WINKLER, Man. — As they sit in the small office of a new assembly plant in an industrial district with their two eldest children playing with the furniture and their baby happily snoozing, the Penners seem the image of a composed and relaxed young couple.
But Tim admits it often doesn’t feel that way on the inside.
“There are some days where you’re pulling your hair — short nights,” said Tim, a 25-year-old farmer who splits his time between his busy family, his cow herd and his new manufacturing business.
“He can be a little stressed sometimes, getting this going and the farm and everything,” acknowledged Lena, a 24-year-old mother of three who is new to farming but native to the Winkler area.
However, the couple seems happy and satisfied with their busy life and enjoying the ride they’re on as they balance multiple demands and handle new opportunities.
Tim, who has been developing, manufacturing and marketing an innovative swinging drive-over auger system, is excited by the prospects for his business, and on this October morning was thrilled that he’ll soon be able to show his machinery in the Innovation Showcase at Manitoba Ag Days in January.
If Soaring Eagle Grain Equipment’s soon-to-be-patented grain unloading device is successful, the family will have a good business to help build their future upon.
On the other hand, he really likes the look of his father’s nearly 200 head cow herd and would like to expand his 31 head cow herd in that direction too.
“That looks like fun, but what if this (manufacturing business) takes off?” pondered Tim, as one of his five brothers worked on a piece of equipment on the floor of the Soaring Eagle plant.
Juggling opportunities and demands is also something Lena is constantly doing. She’s a stay-at-home mom but has ended up having to mother more than just her own kids: the family’s 31 cow-calf pairs still need to be tended when Tim is off in town at the plant or travelling. That was a bit of a jolt at first.
“I had to go out and check the cows, and I had never been around cows much,” said Lena, who was raised in the village of Hochfeld, just outside of Winkler, by non-farmers.
“They scared me a bit at first, but I had to get used to that.”
Lena loves farm life and was happy to move out to the 10-acre yard they bought five years ago after getting married. Country life is good, especially for her children.
“I love the big yard. They have a big place to play in,” said Lena.
She admits Tim’s increasing time in town was hard to get used to.
“I would like to see him more at home, farming,” she said.
“But after having three kids I’m quite busy, so I don’t think much about it any more.”
Tim’s leap into manufacturing and innovation has been dramatic. He was working for local entrepreneur Henry Elias when Elias presented him with an idea.
“He asked me if I wanted to start a business together,” said Tim, who had just greeted Elias as he popped by the office to check on a part of the implement they were trying to perfect.
“I put my ideas and his ideas together and put that to metal.”
Lena might not have begun as a farm girl, but one element of Tim’s farmer persona drew her attention before they started dating: his horse.
“That’s what caught your eye,” said Tim, laughing.
“I wanted to find out who he was,” said Lena, remembering the days when they just knew each other through mutual friends.
Their son Justin, four years old, loves visiting the manufacturing shop and playing on the farm, as does his three- year-old sister Cheyanne. Both seem comfortable around the banging and scraping of metal that’s a constant in farm implement work but make sure to stay out of the way.
Tyrell is only three months old, but all the metal-working noises don’t seem to rattle him either. He snoozes through most of the interview.
Adapting to busy and complicated situations is something the Penners are now used to with each partner taking on new roles as circumstances demand.
Lena is happy she got used to dealing with enormous, pregnant cows because when she first took on that job, she wasn’t too sure she could handle it.
“I was expecting then, so I was quite big,” she says, smiling about the memory of the intimidating situation. “Now it’s just part of life at home as a farmer. Calving is fun. It was pretty exciting.”
That’s the attitude that keeps the Penners happily juggling their busy and fulfilling lives.