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, Prairie farmers are more alike than different.
This is the story of Calvin and Andrea Kotylak. They farm southeast of Regina, Sask. with their children Nate, age nine; Jonathan, seven; and Christopher, two.
Where do you farm?
“Our farm is located three kilometres south of Kendal, Sask., which is 77 km southeast of Regina.”
What do you grow?
“We raise commercial cattle and we also grow some cereal crops and oil seeds. Our crops typically consist of oats, barley, durum and canola.”
How long have you been farming?
“It’s a bit of a long story since both Andrea and I grew up on farms and have been involved with our family farms throughout our lives. We each moved to Regina at separate times — I was employed as a sheet metal worker and Andrea went to university. We became a couple, were married and worked in the city for many years, before deciding to move back to my family’s farm while continuing to commute to our jobs in the Regina.”
“Calvin commuted into work and farmed at the same time for almost six years,” said Andrea. “I was working as a habitat stewardship co-ordinator for five years in Regina before giving that up and moving back to the farm to start a family.”
“In 2012, we made the jump to full-time farming,” Calvin said. “I gave up the commuting and Andrea started a job as a financial consultant at the Plainsview Credit Union in Montmartre, Sask. At that time we went from 30 cows to 250 cows in one month and we took on more grain land. That big move allowed our family to be in one place and have both a family life and a life in our community.”
Who do you farm with?
“I have a partnership with my dad on the grain side so he’s out here helping at seeding and harvest. We used to have joint ownership in the cattle as well, but once I quit my city job, I took over the cattle operation and have been running it 100 per cent on my own with Andrea.”
Why did you choose farming?
“I chose him and he chose farming,” laughed Andrea, explaining that she always told her family she would never be a farmer. But when she started dating Calvin, she knew his heart was in farming.
“I like the freedom of it and the fact that you can do what you want when you want and you are your own boss,” said Calvin. “It’s a good way of life. After living in the city where you don’t really know your neighbours or have any sense of community I knew I wanted to move back to a small town where I was a part of the community and people around us were always looking out for me and my family.”
“I value the quality of life it offers us and the fact that we can raise our children on the farm,” said Andrea. “Having grown up on a farm, that lifestyle is ingrained in us and it’s what we enjoy doing whether it’s watching the harvest come off or calves being born.”
What farming season do you enjoy most?
“I personally like the winter,” Calvin said. “Even though it’s cold and sometimes difficult to get out to do chores, it’s more of a relaxing time of year and the stress level is lower than it can be during calving and harvest.”
“I enjoy the spring because of all the new life, especially with all of our animals and the baby goats, pigs, chicks and calves,” said Andrea.
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
“My wife,” laughed Calvin, explaining that with three young children, a wide assortment of pets and an active community life, it takes a team to make everything work.
“My tractor is probably my most-used implement. It’s a John Deere 7230 and I use it for pretty much everything from feeding cows to bailing to spraying.”
What decision have you made that turned out well?
“The decision to expand from 30 cows to 250 cows in 2012 turned out really well for us. The timing was good. The first year was scary because prices were not that great but the year after they started coming up so that made up for it. During that first year, I was questioning our decision and thinking that maybe we might be going back to work in Regina but after we made it through that time, it’s been good since. It’s allowed us to have more time with our kids — that’s the biggest thing.
“Moving to the farm was a very good decision for us as it has allowed us to be involved in our community. I’m a Lions member and Andrea is a First Responder and she is on a number of boards and helps out with lots of events and kids activities. By moving back home, we were able to teach our kids that you can repay what was given to us all those years that we were growing up here and had things like sports and activities available to us.”
Have you made a decision on the farm that you regret?
“Sometimes we regret not jumping in earlier and buying more land when it was cheaper. But at the time of lower land prices, we weren’t ready to make that move. It was hard enough to pay for the land we had already purchased. But looking back, it’s not a bad thing because the size of our farm right now is good for us because it still allows for lots of family time and involvement in our community. If we had gotten much bigger, it would have cut into our family time.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge over the next five to 10 years?
“The biggest challenge will be if and how we can bring our children into farming. That’s all our two older boys talk about. When that time comes, we want to take the approach our parents did: you have to go to school or get away from home for a while to make sure that farming is what you really want to do. We had a chance to experience life away from the farm and we want our kids to do that too because there’s a lot out there they don’t even know about yet.”
What do you see as the biggest opportunity over the next five to 10 years?
“In our area, I think it might be the opportunity to rent more land if you wanted to. For us, we would have to decide if that’s what we wanted and it would have to come down to timing.”
What do you like to do for fun or to relax?
“Today we’re going to the waterslides in Regina with family, so that’s something our farming lifestyle has allowed us to do,” Calvin says.
“I have a poker group of area farmers. We get together once a week for a night out at each other’s houses and we’ve been doing it for about eight to 10 years now. It’s not about the money, it’s more about seeing if you can bluff your neighbour.”
Andrea is an avid crafter, building barn board signs and woodwork wall hangings. “The boys are into 4-H beef club — they really like to do that. And now that they’re getting older, they love swimming, fishing, skating and tobogganing too.”
“A lot of our fun revolves around the kids and the farm. This summer we turned our backyard into a slip and slide area one afternoon and even the adults and grandparents got into it. We were supposed to be combining that day but nobody worried about it, we just enjoyed that Sunday off and spent all afternoon in the back yard with the sprinkler on.”