Darryl Klassen’s fortunes have changed dramatically since he arrived in Kindersley, Sask., in 2012 to drive a semi-truck for an oilfield trucking company.
Klassen had been farming with his brother in Austin, Man., but he was uncertain about his future at the farm.
“The brother I was farming with, he had two young boys that were coming up in their early 20s or late teens, and he couldn’t give me an answer as to where it left me in 10, 15 years, or in five years even,” Klassen said.
So he moved to Kindersley to haul water for a fracking operation, and after a few months he was able to get his own semi on with the company.
“During the first breakup is when I put my own truck together with a pump and everything. Then my wife and I decided to make the move, seeing all the opportunity out here. That’s when I started advertising for custom spraying just through the mail,” he said.
Klassen had on lease a 2011 John Deere sprayer and owned a Peterbilt truck with a 3,000 gallon tank on the back with a pintle hitch trailer he used for custom spraying in Manitoba.
He put together an advertising flyer to see if he could pick up custom spraying work in the Kindersley area.
Out of all the flyers he sent out, only one of them brought him work, but it brought him a lot of work.
“I was going around to the Kin-dersley post office, and the Eatonia post office. I was en route between Eatonia and Eston when Garth MacDonald, who owns G-Mac’s, phoned me,” Klassen said.
G-Mac’s AgTeam is a crop input retailer that provides agronomic services in southwestern Saskatchewan.
“I had stopped at their head office, and actually their secretary at the time said there is no point leaving a brochure here because farmers don’t really come in and out through this facility,” Klassen said. “Long story short, that was the best thing I ever did.”
This was because it was at the head office where the owner of G-Mac’s AgTeam came across the custom spraying flyer, and it just so happened the company had a vacancy.
The company was having problems finding an operator to run their sprayer, which is a tough position to fill.
“They basically said you have your own sprayer and equipment and stuff like that, if you want to take it over, you’re welcome to take over the (custom spraying) business,” Klassen said.
“We had done about 2,000 acres in Manitoba our first year, to all of the sudden we are spraying 60,000 acres per year.”
Klassen’s family had lost the farm near Austin in the early 1980s after it fell on hard times.
“He (Klassen’s dad) tried to start up again, but between hard times and health, he did that for another five years with the older two boys,” Klassen said.
Most of the family moved into the trucking business, and two of his brothers still run trucking companies.
“There are five boys in the family and three sisters and at one time Dad, all the brothers, and all but two brothers-in-law were driving trucks,” Klassen said. “I put farming on the backburner.”
But with the custom spraying business getting established, Klassen found himself in the position to buy some farmland.
He bought a quarter section south of Kindersley that had a 32 by 64 foot shop and an old Eaton house. It became his home quarter.
When spring rolled around he didn’t want to rent out the farmland. Instead, he wanted to farm it, even though he didn’t have the equipment to do so.
So he asked brothers Wayne and Barry Whatley, whom he met through the custom spraying business, if they would custom seed his land for him.
“The answer flat out was ‘no’. They said by the time we’re done seeding we’ve had enough. But we’ll bring you the tractor and we’ll bring you the air seeder and you’re more than welcome to seed it yourself,” Klassen said.
“It’s just the nature of those guys. Between us and them, yes we rent land from them, but other than that there is very little money that changes hands.”
The Whatley brothers were beginning to back out of farming, and they decided to give Klassen the opportunity to farm their land.
“We started with one quarter, our home quarter. The following year we went to five quarters, rented four. The following year we went to 2,200 acres, then to 3,300 acres, and then this year we’re cropping 5,400 acres,” Klassen said.
The inability to find quality workers has been the downfall of many businesses on the Prairies, and Klassen also struggled in that regard.
He got to the point where he was about to get rid of the oil trucks because he couldn’t find drivers he was happy with.
“I tried all kinds of guys. We tried foreigners, guys from Alberta, guys from Manitoba, young, old, we tried them all and it was getting frustrating,” Klassen said.
However, he stuck it out and he now has five full-time employees, based out of his new 70 by 80 foot shop, to which his original shop is attached.
He employees three full-time truck drivers for his oil-hauling business and a full-time mechanic.
He also has an employee that works with him in the custom application business and on the farm, named Bounty Creek Farms.
The Whatley brothers he rents land from help Klassen seed and harvest, and he also hires help seasonally if needed.
He has also bought a 2012 4949 John Deere with a 2014 New Leader spin spreader box he uses to custom apply granular fertilizer, primarily in the winter.
His wife, Lisa, has established a professional photography business in the Kindersley area, called Lisa Klassen Fine Art Photography.
Klassen said his success over the past six years is due in large part to being in the right place at the right time and having the right attitude.
“Back in Manitoba, I saw so many guys around my age that had a chance to take over their dad’s farm, and when they did take it over, lots said ‘the heck with this’ and they either sold it off or rented it out — the easy street,” Klassen said
“I’ve always said this — the guys that have the opportunity don’t take it and the guys that want it, can’t get it. It was presented to me, and I’m sure as hell not going to let it go.”