Challenge the Status Quo|
We are fourth generation farmers. Our farm is built on time honoured traditions like how we raise our animals and run our family farm. But our tradition also includes challenging the status quo.
Kevin’s Great Grandfather, Jacob Boldt, along with his wife and 18 children, immigrated to Canada in 1901 and settled on this land where we farm today, within the Treaty Six boundaries.
He was an established farmer from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, but with so many kids, he needed to expand the farm to provide for his family. He knew his childrens’ future was precarious because there was no more farm land to buy.
So he packed up the family, loaded the cows, and headed north on the train, into the unknown, unbroken prairie. He risked something big for something good. He and his wife, Susanna, and 18 children, arrived here on September 4th, 1901. They quickly built a shanty and hunkered down to survive winter.
Conventional wisdom would have said he was crazy. Why leave the familiar? But he thought differently. As the years passed, the farm grew, and he was able to provide his sons with land to farm and his daughters with houses in town.
My Grandpa Toews farmed near Waldeck, Saskatchewan, south of Swift Current. He always believed in the “power of possibility”. He was one of the early adopters of continuous cropping. That is, conventional farming wisdom said a farmer should grow wheat one year, and summerfallow (cultivate) the land the next year to rest the land and control weeds. However, the dust bowl of the Dirty 30’s taught him a harsh lesson.
Grandpa Toews saw, through trial and error, that continuous cropping, with minimum cultivation, not only reduced erosion, but also increased soil fertility and farm earnings. His neighbors thought he was crazy but he knew he was on to something.
Following our forbearers footsteps, we too had to challenge the status quo in order to make our farm successful and provide for our family.
Roy H. Williams says that “traditional wisdom is often more tradition than wisdom”.
When we started out, land in this area was too expensive for us to increase our acreage and provide for both our living and Kevin’s parents retirement, so we had to look for innovative ways to earn income. Hence, we ended up purchasing this farm equipped with small poultry barns and a butcher shop. We had never raised and butchered chickens on any scale before, but hey, how hard could it be? If only we knew then what we know now — but then again, we might never have done it!
Drought , grasshoppers, and low, low grain prices in our early farming years (1998-2002) showed us there was just as much risk in staying the same as in making the change. Mortgaged up to our eyeballs, our risk outweighed potential returns. It was change or die. We chose change — transforming our farm from a conventional grain farm to a value-added poultry and livestock production, processing and marketing operation. Our farm now serves a local market and is less at the whim of weather, exchange rates and global forces beyond our control.
Conventional farming wisdom discourages letting chickens run outside, lest they get exposed to disease. But in our experience, chickens are healthier and develop better immunity when they run outdoors.
Conventional wisdom says that consumers just want the cheapest food they can find (and some do), but our experience tells us that there is a portion of the population who crave provenance and flavor in their food! And if you serve them well, they will support you.
We’re following in our family’s tradition of non-traditional farmers. Who knows where the power of possibility will lead the next generation?
By the way, you are welcome at our farm any time for a visit and to have a look around – or peek in the window at pineviewfarms.com.