Couple passionate about agriculture, family

STEINBACH, Man. — Sitting at her round, oak kitchen table, Kirsty Oswald pulled off a trick that she’s likely used before to amuse a visitor to her home.

In a matter of seconds Kirsty transformed, seemingly, into a different person because she switched from a neutral Canadian accent to a genuine Scottish burr.

“When I ever talk to my mom or my brothers, I can stih-ill tawk with a Scawtish accent,” she said, grinning at her husband, Brent, also seated at the table. “But Brehhnt doesn’t lih-ike it.”

Kirsty can easily switch between Canadian and Scottish accents because at age 11, in 1996, she moved with her family from a farm in Scotland to a dairy farm near Mitchell, Man. They left Scotland when land rents became so expensive that farming wasn’t financially viable.

In the 2000s, Kirsty met Brent through her brothers.

The Oswalds now live and work on Brent’s family farm near Steinbach, known as Cottonwood Holsteins, and have two school-aged children, Taylor and Brenden.

The couple, who are in their 30s, were recognized this spring for their commitment to agriculture. They were honoured as Manitoba’s Outstanding Young Farmers of 2017.

They will represent Manitoba this fall at the group’s national event in Penticton, B.C.

Kirsty said the provincial event, held in March, was more intense than she expected, with participants expected to assess themselves and their farm. Nonetheless, she liked the process and hearing the stories of optimistic young farmers.

“It was all about what was the next step to make themselves better,” Brent said.

His parents, Gwen and Ed, ran the farm for 40 years until Brent took over in 2008. Ed continued to work on the farm until he passed away last fall.

With the help of three employees, Brent and Kirsty milk 135 cows with Delaval robots and farm about 2,500 acres. Corn and soybeans occupy more than half of the acres.

Brent is always focused on getting better at farming.

“Where’s the extra two bushels?… Does this make sense, does that make sense? Same thing in the barn. How do we get the extra half litre (of milk)?

“We’re just never satisfied. Good isn’t good enough,” he said.

Last year, one soybean variety yielded 66.9 bushels per acre. He regularly tops 200 bu. per acre corn and one of his cows produced 90 litres of milk per day for a period of three weeks.

“If you (come) back five years from now and the farm looked identical to what it is today, I would feel like I failed. To me, the excitement is what’s the next addition to the barn. The next piece of land, the next piece of equipment that will speed up seeding by 20 percent.”

Brent’s passion for agriculture was instilled at a young age but he was interested in more than just farming. Brent wanted to be a lawyer and also considered becoming an accountant.

He realized that those interests could be applied to managing a farm.

Those professions couldn’t duplicate the feeling he gets from farming.

“That total sense of feeling that you accomplished this. There (is) not a better feeling in the world than backing (into) the shed and hearing the pitter patter of a few rain drops.”

Kirsty is largely responsible for their active children. Taylor is on a cheerleading team that competes across Manitoba and Brenden plays hockey.

In recent years, Brent has made an effort to find a better balance between running the farm and family life. The Oswalds took a vacation to Scotland to see where Kirsty grew up and they recently travelled to San Antonio, Texas.

But they would rather spend time together on the farm.

“Harvesting a bumper corn crop this last fall… that was better than any amusement park ride or any sports car,” Brent said.

“And I shared that with my dad and my brother, when he was still at the farm. That was our family time.”

In addition to balancing family and running a farm, Brent is also involved with Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.

Brent takes the kids with him for crop scouting and as they get older, he hopes they will become more involved in the farm.

Until then, Brent is planning to build an indoor swimming pool behind the house.

“So we have our little oasis at home. Because it is hard to go the lake … especially with a dairy,” he said.

“My dream is to come off the field… and the kids will be in there playing. And I’ll walk (directly in) and splash into the pool. And have my hour of release.”

Brent wants to avoid the “next year” trap.

“I don’t want to run out of next years.”

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