Chad and Darlene Krikau have built business partnerships to build their Saskatchewan grain and oilseed farm
Establishing business partnerships with other farmers has been an important element for Chad and Darlene Krikau over the past seven years as they have built their central Saskatchewan grain and oilseed farm.
While it is nice to own everything yourself, the reality is that farm economics don’t always support the notion of owning every acre or every piece of equipment from Day 1.
“As farmers we tend to have this independent streak,” says Krikau who along with his wife and family operate Stream Stick Farms at Waldheim, just north of Saskatoon. “And personally I prefer to own too, but it has to make economic sense. You look at the numbers and farm cash flow and you have to look at your options to make the business viable and sustainable.”
The Krikaus were earlier this year named Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2013.
Born and raised on family farm in the Waldheim area, Krikau began his own farming operation in 1995. He first rented 110 acres from his father to get things started and has gradually expanded with mostly rented land. Today they crop about 2,600 acres of canola and wheat, with some barley and oats depending on the markets, and soybeans are beginning to creep into the rotation.
Look at the options
But with rented farmland and limited equipment Krikau looked at his options without taking on considerable debt.
“One of the most important steps in our farm business was developing a partnership with a farm neighbour who use to be one of my customers when I was a sales agronomist with Wendland Ag,” says Krikau. “He needed some labour and I needed some help with machinery so we decided to work together.”
The relationship has continued and grown for the past six years. Krikau provides labour as needed for his neighbour but has use of equipment for which he pays custom rates. They also work together on sourcing land. Through his relationship with the neighbour, Krikau was able to rent more land and grow his farm business.
Another important development about two years ago, again in a business arrangement with his neighbour and another farmer who was retiring, Krikau was able to buy land and a farmyard.
“We had been farming rented land and living right in Waldheim, but then this opportunity came along with a retiring farmer who had about 4,000 acres and a nice farmstead,” says Krikau. “So the three of us working together were able to come up with a arrangement, where my neighbour was able to buy part of the farm and Darlene and I were able to buy the farmstead and about 480 acres of land.”
The deal also included two important pieces of machinery — a field sprayer and swather — that helped Krikau complete the line of equipment needed to farm.
“I know 2,600 acres isn’t a large operation by today’s standards, but it is a viable operation and we now have a solid line of equipment we can manage ourselves and we don’t have to worry about finding custom work to help us pay for it.”
Developing a business relationship with other farmers to share resources has helped the Krikaus develop a profitable and sustainable farm operation. While he says he hopes to be able to buy more land in the future, the system is working with mostly rented land acquired through three-year and ideally even longer-term leases.
A team effort
It is very much a team effort on Stream Stick Farms as Darlene is actively involved in day to day operations. A teacher by training, she has stayed home from the classroom to raise their two children Liam, six, and Kalna, three. And as time permits, she’s involved with field work as well, for exampling, handling most of the seeding during the 2013 season.
Krikau is also working to improve overall production. While he has been following primarily a cereal/oilseed rotation he is looking for a third crop such as soybeans to add to the mix. “We just had a trial field of soybeans this year,” he says. “It has potential but I think it still needs some improvement in genetics to be better suited to our growing conditions. But I can see soybeans becoming an integral part of our rotation over the next few years. “
While saturated soils haven’t been a major issue, Krikau says he has about 100 acres in total that are prone to hold too much moisture, so he is treating those areas with vertical tillage equipment in hopes of breaking up any hard pan layers to improve water infiltration.
Continuing to grow the farm business through more business arrangements is the plan ahead for the Krikaus over the next few years.
“Our main objective is to keep the farm solvent and profitable, but reality is that you can’t stand still,” says Krikau. “We need to grow the business and right now we are looking at some other joint ventures that will hopefully allow us to farm more acres and improve our efficiency. Sometimes we can get hung up on our independent thinking, but if we don’t look at some joint venture projects, we could miss out on some real opportunities.” †
THE NOMINEES, 2013
British Columbia: Troy and Sara Harker
Alberta: Michael Kalisvaart and Karen Jansen
Manitoba: Tyler and Dorelle Fulton
Ontario: Dana and Adam Thatcher
Quebec: Luc Gervais and Kim Brunelle
Atlantic Canada: James and Amanda Kinsman, Nova Scotia