This farm has been in my family since 1952. My father was the youngest of three brothers. He was the first to get married, and since they thought their farm couldn't support all three brothers, my dad moved away to start farming on his own. He left behind his inheritance in their family farm for a rather uncertain future as a tenant farmer. He rented some land in the East Manitou area for a couple of years and then took a huge step of faith by purchasing the farm near Baldwinton where we now live.
Over the years my parents built up the farm to include 1600 acres of cropland and pasture. We also ran about 40 head of beef cattle in a cow/calf operation. In the early years they milked up to 7 dairy cows (by hand) so they could sell the cream to raise some extra cash flow to keep everything going. The skim milk was fed to pigs which were also sold for much needed cash. They also had chickens from which they sold eggs and also chickens for roasting. My mom liked goats and so eventually some goats showed up on the farm. We milked these also but I don't remember what happened to the goats. For a few years I had some sheep and there were always cats and dogs around. It was an idyllic lifestyle to grow up in. There was always lots to keep kids entertained and I don't remember being bored like my kids complained of! I'm sure my parents had a lot to be stressed about though. When I think about all they had going on, I wonder how they managed it!
Since that time things haven't always gone well. It is easy to praise God and be joyful when things are going well but how many of us can hold onto our faith when things go very much against us? In 1975? our shop was hit by lightning and burned to the ground when we weren't home. We had moved a two story house, that was on some land that dad had bought, to the farm and turned it into a shop. We raised the ceiling up about 2 feet to give us 12 foot clearance below. We poured a concrete floor and put in a furnace so it could be used in the winter. And use it we did. We did a lot of work in that shop. Dad contracted with the local snow-plow club and was kept quite busy blowing snow off the roads all over our half of the RM, and between snows fixing on the tractor in the shop.
We overhauled engines, repaired tractors, fixed tires and everything else you can think of. Dad was also an inventor and built many things which we used on the farm. When the shop burned down, it was the first of several disasters to hit us. Losing your house might seem to be the worst thing to some people, especially women, but losing the shop was much more devastating to my dad and me. It was the centre of activity on the farm and was very hard to lose.
Dad always had a soft spot for animals and in the spring of 1979 he tried to rescue a young cat who had climbed up the power pole and was too scared to climb down. It was sitting on top of the transformer and Dad was worried about it touching the line so he got a ladder and climbed up to rescue it. I was off from my job because I was recovering from an ulcer on my eye. Just that morning I had removed the bandage and was quite sensitive to light. Nevertheless I dutifully went out to hold the ladder. I wasn't looking up any more than I could help because it was quite bright that day and the light hurt my eye. I did look up though when there was a brilliant flash of light. The first thing I saw was the cat flying through the air. It hit the ground and bounced. It was blown up like a basketball and smoke poured out of it from several places. My eyes couldn't help but follow it's path to the ground, I looked back up within a split second but my Dad was already falling. He fell almost straight back and landed only three feet away from where I stood, still holding the ladder. Ever since that time I have struggled with the guilt of not catching him or at least breaking his fall. I have no idea if I could have done any differently. My vision wasn't very good that day, it all happened in a second, the cat falling first distracted me, many factors were involved. The resulting guilt however knows no reasoning. It has been a relentless tormentor ever since. I was a new believer in Christ at the time it happened and it was a severe test of my faith. (Please read more about that in my testimony page) When he landed on the ground, he landed on his back with his legs folded back on himself like a jackknife blade, breaking his back. All our lives changed that day. It was the end of that era. The farm was rented out for the next several years while we came to grips with the new order of things.
In 1986, I moved my family back from B.C. to the farm. We lived in a mobile home on the edge of the yard and Dad and I started farming together in 1987. He was in a wheelchair so we had to build hoists to get him into the tractor but once he was in there he could run the tractor while I did the running around getting everything to where it was needed.
In 1992 we were hit by a tornado. Well, actually what hit us was the "plow wind" that went alongside of the actual tornado. It caused a lot of damage to the whole area. In our yard it uprooted trees, blew down some buildings, and damaged some equipment.The main damage was to the barn. We had a large hip-roof barn with a full length lean-to. It demolished the lean-to, ripped the large square ventilators off the roof, partially collapsed the west end wall, and left the whole building leaning badly. This forced us to do something with it. Either demolish what was left or rebuild it somehow. We decided to lower the loft to the ground, losing the lower floor completely, but giving us a nice 36x60 ft machine shed. We got some airplane hangar doors on the front and of course we had to straighten it with reinforcing cables. We re-roofed it with steel and it was a great addition to the farm.
We kept farming until 1998? when we suffered the first of 3 total crop failures in a row. It was more than I could afford and we quit farming. My wife decided she had had enough, cleaned out the bank account, and left. I went full time into doing the only other thing I knew to do; trucking. I had been trucking since I was 17 years old. It was the only way I knew to support the farm and keep food on the table.
In 2001, we were the victims of another disaster. A fire, started by our neighbour, got out of control and a very strong wind blew it into our yard. We still had most of the equipment left because I wanted to find a way back to farming if I could. The fire hit the yard on the SW corner, burning through the machinery yard and destroying most of the machinery.Then it split into two and burned its way around the whole yard. Going east, it burned up several grain bins and storage sheds, then my mobile home and 5th wheel trailer. The other fork went north burning up more storage buildings, the barn which we had turned into a machine shed (and was FULL of equipment), the milk house, a steel quonset (also full), Dad's motor home and pontoon boat, Mom's large garden shed and tried to burn down the house. All told we lost 12 buildings, almost the whole shelter belt, and almost all the remaining equipment. It was devastating. Added to that was the fact that Dad had very little insurance on his things, and I had NO insurance on my stuff. We sued the neighbour who set the fire but as of this writing, the issue is still in litigation.
This felt like the devil was kicking us when we were down. It looked like the farm was doomed to be lost (at least to our family). Over the next few years my parents sold a lot of the land. I watched it all slipping away but I was powerless to do anything about it.
I have wondered many times why I stay here. Many times I have wished that I would have packed my bike and ridden away and never looked back. A sane man would have! I don't know why I stay except that I believe that God has something for me to do here yet. I have a vision of what can be. (Please read "the Vision" page).
In 2004, I met Joni. She put up with my stories and gave me confidence to start living again. Joni introduced me to the world of farmers' markets. When I told her of the idea I had (I believe this was the beginning of the vision from God), 15 years before, about growing vegetables as a way of making a living, she was very supportive. 15 years earlier no one thought it was a good idea. The whole family was against it and I wasn't sure enough of it succeeding to force the issue. So when Joni didn't scoff at me and actually supported the idea, the vision was re-kindled. I wasn't interested in having a "garden". My vision was of a larger scale with equipment doing the work instead of by hand. We started practising on the farm although we weren't living here yet. I call it practising because our success was limited. There is a huge learning curve in growing vegetables. There is practically no commercial vegetable growing in Saskatchewan, or indeed anywhere in western Canada. So there are no "model" farms to get ideas from or to visit. There is no equipment. The Internet has been vital to at least see some pictures of equipment made for vegetables. I have built and modified equipment to suit our needs as our system evolved. In 2007 my parents bought a house in Cut Knife and we moved onto the farm. We continued to try to find ways to do the market gardening but I have developed some health problems which are challenging our enterprise. Joni is kept very busy baking as she is doing it alone most of the time. So the gardening has taken a back seat, so to speak.
This winter when I turned my life back toward God, I asked Him what I could do about our operation here. The vision which I am sharing (please read 'The Vision page) is what I believe is His answer. We obviously need help. (some people might think psychiatric help is needed - lol). I really believe in the potential of this place and so I am looking for partners who can share in the vision as well as the work. Does this sound like something you would like to get involved in? Or is there someone you know that would be interested? Then please pass this on to them.
You can always e-mail us at the address on the contact page.
Thanks for reading this and may God bless you 'real good'!