Agriculture | DrumhellerMail
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Last updateWed, 27 Oct 2021 9am
  • BMO & Calgary Stampede honours local farm families

    Together, the Calgary Stampede and BMO Bank of Montreal recognized 19 southern Alberta families on July 10 during the 2017 BMO Farm Family Awards at Stampede Park.

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    Heck Family, Starland County

    On many family farms, succession looms large. Land that's been in the family for generations is sold or rented out because there is no one to take over the reins.

    But for Brian and Kim Heck, the 2017 BMO Farm Family for Starland County, the future in that area is brighter than it was a few years back. Their son Kyle, 21, and daughter Breanna, 19, eachhave an interest in the family traditions of farming and raising cattle.

    "I think we have an up-and-coming farmer on our hands with Kyle. Initially, there wasn't a lot of interest there," Kim says. "But he went to Lethbridge College for the wind turbine course and came home right at seeding. He helped with that, then the harvest. All of a sudden, he's showing a real interest in it."

    And while you might be able to take the girl off the farm - Breanna is studying to be a paramedic at NAIT - you can't take the farm out of the girl: this spring she bought some heifers of her own to calve. The Heck kids were raised on the family's 5,000-acre farm. Forty-one hundred acres are seeded with wheat, canola,barley and peas. Another 200 acres are dedicated to hay, with the remainder pasture for 60 cow-calf pairs. Brian's great -grandfather homesteaded by Sunnynook (93kilometres north of Brooks) in the 1910s. His father lived there until 1969 when the family moved to their present location outside of Delia, 45 km northeast of Drumheller. In 1990, Brian bought his own operation and worked it alongside his father, Leonard, until 2010, when Brian took over the entire operation.

    "Dad has been a very big help. If it wasn't for my father being involved with this, we wouldn't have what we have," he says. And while there's a connection to the good old days of farming, Brian is more than happy to utilize the latest developments in agriculture and technology if they help get the job done.

    "We've farmed the same amount of acres without it and the same amount of acres with it. It is way easier with the technology. It seems to create a lot less stress in my life. The technology has literally eased my mind," Brian says.

    Although advancements now include a driverless tractor, Brian thinks there will always be a place for the family on the family farm, especially in large grain operations.

    "You're going to need someone out there to manage the piece of equipment. Heck, I'm in the tractor and I can get it stuck, no problem."

    The family has been involved with the Delia 4-H Beef Club over the years, with both Brian and Kim, a substitute teacher, serving as leaders. Brian, a longtime member of Delia's volunteer fire department, is its deputychief, and sits on the village's seed plant board. He's also on the Ag Services Board for Starland County. And Kim is on the Kidsport Delia committee, which ensures financial considerations don't keep local children from participating in organized sports.

    "Taking part in things in the community ensures we have a community," Kim says.

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    The Kaiser family, Wheatland County

    When you find something great, you want to share it.

    Randy and Wendy Kaiser call the Duck Lake area near the Village of Hussar home and they're dedicated to keeping their community going.

    "This is a wonderful community. We are trying to get the young kids to move back here. We have a brand-new arena and a brand-new hall," Wendy says of Hussar, located about 90kilometres east of Calgary.

    "It's a vibrant community. A lot of the next generation of farmers are coming back. We want to keep it alive, so we've got lots of sports like baseball and curling, and fine arts as well."

    The Kaisers first came to the area in the 1940s when George Kaiser bought the land the family lives on today. His son Herb served in the Army Reserve and joined the RCMP after the war. He returned to the farm in 1948, where he and his wife, Mary, raised their five children. Their son Randy met Wendy in high school, and the couple bought additional land in 1979. That's where they raised their three children - Cole. Lacy and Brady. When Herb passed away in 2003, the couple moved to the original family farm.

    The 2017 BMO Farm Family for Wheatland County now runs a 2,200-acre mixed farm on two parcels, and they rent two pastures for their purebred Charolais herd. This year, they'recalving 160 cows bred to their bulls. The Kaisers currently raise bulls for their own use, but from the 1980s through the late '90s, they also showed and sold them everywhere from the Calgary Stampede to the Regina Agribition.

    "We just loved the people. the showing, the competing," Wendy says.

    One year, they drove from Houston to Jackson, Miss. to show their bull

    Submitted

    The Drumheller Mail

    Together, the Calgary Stampede and BMO Bank of Montreal recognized 19 southern Alberta families on July 10 during the 2017 BMO Farm Family Awards at Stampede Park.

    Heck Family, Starland County

    On many family farms, succession looms large. Land that's been in the family for generations is sold or rented out because there is no one to take over the reins.

    But for Brian and Kim Heck, the 2017 BMO Farm Family for Starland County, the future in that area is brighter than it was a few years back. Their son Kyle, 21, and daughter Breanna, 19, eachhave an interest in the family traditions of farming and raising cattle.

    "I think we have an up-and-coming farmer on our hands with Kyle. Initially, there wasn't a lot of interest there," Kim says. "But he went to Lethbridge College for the wind turbine course and came home right at seeding. He helped with that, then the harvest. All of a sudden, he's showing a real interest in it."

    And while you might be able to take the girl off the farm - Breanna is studying to be a paramedic at NAIT - you can't take the farm out of the girl: this spring she bought some heifers of her own to calve. The Heck kids were raised on the family's 5,000-acre farm. Forty-one hundred acres are seeded with wheat, canola,barley and peas. Another 200 acres are dedicated to hay, with the remainder pasture for 60 cow-calf pairs. Brian's great -grandfather homesteaded by Sunnynook (93kilometres north of Brooks) in the 1910s. His father lived there until 1969 when the family moved to their present location outside of Delia, 45 km northeast of Drumheller. In 1990, Brian bought his own operation and worked it alongside his father, Leonard, until 2010, when Brian took over the entire operation.

    "Dad has been a very big help. If it wasn't for my father being involved with this, we wouldn't have what we have," he says. And while there's a connection to the good old days of farming, Brian is more than happy to utilize the latest developments in agriculture and technology if they help get the job done.

    "We've farmed the same amount of acres without it and the same amount of acres with it. It is way easier with the technology. It seems to create a lot less stress in my life. The technology has literally eased my mind," Brian says.

    Although advancements now include a driverless tractor, Brian thinks there will always be a place for the family on the family farm, especially in large grain operations.

    "You're going to need someone out there to manage the piece of equipment. Heck, I'm in the tractor and I can get it stuck, no problem."

    The family has been involved with the Delia 4-H Beef Club over the years, with both Brian and Kim, a substitute teacher, serving as leaders. Brian, a longtime member of Delia's volunteer fire department, is its deputychief, and sits on the village's seed plant board. He's also on the Ag Services Board for Starland County. And Kim is on the Kidsport Delia committee, which ensures financial considerations don't keep local children from participating in organized sports.

    "Taking part in things in the community ensures we have a community," Kim says.

    The Kaiser family, Wheatland County

    When you find something great, you want to share it.

    Randy and Wendy Kaiser call the Duck Lake area near the Village of Hussar home and they're dedicated to keeping their community going.

    "This is a wonderful community. We are trying to get the young kids to move back here. We have a brand-new arena and a brand-new hall," Wendy says of Hussar, located about 90kilometres east of Calgary.

    "It's a vibrant community. A lot of the next generation of farmers are coming back. We want to keep it alive, so we've got lots of sports like baseball and curling, and fine arts as well."

    The Kaisers first came to the area in the 1940s when George Kaiser bought the land the family lives on today. His son Herb served in the Army Reserve and joined the RCMP after the war. He returned to the farm in 1948, where he and his wife, Mary, raised their five children. Their son Randy met Wendy in high school, and the couple bought additional land in 1979. That's where they raised their three children - Cole. Lacy and Brady. When Herb passed away in 2003, the couple moved to the original family farm.

    The 2017 BMO Farm Family for Wheatland County now runs a 2,200-acre mixed farm on two parcels, and they rent two pastures for their purebred Charolais herd. This year, they'recalving 160 cows bred to their bulls. The Kaisers currently raise bulls for their own use, but from the 1980s through the late '90s, they also showed and sold them everywhere from the Calgary Stampede to the Regina Agribition.

    "We just loved the people. the showing, the competing," Wendy says.

    One year, they drove from Houston to Jackson, Miss. to show their bull Smoky Joe at the U.S. National Charolais Show.

    "It was so much fun to see the different countryside, to see the Brahmas in the fields. The event was a lot of fun. We placed second to that bull that went with us to all the shows."

    Community involvement is a constant for the Kaisers. Randy's chaired many boards, including the Alberta Charolais Association and the Alberta Cattle Breeders. He currently chairs the Hussar Fire Association. He's also a past board member of the Alberta Cattle Commission, VIDO Beef Tech, Waters of Wheatland and the Hussar Ag Society, among others. Wendy has shared her bookkeeping talents as a board memberwith the Hussar Curling Club, Hussar Skating Club, Home and School Association and Hussar Crisis Society, to name a few. She's currently casino coordinator for the Ag Society and Curling Clubs, secretary of the Hussar Hall Board and a director with Rosebud Gas Co-op. They've both coached local sports teams as well.

    Randy and Wendy are past 4-H leaders, and the three younger Kaisers have served as public speaking judges and put on clinics.

    Also, Cole is coaching hockey, serving as President of the Lions Club and volunteering in Hussar. He's bought a house in thevillage, but commutes to Calgary for work. Lacy is co-owner of a barbershop in Calgary and Brady is studying to be an electrician. All three help during crunch time on thefarm, and the hope is that they will continue the family traditions of farming and community service.

    "I always say, 'A bored person is a lazy person, and vice-versa...” Wendy says. ''Around here,it’s always go, go, go."

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    The Dau family, Kneehill County

    As the fourth generation of his family to farm in Kneehill County, Dallas Dau has a deep connection to the land around Three Hills. He knows the true meaning of words like legacy,stewardship and heritage.

    He's also a realist when it comes to ensuring the survival of those terms when it comes to Dau Farms Ltd.

    "The lifestyle aspect is a big part of the family farm, but at the end of the day, it's a business. And we have to make sure it runs like one," Dallassays .. "It's a really important part of the proper stewardship of what we have here."

    Keeping abreast of developments on the agricultural landscape is key for the Daus, recipients of the 2017 BMO Farm Family of the Year for Kneehill County. Dallas credits courses such as the Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management (CTEAM) Program as a way to protect the family legacy. The program teaches business management, from succession planning to key performance indicator measurement and risk mitigation.

    Dallas and his wife, Lisa oversee Dau Farms Ltd. with the help of his parents, Bill and Pat Dau, who managed the operation before them. Children Anna, 12, and Luke, eight, are getting to the age where they can safely help with age appropriate tasks. Pat is chief financial officer ("Like every good farm mom," Dallas points out) and primary combined operator, while Bill is quite involved in the operation, mainly running the equipment.

    The family historyin the area began when George and Bertha Dau moved to Three Hills from Idaho in 1914, accompanied by their sons Don and Ray. Ray married Margaret Meston and then farmed with two of his sons, Bob and Bill, forming Dau Farms Ltd. When Bob died in the mid' 80s, Bill and Pat took over the operation. Dallas and Lisa came aboard in the early 2000s. Dallas was fortunate enough to work alongside his grandfather, who came to the untouched land as a child and lived to see a fifth generation on the farm.

    "The neatest thingwith him was that he went from breaking the land to seeing itfarmed with all the modern machinery. He could never get over how much could be done with the new technology and how it affected production," explains Dallas.

    Today, Dau Farms Ltd. seeds 5,100 acres with canola, barley, wheat,peas and flax, with another 600 acres in custom farming and about 1,700 acresin pasture for the 300-head cow/calf operation. The farm has used minimal tillage since 2003, GPS and auto -steer since 2005, and variable rate fertilizer since 2007. Swath grazing of cattle was implemented in 2004 and they've recently added swath grazing corn. The farm is two miles down the road from the homestead, which is run by Dallas's cousins.

    The Daus are proud to take their place in the community through their involvement with Three Hills/Ghost Pine 4-H Club (Anna has a lamb this year, while Luke gets a backup animal), Three Hills Cruise Nite, the Christmas Food Hamper Program and various community events in the Ghost Pine area of Kneehill County.

    "We are temporary stewards of it all. We need to leave it in better shape for the next generation who come along," Dallas says of the land and the community in which he and his family live.

  • Farmers get jump on growing season

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    (mailphotos by Terri Huxley)

    For most farmers, the crops are in and it is looking like a great start of the year.

    The Mail checked in with local Agricultural Service Boards and so far, they like what they are seeing.

    “The growing season up to this point has been pretty nice, the crops have germinated evenly and the amount of material there is pretty impressive,” said Starland Ag Fieldman Al Hampton. “In general terms, at least in Starland County, a pretty good crop is on its way. East of Highway 56 is a little further advanced and maybe a little better crop at this point, but in general terms everyone is pretty happy.

    He adds that it looks like there is going to be a good yield on hay.

    Kneehill County Assistant Ag Fieldman Fallon Sherlock says it looks like crops are progressing well in her area, although some were still dealing with last fall’s struggles.”

       “From everything I have seen, everybody got their seeding in, it was a little bit of a late start as a few still had crops in the field and had to deal with the excess litter because they didn’t get to bale, or crops were too heavily lodged to actually take off,” she said.  

    “But as far as everyone I talked to, they had a fairly good seeding and pretty much everyone is done spraying. The wind and the rain did delay spraying a bit.

     

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    She said the next challenge would be haying.

       “Whether or not we can start taking that hay crop off and hopefully getting that first cut, getting it to dry and not having the winds interfere,” she said.

    According to the Alberta Crop report, so far, in the central region, 80.7 per cent of crops are being reported as in good or excellent condition, and 70.2 per cent of surface soil moisture is rated at good or excellent.

    Hampton said there are always concerns.

    “One thing I have heard that with the amount of canopy with the crops, guys are a little concerned about it getting too dry in a hurry because we have gone through a lot of water. That is a concern, but I don’t think anything is under threat at this point,” said Hampton.

    He adds the humidity could also be concern sing as it could lead to hailstorms.

    “Most crops are about as lush and thick as I have seen them, so far so good, but we have a long way to go obviously,” said Hampton.

     

  • Michichi boardwalk project approved

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    As a new way to engage people into real-time educational experiences, the Michichi boardwalk has now been approved.
        The three phase project is set to begin in late fall with construction of the boardwalk to be closely monitored as not to disrupt too much of the surrounding environment.
        “We’re going to have a bit of frost in the ground and that’s going to help a lot with the equipment going in and making ruts and stuff like that,” said Starland County Agricultural Fieldman Dara Kudras.
        “There will be some damage but that is the price we have to pay to get this boardwalk in there.”
        They have hired a company that has smaller equipment to cause a tinier carbon footprint.
        “What we are aiming for is minimal disturbance just because it is a sensitive area,” said Kudras.
        The project has three phases to smoothly add the boardwalk into the region as well as create a healthy riparian monitoring program and pond leveller.
        The beaver dam which is built every year, is located where the spillway is. By springtime, the water level becomes too high causing the dam to break and the water to drain.
        “If the beavers weren’t there building that dam, then all the water goes out and there is no habitat area,” said Kudras.
        A pond leveLler is a large plastic tube that is put through the middle of the dam where a cage is placed on one end of the tube.
        “It’s so the water can go through and the dam won’t blow out and the beavers won’t have to build so high either,” said Kudras. “It will allow water to go through without wrecking the dam.”
        Instinctively, if the dam does happen to break, beavers will find trees to repair and rebuild. Instead of allowing them to take out new trees in the area, Kudras and her team have been gathering other already fallen branches or vegetation for the beavers to use.
        “That’s part of the coexistence part of it that we want to be able to grow trees there and keep beavers happy at the same time,” said Kudras.
        $12,000 of the grant is going towards signage along the boardwalk to help explain the usage of the pond leveller and other interesting facts about the riparian area and what it has to offer. Different types of birds and other animals will be on the signs as well.

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        Of the total budget, the largest cost of $80,000 will be going towards the actual construction of the boardwalk.
        A 20-foot by 16-foot viewing deck area with seating and a gazebo close to the dam will be a special addition to the boardwalk with the possibility of up to two bridges depending on the budget.
        “If local craftsman or local schools want to come and a have like a wetland field day and learn about the ecosystem in the area and stuff like that, then they can come out and use that,” said Kudras. “We’re just trying to make it really accessible for everybody.”
        Starland County is putting $32,000 forward as the lead administrator and will be partnering up with the current landowner of the area as well as Cows & Fish and the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.
        After the project is finished, an established riparian monitoring program will be put in place, a pond leveller will be constructed and implemented, and the half kilometer long boardwalk will be complete.
        A grand opening is expected to happen shortly after everything is in place.
        Kudras plans to increase awareness and get help from local farmers to build up drought and flood resilience.
        “This project is a cornerstone going into the future with the rest of the watershed resilience restoration program,” said Kurdas.

  • Quinn Nelson named East Central ambassador at 4-H annual Selections program.

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    Featured far right in the back row is Quinn Nelson of Morrin, Alta. Also shown from l-r: Back row: Dawson Pahl, Odessa Kopp, Kelsey Haggerty, Wylie Pietsch, Heather Taylor, Jamie Kuzma. Front row: Sarah Tkach, Nicole Kraus, Haley Dechaine, Makayla Chamzuk, Emmett Sawyer, Jaycee Reimer, and Alyssa Henderson.

    Quinn Nelson of the Morrin Multi 4-H Club was named one of two East Central ambassadors on May 8, 2017 in Olds at 4-H selections.

    Nelson was also selected for the Premier’s Award (PA) group during the four-day event. To become a PA group member, means the recipient has the possibility of winning the most prestigious award 4-H has to offer; the Premier's Award.

     

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    This year, Alyssa Henderson of Bashaw, Alta., was the PA recipient.

    4-H is an internationally recognized youth agriculture program with multiple different aspects like events, projects, meetings, camps, and exchanges.

    Selections is one of the many highlights in a senior members 4-H career. This event determines who has the ability, commitment, and positive personality that embodies the 4-H spirit to continue to represent the worldwide program.

    This years theme was ‘Marketing Me’ where small groups focused on cover letters, resumes and business skills for when they are out of the house.

    “It’s a great opportunity – really beneficial for those who attend,” said Horner.

    An ambassadorship consists of two years of planning and attending events, being available for questions, and provide a positive outlook while simultaneously representing the 4-H world.

    “We always have a good set of ambassadors – they always do a good job,” said Horner.

    As well as ambassadorship, members are eligible to win national and North American trips based on their attendance, evaluations, quiz, and diary points.

    In order to win, Selections has a process where members are divided into small groups and evaluated by peers and supervisors. Games and leadership activities are apart of the camp and also team building exercises, presentations, and resume evaluations.

    “Their recognized for their leadership, communications, and development skills so that is what they have to be in order to be a successful ambassador,” said 4-H communications specialist Cameron Horner.

    On the Monday morning, the trips, ambassadorships, Premier Award (PA) group, and PA recipient are announced during a special breakfast with agricultural dignitaries.

    In addition to ambassadorship, Nelson will be embarking on the Northwest Territories agriculture and development tour alongside 22 other 4-H members this summer from July 20 to July 30. Gleichen local Jourdyn Sammons will also be on the trip as one of those 22 members.

  • Starland County hosts grazing school

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    Spots are filling up fast for the 14th annual Southern Alberta Grazing School for Women held by Starland County.
    After ten years of being on the Southern Alberta Grazing School for women committee, Starland County is able to host the event for another year, running from July 25 to 26.
    “It rotates throughout southern Alberta,” said Dara Kudras, Assistant Agriculture Fieldman of Starland County.
    Starland has hosted twice before with both successful attendance rates.
    “It usually always sells out,” said Kudras. “We take 45 registrants and then 5 industry people.”
    On the first day, the school focuses onrange and riparian health, weeds, grazing principles and water systems for cattle and pastures as well as plant identification.
    “We do a plant ID quiz out in the field as well,” said Kudras.
    To finish up the day, the Last Chance Saloon out in Wayne hosts a supper for the large group.
    For the second and final day, the morning consists of classroom style learning of riparian health assessments and the role of beavers and other important contributors to the ecosystem.
    Ranching women will also be coming in to speak about their own operations like Jesse Williams from Special Areas.
    Tamara Quashnick with Steadfast Veterinary Services will give a speech on post-calving care. “She is a really good speaker,” said Kudras.
    In addition to the morning classes, a talk on verified beef and social license will be presented from a Canadian Beef round table member.
    After that, everyone hops onto a well-maintained bus for a field trip up to Primrose Farms located south of Big Valley. A tour of the robotic dairy and mixed farm operation will be the highlight of the trip.
    “Cremona Primrose is one of our ranching women so she is going to talk a minute about her story,” said Kudras. “She’s got pigs and chickens and all kinds of things.”
    After visiting Primrose’s, the group will travel to Calvin Raessler’s ‘Top Grass Beef’ farm where the range health assessment and plant identification quiz will take place.
    “It’s just a really nice setting, it’s right below the Hand Hills and I think it’s a little bit different for the people that come from down south,” said Kudras.
    Kudras is beyond excited to share her love of the land through education and experiences.
    “It’s going to be a jam packed two days – I’m just excited to showcase Starland County and show what we have to offer.”

    To sign up for the event, click the link here.

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