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 Chris Chapple, his wife Lora and their four children.
Where do you farm?
“We farm with my parents, Floyd and Debbie Chapple, in west-central Saskatchewan, west of Saskatoon.”
Chris and Lora have four children: Tara, 20; Josh 17; Carrie 13; and Cole 11. Tara enjoys cooking for the family and Josh has applied to study farm machinery mechanics at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon. All the children are involved in sports and extra curricular activities. Lora is a registered nurse at the Royal University Hospital.
What crops do you grow?
“We crop 8,500 acres in peas, lentils, wheat, canola and faba beans.
How long have you been farming?
“I grew up on the family farm and was involved in farming from a young age. When I graduated from high school I took farm machinery mechanics at Saskatchewan Polytechnic (formerly SIAST). I worked at Redhead Equipment for 10 years, then at Agrium Potash mine for 10 years. I was involved in the farm at the same time, but in 2011 I quit my job and went into farming full time. ”
Lora grew up in Saskatoon, but her father ran a farm near Eston, Sask.
What’s your favourite farming season?
“Harvest is my favourite season because you see the results of your work. We have a large crew helping during harvest. Spring is more hectic because of the narrow window of time involved in seeding.”
“Everyone pitches in,” adds Lora. “Josh runs the combine. Tara loves making the meals and the others help where they can.”
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
“Our large high-clearance sprayer is getting to be one of the busiest implements that we own, besides the four-wheel drive that pulls the drill and harrows. Spraying is pretty much number one.”
You could have done anything. Why did you decide to farm?
“Some days I wonder that,” Chris says with a chuckle. “It can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding. Besides being my own boss, one of the most valuable aspects of farming is the opportunity it provides for our children. It’s a way of working with them, teaching them. Ours is a fourth-generation farm, so it’s great to be able to carry that on.”
Tell me about a good decision you made on the farm.
Chris says purchasing additional land about 10 years ago before prices went up was a wise decision.
“Also, the last couple of years, we’ve hired an agronomy service. That’s been invaluable. We don’t have time to monitor the crops, do all the scouting for disease and insects, choosing the right chemicals and getting the timing right. There is a cost to hiring someone to do this, but the return is worth it. We’re also working with a marketing service. We check in with them every month and work on a marketing plan — using the tools in the market allows us to capture better prices.”
A decision you regret making on the farm?
“Not being able to come back to the farm sooner. Trying to work two jobs was a struggle. Once you were farming full time, we were able to grow the farm more,” says Lora.
“I missed a lot of time with the two older children during those years,” adds Chris.
What opportunities do you see ahead in the next five to 10 years?
“The biggest thing I see is the technology explosion. We were at the Crop Production Show recently. There’s a great deal of talk about autonomous equipment coming in the future. When I started farming 20 years ago machinery was still quite basic. Now we have innovations like variable rate prescriptions for seeding and spraying. You write a prescription based on your yield maps, moisture maps, vegetation maps, elevations and soil sampling and with that information, the seeders will vary the seed rate and the fertilizer rate in different zones.”
What challenges do you see ahead in the next five to 10 years?
“One of my biggest concerns has to do with government policies such as the carbon tax. We’re already reducing our carbon footprint by doing zero till. There is no alternative fuel source for us. It’s going to take this many gallons to do the job and there’s no way to minimize that. As farmers we don’t have a way of passing down that additional cost to someone else. We have also been staying current with emission technology by purchasing new equipment. This presents itself with new challenges also with running DEF fluid,” says Chris.
Lora adds another challenge for them right now is transitioning the farm from generation to generation and getting the skilled labour necessary to help during this transition phase. “Chris’ dad wants to transition out, but our children aren’t quite ready to transition in.”
What do you like to do for fun?
“Boating, fishing, going to the lake, snowmobiling, restoring cars. I have an old muscle car I’ve owned since I was 15,” says Chris.
“I run with the kids,” Lora says. “In the summer I spend time in the yard with the garden and the flowers. The children help with planting and weeding.”