Farming on the Front Lines

Perhaps it is in his genes, but for Doyle Wiebe from Langham, a fourth generation farmer, growing up on the family farm made farming the natural life and career choice. “My father was a great mentor in helping to determine the value of education and experience,” explains Doyle. After completing a degree in Agricultural Economics, gaining some professional experience and raising some capital, Doyle returned to the family farm.

For the next 20 years, Doyle and his father farmed together.

As the years have passed, Doyle observes that “Caring for the land is an emotional thing for me. The soil is the heart of it all. Without good soil, you aren’t going to grow a crop of any kind.”

In 1975, his second year of farming, so much top soil was blowing across his farmyard it was impossible to see the buildings. Doyle knew they needed to find new ways of caring for their soil. “I implemented various stubble and snow moisture management strategies and was one of first in the community to use an air seeder.” (An air seeder or “seed drill” is a machine that uses air to blow the seed from a cart or a seeder to the seedbed. This allows for precise and consistent delivery of the seed, plus it drills directly into the soil instead of turning over the soil to plant the seed, which allows for far less soil erosion.)

“In the 90s we began to grow the new genetically modified variety of canola. This canola allowed us to reduce soil tillage, reduce erosion, reduce the amount of fuel consumption and reduce herbicide I had to use to control weeds. All of these things are good for the environment, good for our consumers and good for us. I care about my customers. My business won’t thrive unless my consumer is getting a good product. I am the front line to ensure this happens.”

Just as Doyle’s father had mentored him, now it is Doyle’s turn to help the next generation get started. “I am in the process of mentoring a new neighbour who’s young and ambitious and has all the credentials to be a farmer—yet he doesn’t have the family connections to get started.”

Together they farm 6000 acres, including “canola, wheat, barley—the traditional crops—and now we are into faba beans and lentils, and this year we experimented with quinoa.”

Doyle acknowledges the reality that farming is not for everyone. “I’ve come to see that it is not that farming is a gamble; really, we manage risk. The growing season is the nuts and bolts of what grain farming is, and the rest—the rest is the business of farming: planning, meetings, reading and workshops to keep on improving yourself and your operation.”

When asked why he continues to farm, he says “the evolution of being able to grow a nice clean crop and watch it mature and see the fruits of our labour…it just grows on you. Pardon the pun.”