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 Julie and Karl Gabriel. They have three children: Michael, seven; Roseann, six; and Lukas, four.
Where do you farm?
Wroxton, Saskatchewan, a half hour east of Yorkton.
What do you grow?
Canola, wheat and barley and hay.
How long have you been farming?
Together we farmed for seven years in Switzerland on a dairy farm lease, and now eight years here in Wroxton. We went into beef farming when we came to Canada in 2010, and in 2015 we switched over to grain. Cattle prices were good — it was the time to sell.
Who do you farm with?
Karl farms with Julie. Julie farms with Karl.
Why did you choose farming?
I, Karl grew up on a farm, it was always my wish to farm. It’s all I’ve done my whole life. I still like it, but the risk is getting higher and the pressure is too. It’s not romantic anymore, it’s pure business. You have to think business. I think our parents had it better — they had more physical work but less financial pressure.
What farming season do you enjoy most?
The fall with the harvest. Canada has such a beautiful fall. It’s great to be out there.
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
Our track hoe. I like to improve the land and that’s what we’ve been doing since we came here. We have a lot of small bluffs and rock piles. Last year we used the track hoe to build the shop.
What good decision have you made that turned out well?
Selling the beef herd. I’m more of a cattle farmer, but that gave us a jump start into grain farming. We were able to buy low and sell high. That’s always how we stayed ahead of the game. In Switzerland too: I started farming in 2003 on my own. That was a bad year to get started, but prices were low too. In 2010 we sold on the high-price market. That was kind of the way it worked out. There’s an element of chance, but also of seeing the opportunity.
Have you made a decision on the farm that you regret?
I can’t say we’ve made really bad mistakes. But recently I bought a 4-WD tractor. Lots of headache came with it. If I could do it over again I wouldn’t buy that one.
What do you see as the biggest challenge over the next five to 10 years?
Keeping up with the technology and working with it on our farm. It’s getting to the point where technology is almost not affordable for a family farm. A guy can’t keep up — you have to purchase used equipment, and that doesn’t have all the latest technology. You can’t get around some things — for example, that AdBlue (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), you have to have it. It doesn’t bring us anything, it only costs.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity over the next five to 10 years?
Our biggest opportunity is the land improvements we’re doing. The world doesn’t produce more land. For grain farmers, I also think that the new market in substitute meat products will be a great opportunity, especially for pulse growers. I think that’s going to be a huge market in the future. There’s a plant being built here in Saskatchewan for those products.
What do you like to do for fun or to relax?
Karl: I still have 20 cows, I need something to do in the winter (he laughs). To watch the cattle feeding, that’s relaxing for me.
Julie: To go to the restaurant for a good meal is also relaxing. The kids really enjoy joining us to go fencing with the quad. It’s kind of fun, and also work — mixing business with pleasure. They are still young enough to think that checking the crops with Dad is great fun!