Every farm has its own story. No two farms (or farmers) are exactly alike. Everyone got started in a different way, and every farm has a different combination of family and hired staff who make the decisions and keep things running. But, in general, even after you consider all of the details, farmers are more alike than different.
This is the story of Jason Craig’s farm, JLC2 Farming.
Where do you farm?
We’re at Delburne, Alta., 30 minutes east of Red Deer.
What do you grow?
We grow green peas, yellow peas, faba beans, soft white wheat, CPS wheat, canola and barley on just under 3,000 acres. We’ve also got a custom spraying business — we spray for up to 14 or 16 guys each year. Everyone needs to spray around the same time, but we’ve got good hired hands, which makes a huge difference.
How long have you been farming?
I’ve been here my whole life — 37 years. I took over from my father 18 years ago, so this year is my 18th crop on my own.
Who do you farm with?
I farm with my wife, Jenn, and we have a rotating group of good hired hands, about eight people.
Why did you choose farming?
I left the farm for one year and went to the oil fields and absolutely hated it, and that’s when I realized how much I liked the farm and wanted to come back. I farmed with my dad for three years and then I took over.
What farming season do you enjoy most?
Probably harvest — everybody loves harvest. It’s finally the end of the year, the stress is almost over, and you know how good or bad of a year you’ve had. The questions are answered.
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
I’d have to say my cell phone, even though our cell service is absolutely horrible out here. Everything is on my phone — if you don’t have the phone the day is shot. It’s how I reach all my hired hands, and all my emails, grain contracts, dealership parts and field maps are on there. We also use it for seeding, and for scouting and pest management. Pretty much everything is on my phone.
What good decision have you made that turned out well?
We actually try to reflect more on our bad decisions and learn from them! But one good decision we made was that we built a new bin yard about five years ago. We spent a lot of money on it, but it was something that we should have done years ago. Investment in grain storage was a very good decision logistically.
Have you made a decision on the farm that you regret?
We gave up some rented land probably 12 years ago that we thought was too far away. We never should have given up that land. Twelve years ago we thought we’d find something closer to home, but we never did, and we’re still looking for land.
What do you anticipate your biggest challenge will be over the next five to 10 years?
It’s got to be finances, dealing with the high costs of everything lately. It seems like equipment costs, fuel costs, parts costs are all going up, and it can be challenging trying to pencil everything out at the end of the day. The margin is so thin already and it seems it is only getting thinner.
What do you think your biggest opportunity will be over the next five to 10 years?
I think our biggest opportunity is in the crops we grow. We grow a lot of different crops and work with the end users as much as possible to get more value out of them. We grow soft white wheat here and send it directly to a flour mill in Armstrong, B.C., so the trucking is included and it’s picked up at the yard. We seem to make more money off it that way, and we don’t have to deal with rail cars. We do that with some CPS wheat as well. We’re getting a protein processing plant here in Alberta, so there could be a similar opportunity there with pulses in the future.
What do you like to do for fun or to relax?
We have two kids, Jayden (5) and Jemma (3). We camp for two weeks in the summer. During the winter we’re into hockey — Jayden plays hockey and Jemma is in dance. We volunteer on lots of boards. There’s not much time to relax so we make the most of it!