VIDEO: Agriculture benefits from economic boom

REINLAND, Man. — Farming gets a little complicated when your local town grows into a rural metropolis.

“It’s a little bit stressful when you’re farming right around the area with the traffic and the construction going on all the time,” said Jack Froese, who farms just outside the booming city of Winkler, just north of the U.S. border and south of Winnipeg.

“We’re north, south, east and west of Winkler.”

Winkler is busily selling lots in its fourth industrial park, which is a neighbour to Froese’s main farm base. Along with the regular stream of cars and trucks to Winkler for shopping and services, the local roads are also busy with semis moving parts and finished goods into and out of the manufacturing businesses clustered around the small city and construction vehicles building infrastructure, homes and new industrial plants.

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Froese isn’t complaining about the situation.

He, like many farmers in the area, has been happy to see Winkler go from a small town to a growing industrial powerhouse in the provincial economy and a value-added and service-rich hub for the farming economy.

“Parts pickup (is just) five minutes down the road,” he said.

“Whenever there’s a breakdown, we’re real close.”

Froese has also been part of the economic growth of one of the two main Mennonite cities in Manitoba, forming a development company in 1988 with his brothers to convert some of their family’s farmland into residential homes in the city.

Winkler’s stunning growth has come as the entrepreneurial and manufacturing culture of the existing Mennonite community was paired with a steady stream of immigrants to the region and a city culture that appears to embrace development.

Many of the local manufacturers have grown out of the farm economy with everything from grain trucks to vegetable processing components now manufactured in the city’s industrial parks.

Manufacturers have also invested heavily in oil-related components.

Both agriculture and oil have been weak sectors of the national economy in the past couple of years, which has slowed some local business.

However, that hasn’t stopped the city from building a new industrial park, and it is quickly filling up.

Service providers have flowed into the city as well, serving an area estimated at about 90,000 people and stretching from Pilot Mound to Carman to east of the Red River. It has become not just a regional medical hub but also the provincial centre for hip and knee surgeries.

All of this has forced the Froese farming operation to take traffic seriously as it moves big equipment down the busy roads.

“When we started farming here, the traffic between Winkler and Plum Coulee was really non-existent,” Froese said during the middle of harvest.

“Now, any time moving equipment, you’ve got a pilot vehicle or something going in front or behind. When you’re harvesting, the busiest time, you get fatigued. You have to pay extra attention. There’s always some motorist who may not be paying attention. We have to be cautious on their behalf.”

Froese knows it’s a reality that is unlikely to change as Winkler’s seemingly inexorable growth makes farming here an increasingly complicated matter.

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