Surgeon has farming in her blood

LLOYDMINSTER, Alta. — Thursday proves to be the busiest day of the week for Dr. Joan Wheat Hozack, running between appoint-ments at her orthopedic practice in the morning and surgeries at the hospital in Lloydminster in the afternoon.

Living in a city was never an option for Wheat Hozack and her husband, Justin Hozack, both of whom are avid horsepeople who were raised and went to high school in rural Alberta.

Since they returned after more than a decade of school in Calgary and a practicum in New Zealand for Wheat Hozack, they have acquired land and cattle and are currently renting land belonging to Hozack’s uncle near Marwayne, Alta.

She said her timing was good because the health region had previously set up facilities for an orthopedic specialist, whose wife came and provided the city with a much needed pediatrician.

That opened up an opportunity for Wheat Hozack to join the Meridian Clinic.

Her work typically follows a Monday to Friday daytime schedule, with some on-call coverage on weekends.

That allows time for riding horses and launching the farm enterprise, where her salary has been a great help.

“Outside income makes it, as young entrepreneurs, easier to take some risks. It gives us a little more freedom to make changes faster,” said Wheat Hozack.

Added Hozack: “We can push the envelope on a few things because we don’t rely on the farm to be our sole income.”

Their horsemanship is valued on the farm, where most chores are done while riding.

“I grew up learning to ride and working cows with him,” said Wheat Hozack, who participated in 4-H beef and light horse clubs along with her two sisters.

They want to continue to keep horses to ride when at the home farm, but the sisters do not have plans to farm.

A succession plan is in its formative stages with Wheat Hozack’s father, Art Wheat, but they said it’s financially too soon for them to take over the farm.

“We keep track of the bills and settle up,” said Wheat Hozack, citing regular family meetings to discuss farm business.

They hope to continue to work in tandem for several more years and benefit from Wheat’s years of experience in the business.

“Those guys that are still kicking around have learned a thing or two,” said Hozack, citing Art’s use of a variety of bulls in his herd over the years.

“His cows are pretty typey. You can pick them out as one of Art’s cows.”

His own efforts with breeding produced uneven results with 60 percent of his herd open this past year. That’s part of why Hozack is now doing DNA testing on bulls to know in advance what to expect and give them access to better genetics.

Hozack said his wife has a better eye for cattle than he does.

“She’s a little expensive to take to a bull sale,” he said.

They plan to draw on the expertise of local professionals recommended to them by their families in accounting, insurance and banking in addition to lawyers such as Wheat-Hozack’s mother and sister.

“It’s one of the nice things about coming home, the family ties,” said Hozack.

“We have a guy for everything. We don’t know that, and we need that kind of help .… It’s only smart, so we’re not jeopardizing Art and not jeopardizing ourselves.”

He once worked as a land agent in Calgary but craved country life.

“I hated working downtown,” he said.

“I would work downtown for four days and on the fifth day, I couldn’t wait to be gone.”

He compared that to his next job on a farm near Calgary.

“I’d work six days straight driving cattle and I got up everyday ready to go. That told me it was something I wanted to do.”

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