Northern Alta. farmer breaks fresh ground

Optimism and opportunity have long been part of the Boese family, which started farming in northwestern Alta. in 1965

FORT VERMILION, Alta. — Bill Boese is clearing 600 acres of bush to make way for new cropland, an exciting venture that highlights his optimism for the future.

“This doesn’t happen in very many places,” said Boese, on his farm near Fort Vermilion, Alta., which is located in one of the province’s most northern points.

Lots of the land here is being freshly broken. It can be a two-year process to complete. Trees must first be pushed over, piled and later burned in the winter. The land is then worked, with roots being pulled to the surface and collected. The soil must then be levelled.

“There’s no easy way to do this,” Boese said. “It’s hard on equipment and time-consuming. It’s also an expense, about $500 an acre by the time it’s in production. Add that to the cost of buying the land originally.”

He farms 5,400 acres in the area, renting 1,200 of that and owning the rest. He grows canola, wheat and peas. Canola is rotated in every four years to prevent disease and improve soil.

Optimism and opportunity have long been part of his family.

His parents moved into the region in 1963, first working in a children’s home and later buying land in 1965. They were fond of the area, and had sold their dairy farm in Three Hills, Alta., to make the move possible.

“My dad was the kind of guy looking for new opportunity,” Boese said. “Mom was the same way. They both came up here for an adventure.

“It’s a fantastic country. It has treated us extremely well.”

Boese was the only one from among his siblings to remain in the area to farm. It’s also where he met his wife, Pam.

Originally from Newfoundland, Pam moved out to the area to teach.

“It was supposed to be a one-year adventure,” she said. “But I met Bill and I was interested in living somewhere else, so plans changed.”

The two of them had five children: Shannon, Kailey, Jeff, Sylvia and Scott.

“I’m fortunate we got to raise our kids on a farm,” Pam said. “It’s given them a lot of opportunity: more space with a field and hockey rink. They aren’t sitting at home watching TV.”

Bill said he and Pam have always told their kids to first do something other than farming. If they truly love it, they can come back, but they want them to pursue their passion.

“I don’t want my kids to feel they have to be a farmer because I love farming. I don’t think that’s fair to them,” Bill said. “If they find something else, that’s not going to make me less of a farmer because my kids don’t farm. If they want to farm, that’s great.”

As well, if they did come back, he said having another skill would be helpful in case times get tough.

“It’s always good to have another skill. It never hurts.”

Bill works on the farm full-time and Pam substitute teaches at the local school. He used to drive truck on the side for the forestry and oil industries, but now just uses the trucks for the farm.

He’s also keen on building things, so everything is fabricated and maintained on site.

“It’s always a good day when you can build something,” he said.

As well, the community has been great to him and his family, he added.

“Our daughter (Shannon) had a brain tumour a few years ago, and right at harvest time. My peas were combined when I came home. That’s pretty cool.”

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