What could be harder than balancing a business and family? How about three businesses? Managing three kids and three companies might sound daunting to some, but for Dallas Vert and Natasha Pospisil, it’s all in a day’s work.
Armed with diplomas from Olds College, Dallas and Natasha purchased his parents’ grain farm in Kirriemuir, in east-central Alberta, which they built to 11,300 acres and operate as Conquest Agro Service Ltd. That would be enough for many couples to handle, yet it was just the beginning for these go-getters.
“After we married in 2009, we purchased the town’s general store, known as Kurriemuir Ag & Oil,” said Natasha. “It includes a post office, farm parts, hail insurance and land consulting, and it’s a place for people to gather, so we didn’t want to see it go. It’s a way I can contribute without driving into town, and I get lots of help from our three children: Reese (seven), Tegan (four) and Ryker (six months).”
Of course, when you’re juggling two enterprises with your other obligations, there’s only one thing to do: start a third one. In 2011, the pair bought Dryland Agro, an independent chemical, seed and fertilizer retailer. They saw it as a good fit with the grain farm, one that has enabled them to gather knowledge and network while doubling their retail sales.
Though their efforts may sound award-worthy to some, they were still pleasantly surprised by the OYF nomination.
“I was ecstatic,” said Dallas. “I didn’t think we were any different from many young couples trying to make a living in agriculture. To be in the same realm as other like-minded and forward thinking people, while doing what we love, is very satisfying.”
On-farm, Dallas measures progress not by specific projects or milestones, but by incremental improvements.
“With ever-increasing costs for land and equipment, my focus is on doing more with less,” said Dallas. “How can we make the land more productive? What does the soil need to produce five to 10 per cent more? Rather than swinging for the fences, if we can improve eight to 10 smaller things over a year, it has a huge impact on the bottom line.”
For their next enhancement, the pair is looking at clearing more land that is not user-friendly — such as bush — to boost efficiency.
“Equipment is so large today that the time it takes to turn in areas of bush is wasted time,” said Dallas. “If we can clear those spots out and have nice long runs, it will make everything flow better, and saving one to two hours a day really adds up.”
The couple is putting that saved time to good use, addressing the lack of farming knowledge among young people in larger centers.
“We participate in the local Altario school agricultural residency program by having kids from other schools and divisions tour our farm, camp out and really educate themselves about what we do and why,” said Natasha. “There is such a disconnect between rural and urban right now that if children aren’t better informed at an early age, they won’t seek out that knowledge later in life.”
On the home front, there are three children learning those lessons about agriculture on a daily basis and reaping the rewards.
“Our ability to run this business together as a family is priceless,” said Natasha. “How many kids with parents working late can head out to the field and spend quality time as a family? Even when that time is spent labouring, they learn the value of working as a team and see that it takes a lot of moving parts to make something happen.”