When Ebony and Jeff Prosko learned their banker had nominated them for regional honors as Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers, they were speechless.
“When the guy that lends you money thinks you’re doing a good job that makes us feel that we are on the right path,” says Ebony. Ebony and Jeff are grain producers east of Saskatoon. ” It makes the nomination even more of an honour.”
The Proskos won the provincial competition and are heading to compete for the national title of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers in Edmonton in mid-November.
The couple, who grow grains and oilseeds on about 4,500 acres as part of a larger, family-owned farming unit of 15,000 acres at Rose Valley, are always on the lookout for opportunities to expand and diversify the farm.
“We look for opportunities to bring things to our area, to our farm and to our family that are going to help us succeed,” says Jeff. “Challenges can be opportunities too if you look at them the right way. Although a late harvest might be a problem for us, it’s also an opportunity to go custom harvesting and use your equipment a little bit more efficiently. We believe there’s opportunity in everything and our driving force is to seek it out.”
Changes to the family dynamic over the past five years, with Jeff’s siblings, Joel and Giselle coming back to farm full-time, has provided impetus to establish a new farm enterprise. The family started an agricultural retail business called ProSoils in 2013.
“The retail aspect had been a dream of mine for many years, but we didn’t want to take on something we couldn’t commit to properly,” says Jeff, who is president of the company. “When the siblings came back into the farm business we felt we could take this on and launch it. Timing was right as we saw changes in the marketplace with major companies decoupling their retail businesses from the grain side, which helped make the plan come together. We see this as exciting time for our farm, our family and our area. We’re really proud to plant the flag here.”
Along with Jeff and Ebony, other family members involved in the farm include Jeff’s parents Rick and Donna as well as his brother Joel (Meghan) and sister Giselle (Reagen).
The farm has eight full-time, year-round employees, but that grows to 20 to 25 employees during the busy season from April to November. The Proksos know how important their staff is to their continued growth and work to make them feel appreciated and respected.
“We have an after-seeding party and an after-harvest party as well as a big Christmas party where we invite all their families,” says Ebony. “We would not be able to do what we do without our employees and we want to show that we appreciate every single one of them.”
The couple also puts great value on their willingness to engage with their peers, make connections and be actively involved in farm groups. They are both involved in the Saskatchewan Young Agricultural Entrepreneurs and a peer group of large, progressive farmers from Canada and the United States.
“Making connections and meeting people through these groups, really helps you grow,” says Jeff. “If you broaden your horizons a little bit and try to learn from other people, you can move ahead a lot faster.”
Being involved in the Outstanding Young Farmer program has been rewarding from that aspect as well. “The OYF Alumni are a bunch of go-getting people and they’ve been extremely supportive for us,” says Ebony. ”It’s like having another family.”
Jeff and Ebony just turned 30 and their siblings are still in their 20s, so the farm is young with plenty of time and energy to grow and expand.
The couple say they’d like to farm a few more acres over the next five to 10 years, continue to grow the customer base for ProSoils and hopefully add an additional outlet at another location.