Husband-wife team shares the load

NEW NORWAY, Alta. — The birth of Cathy and Wade Mowat’s second child gave the young couple the pause needed to re-evaluate their farming life.

Knowing that rural child care would be an issue, Cathy gave up a 16-year career as a travel agent and joined Wade full time on the farm where she learned to drive equipment and became a partner in the farming operation.

“I was always passionate about my job. Now that I’m on the farm, I love it,” said Cathy.

Last year, Wade taught Cathy how to operate the sprayer. In the fall, she learned to drive the combine. This year, she did the pre-seed spraying, seeding, swathing and combining, leaving Wade to do the spraying, trucking and organizing

“It’s been pretty cool this year,” she said.

Wade still does the in-crop spraying as well as roughly 7,000 acres of custom spraying.

At the same time the decision was made for Cathy to stay home, Wade and his brother and nephew split the farming operation, creating more changes for the couple.

“Before, I had the passive role taking meals to the field during harvest,” said Cathy.

With Cathy now in the field, they once again had to re-evaluate their previous jobs, including harvest meals and child care. The couple hired Cathy’s mom to look after the children, Wyatt, 7, in Grade 2 and Amy, 2, during harvest.

“It would have been impossible without my mom,” she said.

Before getting on the combine, Cathy packs a day’s worth of food and drinks into each operator’s cooler so no one had to worry about meals in the field.

“It works for us,” she said.

Now that harvest is finished, Wade is able to focus on his new project of building liquid fertilizer carts. The heavy-duty mechanic built his first cart as a way of saving money and getting the right size cart for the farm.

Using secondhand wheels and axles, Wade built the 48,000 gallon liquid fertilizer cart for $15,000 instead of the $42,000 new price.

The project was so successful, Wade is almost finished building a second cart for another local farmer and is discussing making more with a group of farm supply dealers. With many Alberta farmers using liquid fertilizer and few manufacturers making carts, Wade believes there may be a niche market.

“Here’s an opportunity where a guy can make the carts and service the market in Alberta,” said Wade, who grew up on a nearby mixed cattle and grain farm. He bought his first land with a feedlot in his final year of high school.

The two carts were built in his father’s farm shop north of his home farm, but if the demand is high, there may be a chance of of setting up a larger shop on the farm.

“I don’t want to get too excited about spending a lot of capital.”

Wade already spends time in the farm shop building, packaging and delivering controls for natural gas compressor engines he helped design. After working on offshore oil platforms in Qatar and Louisiana, Wade was hired by Calgary’s Spartan Controls to help design the air fuel controls for retrofitting older natural gas compressor engines. Wade’s name is one of the names on the patent.

“It’s actually a really good little business,” he said. “I really enjoy working in the shop.”

Cathy said his hobby is tinkering and figuring out new projects, not watching television.

“The cart thing came from his own desire that he wanted something that worked for the farm,” she said.

With Wade now home in the winter, Wade took up hockey and curling for recreation last winter.

“For me, the hockey was great exercise. At the end of the season, I felt great.”

At the same time, Cathy joined the Rez City Rollers roller derby team to complement her running. When Cathy turned 40, she joined some friends and ran a 10-kilometre race in San Francisco.

Since then, she’s run a half marathon in New Orleans and will fly to Dubai in December to run another half marathon.

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