Being a farmer’s wife and living on a working farm, I realize there are many questions about what life on a farm is like. I want to include the perspectives of farmers and believe it is a good idea for people to get to know the farmers who grow their food. For this reason, I have teamed up with a few people in the ag world to best answer questions the public may have. We want to know what questions YOU have.
Greetings! I’m Jill, co-owner of Crooked Lake Farm. My husband and I are the 5th generation to farm the land. His family settled right across the road from our house in 1905 when they moved to Alberta from North Dakota. Our land was purchased by his great-grandfather in 1915, so this year our farm is 100 years old! Ever since it was purchased by his great-grandfather, our farm has never been sold. Fast forward to now. My husband and I took over the farm from his dad three years ago. We have what is called a mixed farm—farming both crops and livestock.
The types of crops we raise on our farm depends upon the year, but the ones we raise yearly are wheat, malt barley, oats, and canola. We have also started growing fava beans, recently. Our farm is located in the black soil zone, so most of our soils are well suited for raising crops.
However, we do have some areas of our farm that are on marginal soil, and a crop just does not grow as well in these areas as it would in others. On these areas, we either raise alfalfa for hay production or have the land in pasture to graze our herd of cattle. Hay is cured grass and alfalfa that is fed to our cattle in the winter months when the grass is under feet of snow.
Speaking of cattle, we raise beef cattle. More specifically, Angus/Hereford cross cattle. We have all age classes of cattle on our farm. Our cows (aka mamma’s) range in age from 3 years to over 10 years old. Then we have our replacement heifers (young females going to become momma’s). We also have yearling steers that we take to a local butchers and sell the meat direct to consumers at farmer’s markets or through a small retail outlet that stocks our beef. We also have three bulls that we use to breed to our cows every year and three horses that help us from time to time with cow work, or simply “lawn mowing.”
On our farm we keep all our cows as long as they are going to have a baby. Sometimes they might lose their baby, but have been a faithful and good tempered cow, then we will give them a second chance. Same with our heifers. Sometimes we have a nice looking heifer that doesn’t breed, but we will give her another year to grow up a bit and then we try again. Sometimes we will get rid of a cow because she has a bad temper, but this is rare and is for our safety. We are working with 1100-1500 pound animals, and often our two children are in the pastures and corrals with us helping. Our personal safety on the farm is also a high priority.
In addition to the cattle and crops, my son and I have about 25 chickens (laying hens and a few roosters). We keep the hens so we can have fresh eggs at our house and what we don’t use personally, we sell to our neighbours. I got my son into chickens because they are easy to deal with—they are not going to run you over like a mad mother cow could—and they teach him how to raise livestock on a small scale.
I look forward to helping Christine on her blog, sharing my story of life as a farm girl turned farm wife. I’ve lived on both sides of the borders and have been involved in production agriculture my entire life. I even went to University and have a B.Sc. in Agriculture. Please feel free to ask questions to anything you read or see. I have a huge passion for agriculture and love sharing it with others!