Lifestyle continues to be why most new producers choose to farm.
When participants at the Jan. 29-30 Saskatchewan Young Ag-Entrepreneurs Conference were asked why they farm, some mentioned the freedom involved in being an entrepreneur while others talked being their own boss, a love of nature and the ability to be on the land and raise animals. Still others saw farming as a challenge that requires optimism and resilience.
For Eric Rustad, a first-year farmer, it was all about choosing a quality way of life that was best for his young family.
“I got to go with family. I was doing other things before I had my first son and decided farming was better for family,” said Rustad, 26, who farms near Rose Valley, Sask.
Several years of employment off the farm helped convince Rustad to work on his family’s farm as well as rent his own land.
His first year’s crop of canola and barley is in the bin.
“Lifestyle pretty much has got to be the reason for farming because when you put in that many hours in any other job, you’d probably do a little better (financially), but there’s no other job where you can take your kids on the tractor,” he said.
“Pretty much all jobs, you leave for the morning and you come back in the evening.”
He said he realized soon after his son was born that a city life was no place for his young family compared to staying on the farm.
“You might work a 12-hour shift with farming, but there’s a good chance that your wife or your dad or kid is with you,” he said.
Saskatchewan Young Ag-Entrepreneurs defines a young person as anyone from 18 to 40 years.
Membership ranges from university students in agricultural related studies to sole proprietors to a host of partnerships, such as people working with their uncles, parents and grandparents.
“It’s very diverse that way,” said chair Rodney Voldeng, who farms near Naicam, Sask.
As one of the organization’s original members, Voldeng said he has watched the provincial chapter grow from 10 members in 2006 to more than 100 today.
“The original motive was to really push networking for young farmers, for young farmers to really talk with other young farmers to find out their experiences, how they were dealing with things on their own farms,” he said.
Voldeng said he saw many more new faces at this year’s conference. Most of them were grain, pulses and oil seed growers as well as a few cattle producers.
“Grain farming has been successful for the past five to six years, and it has seen a resurgence of young people returning to the farm as compared to some of the other agriculture industries,” he said.
“The cattle industry, like the hog industry, went through a major downturn. There was no profit to be made and major losses. Young people were not coming back to the farm just to lose money.”
Lynnell Olson of Archerwill, Sask., who is in her second year with the organization, said she joined to meet and network with other young people who work in the agricultural industry.
“I think if you ask more people, you get different answers. Asking your family or agronomist is all good, but it’s also nice to hear other people’s problems to see if they’re getting the same or if you’re getting the right advice,” said the 24-year-old agronomist.
“This is a nice group that reinforces to me that everything (farming) will be fine. We will keep passing on passion in the farming industry.”
Olson works with her family growing cereals, pulses and oilseeds. She and her two younger siblings bought a separate home quarter last year, not far from the home where Olson now lives.
Like Rustad, choosing farming as a career is also a way to maintain family ties.
“It’s a group effort. I couldn’t farm by myself. I would rather farm with my family,” she said.
“We feel that working together is stronger than working independently. Yes, I will have stuff that will be in my name, but I still work with my family members and that’s important to us.”