Family enjoys lifestyle despite challenges

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — The Grassicks have weathered many storms, whether it was tanking cattle prices during the BSE crisis or a devastating plow wind.

Cattle prices have now returned to healthy levels, and the cleanup from the 2012 storm at their farm east of Prince Albert is largely complete.

Family patriarch Gordon Grassick said power was out for days, and 80-year-old trees were flattened.

“It left about six pine trees. It made an awful change,” said Gordon, who farms with his wife, Kathy, their sons, Michael and Bradley, and their daughters-in-law, Pam and Karen.

“We had to replace 10,000 bushels of storage,” added Bradley.

They background cattle and raise 180 commercial cows. The 3,200 farm comprises 1,500 acres of canola, wheat, barley and oats and the rest pasture and hayland.

“Some of our land base is not suitable for grain but good for pastures,” said Michael, who lives in the same farmyard as his parents.

Bradley said the farm has had an excess of rain in recent years, and it is still wet despite the dry summer.

“A few acres, we couldn’t harvest due to wetness,” he said.

Owning their cows outright helped them get through five years of no profits during the BSE crisis, when cattle sold for as little as $150 a head.

“Through the bad times, we never owed money on our cattle,” said Michael.

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Added Bradley: “All we had to worry about was that they were fed.”

Gordon recalled other hardships in his farming career.

“I bought a new tractor one fall at nine percent and by spring, it was 22 percent,” he said. “That was a little more than it really was worth.”

Kathy, a retired teacher, said everyone pitched in to help with farm chores, whether it was butchering chickens or milking cows, and off-farm income helped pay bills.

Pam and Karen are also teachers, and the two brothers worked off the farm before returning to farm full time in the 1990s.

“It helped the situation a lot,” Kathy said.

These days, the brothers regularly discuss what needs to be done on the farm. They also hire a casual worker.

“We try to set target prices for what we’re expecting and try to achieve them,” Michael said.

“We work on the numbers that are favourable to turn a profit.”

For example, they background their animals to 800 pounds and haul them to sales at Heartland Livestock Services in Prince Albert.

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They keep abreast of the latest trends with continuing education and seminars.

“We try to keep at the top end of the information,” sad Michael.

Machinery repair has also be-come increasingly sophisticated.

“You have to have a good relationship with dealers as machinery is not really home repairable anymore,” sad Michael.

The farm’s proximity to the Nisbet Provincial Forest means it experiences more damage to bales from deer than losses of cattle to predators.

Gordon, Michael and Bradley have served as 4-H leaders, but decreasing numbers of cattle producers and youth in the district have affected enrolment. The family also enjoys supporting their children’s sports.

Gordon, whose father came from Wisconsin in 1915 to homestead here, called country living a decent way of life. Kathy, who is known for her large lily garden, prefers it to city life.

Michael agreed.

“It’s not all bad or we wouldn’t still be here if it was,” he said.

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