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Hard work keeps family grain farm afloat

WILLINGDON, Alta. — Ample rain hasn’t dampened the Porozni family’s optimistic outlook for harvest this year.

Jeff, while stepping off the combine during pea harvest in August to check under his machine, said peas in this field are expected to go above 40 bushels per acre, which is down from the usual 56.

“There’s too much moisture, but we can’t control that,” he said.

He estimated the family would need another day to harvest peas before moving onto cereals and canola, which were expected to yield above average.

The family plants 5,000 acres to field peas, canola and wheat and has hayland for the local cow-calf market.

Jeff, 28, is the fifth generation of Poroznis on this farm in a black soil zone started by Romanian immigrant George Porozni. He is intent on keeping the farm in the family but conceded he wouldn’t be able to swing it financially without his parents, Greg and Laura.

“I always had a passion for it. I like the fact I’m feeding the world,” Jeff said.

A previous generation of Poroznis had purebred Herefords, and Greg and Laura had a commercial herd of 125 head, which they dropped in 2007.

“The boys and I said that’s enough,” said Laura.

After work as a pharmacy technician this day, she arrives with a pizza dinner for Jeff, Greg and their hired man.

“I do a lot of meals beforehand,” she said.

Farming was a steep learning curve for Laura, who was raised in town. She helps where needed and can operate machinery but is careful not to take on too much.

“Don’t learn new jobs, because then it’s yours,” she said.

The couple once lived on the farm but now commute from their family home in nearby Mundare.

Laura said town life made it easier for the boys to be involved in sports such as hockey.

Greg is heavily involved in farm organizations such as Cereals Canada and the Alberta Wheat Commission, so he travels a lot, but Laura said he never leaves during busy times.

“The farm comes first.”

She said farming has provided them with a good life.

“It’s given us a decent life but it’s been hard. It hasn’t come easy,” she said, noting Greg worked as a petroleum engineer before farming full time.

Greg said office work did not suit him.

“I am a free enterprising guy who likes to be our own bosses,” he said.

Greg’s farming alliance with his brother didn’t work out, but Jeff thinks that won’t be the case with him and his brother, Adam.

Jeff would welcome his brother’s help at seeding and harvest and thinks they would work well together if Adam chose to return to farm.

Jeff said Adam, 26, is working on completing training in power engineering and may not have the same passion for farming. Instead, a good off farm wage might satisfy him.

“It’s not an easy lifestyle,” said Laura.“When they work, they work.”

They have scaled back their hours to cap time spent in the field and to ensure they get six hours of sleep each night.

“It’s a grind. If you’re going to go for 10 days or two weeks straight with four hours sleep, you are a walking time bomb,” said Greg.

Laura said Greg is also easy to get along with, citing the long-term service of their workers.

“Hired men are not there to do the awful jobs. Greg is there for that, too. He’s a very hands on kind of guy.”

The family defers marketing tasks to the professionals for optimum results, seeing value in hiring a marketing consultant.

“There’s a cost but there’s net benefit,” said Greg.

“We are in the commodity game and it’s difficult unless you are lucky or a genius to nail the top of the market all the time.”

He said half the crop will be sold off the combine this year with good prices.

“We try to do our best and maximize our production year over year,” said Greg.

The couple just bought more land, but they are beginning to talk more as a family about the future.

“I’m not ready to not work,” said Laura.

The couple enjoyed an African safari recently and have plans to travel to Egypt this winter.

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