Setting priorities | Farmer says appreciation for family and taking time to play are important
WINKLER, Man. — Randy Froese leans back in his chair, shakes his head and smiles at the domestic scene around him, as his three-year-old daughter shrieks and bounces across the living room.
Froese, 29, likely enjoys the sights and sounds of household chaos more than most Canadian parents, because he gained a new perspective on life after nearly dying inside a grain bin.
On Aug. 17, 2010, Froese was cleaning edible beans out of a hopper bottom bin.
The previous fall, he harvested the beans when they were wet. He put six tandem loads into the bin hoping they would dry over winter. Four truckloads were taken out during the summer, but despite days of drying, about 1,200 bushels of beans remained welded to the bin wall.
“The outside inches had turned to concrete and the six, seven inches along the wall had turned to mush,” he said.
Froese and Eddie Fehr, a farm em-ployee, entered the bin with tools to scrape the beans off the wall. After working for several hours, a large section of beans suddenly sloughed off the wall and buried him, covering his head and body.
The avalanche also buried Fehr up to his waist but he was able to free himself and begin digging. After moving slabs of hardened beans, he was able to free Froese’s head.
Forty-five minutes later, with help from Froese’s dad, Jack, and other farm employees, he was freed from the pile of beans and managed to climb out of the bin.
The accident had a profound effect on him.
“That changed my perspective in life about what’s important. Work’s important but my family is more important,” he said.
Froese and his wife, Shelley, are parents to Bella and Ryan.
Froese grew up in Reinfeld, Man., and always knew he would farm.
“From the day I was born, my mom would take me with her on the lawn mower. That’s the only way I would sleep, as a baby, any kind of tractor noise,” he said, laughing.
“Any waking moment when I was home from school, I wanted to be on the farm. I wanted to be with Dad.”
After earning his agriculture diploma from the University of Manitoba, he returned to Winkler and now runs the day-to-day operations of the 5,500-acre grain, oilseed and special crops farm on owned and rented land.
Jack, and Froese’s two uncles, John and Alan, are partners in the family farm, which has three employees.
When Froese and Shelley got married, they considered building a house on the family homestead where Froese’s grandparents lived and farmed, but chose to separate farm and home life.
“On the farm, your work day never ends. You come home and you’re always constantly looking at the yard,” he said, as Ryan bounced in an Exersaucer.
Froese would rather play with his kids than work in the evening.
Shelley, who grew up on a farm near Mather, Man., doesn’t want him to work all the time either.
“We might as well enjoy it while the kids are young,” she said.
Increasing numbers of young farmers are choosing the town and farm option, Froese said.
“It’s a lifestyle shift from what our parents would’ve had,” he said. “The friends I went to university with … a lot of them (have) built homes close to the farm but not on the farm. Mostly for the reasons I’ve said, to make sure they are maintaining their family life.”
Following the accident, Froese dedicated more time to his family but also to the pulse industry. He joined the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association board two years ago, then became the association’s representative on Pulse Canada’s board.
Jack offered him some sage advice from his experience on the MPGA board as a former Pulse Canada chair.
“My dad always told me, if you’re going to join a board, make sure you get involved. You’re going to like it as much as you get involved in it,” he said.
Froese has participated in national meetings and travelled to India with a Pulse Canada delegation.
“It’s been neat for him to go beyond the day-to-day (operations) of the farm,” Shelley said. ”It’s given (him) a whole lot more understanding of the global dynamics of farming.”
In addition to farming, Froese is a homebuilder and has built three homes in Winkler, including his own.
“Life is so short, you have to appreciate it.”