Farmers make the best of a bad situation

What were supposed to be fields of golden canola turned into a sea of blue — so the Keith family got out their surfboards

SOVEREIGN, Sask. — Members of the Keith family were praying for rain last year.

Now they’re “surfing” on drowned out canola fields and praying for the rain to stop.

Brothers Cody and Justin and their cousin, Grady, of Sovereign have been making waves in fields over the past few weeks after more than 200 millimetres of rain turned bumper crops into recreational land.

“We were kind of depressed because we went from bumper crops to crop insurance on our lentils and we were, ‘well, we may as well have some fun with this,’ ” said Cody, who recently spent an afternoon surfing on a neighbour’s quarter section of canola.

“My philosophy with the farming thing is if you can’t do anything about it, there’s no point worrying about it”

The 20-something farmers have been able to put their situation into perspective.

“I’ve never been to the point where I couldn’t pay my bills yet, so I can’t say I’ve had the stress that some people have had,” said Cody.

Added Grady: “We’re still growing (as farmers), so we’re hoping for the best, but we get a little bit more bummed out than the older guys.”

The irony of the situation is not lost as they reflect on last year’s growing conditions compared to now.

Justin was included in a front page story in The Western Producer last June about the concern over the drought that persisted across much of the West.

“What a difference this year. We’re praying for it to stop,” said Justin.

They’re not alone.

This summer’s abundant wetness has had many farmers looking for it to dry up as they ponder their vast oceans of crops that in many low-lying fields have become a stinky and sopping mess.

For the Keiths, the excess water has allowed them to get out their surf boards and have some fun.

On Aug. 16, the three farmers got into position at the headland of a field. Justin drove the truck forward until the slack went out of the line, while Cody firmly hung on. Grady was photographing the event from an open window.

A yelled “go” from Cody, a spin of tires on gravel, a clean and jerk and Cody was quickly plowing water.

Startled ducks squawked in the distance, their wings flapping hard in the other direction.

Cody slalomed back and forth over drowned out canola for almost a kilometre.

To their surprise, a two-minute Facebook video that they posted Aug. 10 quickly went viral. Since then, they have been flooded with more than 600,000 national and international views, most of them positive.

“Just posted it and instantly everybody was sharing it,” said Cody. “My most watched clip before that was probably 200.”

A Facebook posting from Marcus Dyck summed up the response: “Those guys down there (Saskatchewan) are always the most creative at having fun,” he said.

Added Rita Fletcher: “A perfect example of ‘when life gives you lemons.…’ ”

Too much moisture has decimated many lentil crops in the Keiths’ region this summer, but many canola fields have flourished and time will soon tell if there will be a whopper of a harvest.

The Keiths planted one-third malting barley, one-third canola and one-third lentils.

While they’re not expecting much of a crop with lentils and barley, they’ll still harvest it.

“We’re trying to get malt, but it will likely be feed this year. We’ll see,” Cody said.

“We’re going to combine the lentils and clean up the mess.”

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