and Jill Krahn, who operate Krahn Agri Farms Ltd. at Carmen, Man. and Andrew and Heidi Lawless, of Hilltop Produce Ltd. near Kinkora, P.E.I. were selected national OYF winners at competitions held in Quebec City in late November.
Both couples were named regional OYF winners earlier in 2014 and then were among seven farm couples from across Canada competing for the national honour.
After attending school and working at off-farm careers, the Krahns returned to Myron’s home farm in 2001 with plans to increase the size of Krahn Agri Farms Ltd. and also to diversify the business.
The original home place was about 900 acres. In the following years they increased farm size to about 3,000 acres. About half their crops are commercial corn, soybeans, wheat, canola and oats, while the other half of their soybean, cereal, and canola acres are produced as certified seed. They also have a “small but very interesting” acreage of native grass seed production.
The Krahns look after all their own fieldwork and take on some custom work for other farmers as well, including everything from seeding to harvesting to grain drying. The native grass seed business isn’t a big part of their operation, but “it has very high margins, and it is fun,” says Myron.
In the past few years they have focused their efforts on developing and expanding the seed retail business. With it often difficult to find good, affordable farm land in their immediate home area, the Krahns say that expanding their retail business is one option for expanding the overall business.
And in PEI
Andrew and Heidi Lawless have built their farm business considerably since 2002 when Andrew grew his first potato crop of 60 acres and constructed a potato storage facility. He has been growing potatoes for Cavendish Farms since 2003. In 2005, Andrew and Heidi incorporated their farm as Hilltop Produce Limited along with Andrew’s parents, Neville and Bertha. Today they produce about 1,200 acres of potatoes.
To strengthen their business, more recently they developed a partnership with three other growers to create R & L Farms, which is operated by Andrew, Peter Roberts, Gerry Roberts and Austin Roberts. The farm focuses mainly on growing top quality potatoes for processing. They diligently maintain a three-year crop rotation with barley or wheat followed by hay. The majority of the hay crop is mulched down for green manure.
Working with their farming partners the Andrew and Heidi have built three state-of-the-art storage facilities where they can store potatoes for up to a year. Two of the buildings have a five million pound capacity. The third holds 10 million pounds of potatoes.
The same partners have built a potato washing facility, which is available to all P.E.I. potato growers and equipped with an optical sorter that can process 80 tons in an hour.
The seven regional finalists in the 2014 OYF competition included farming operations ranging from a 15-acre organic market garden operation near Vancouver, B.C. to a 10,000 acre ranching operation in Saskatchewan, to a Aryshire dairy and hog finishing operation in Quebec.
Selecting two winners was a difficult decision said Brian Newcombe, OYF alumni who was one of three national judges.
Celebrating 34 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer CropScience and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The national media sponsor is Annex Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.