On the Farm: A 90-cow beef herd is complemented by a wide range of heritage animals and an antique store
RED DEER — The Manyluk family at HolmeHus Antiques and the Farm With The Good Food promote their animals as free range.
The truth of that claim becomes apparent within minutes of driving onto the property via a tree-lined shady lane that winds to the back of the main house.
Clucking chickens dart and peck, business-like roosters strut, a raft of ducks waddle to a puddle, cats stroll, and a couple of escapee feeder pigs trot over to gobble up sweet apples in the snow.
In corrals close by, several brood mares keep company, cows amble around a feeder, and grunting pigs root.
It is like an image of a happy farmyard taken directly out of a story book.
Susan Manyluk, the matriarch of the four generations living here in three separate homes, is sunny and welcoming. Even the unseasonable heavy, wet September snow hasn’t dampened her spirit, considering that hay yields are half of normal and 100 acres of barley are still down.
“It’s happened before and it’ll happen again”, she says. “We’ll manage.”
Manyluk and Glen, her husband of nearly 50 years, bought this 17-acre homestead in 1977.
“We added onto the house that was here and whenever we got any money we did a little more,” she says.
Over the years, they added a shed and then a big blue shop, which also houses her two-storey HolmeHus Antiques. This year, they built a new chicken coop.
In 1990, the couple bought 155 acres of hay and grass about a kilometre west of the yard.
An additional 400 acres, for feed and pasture, are rented for their 90 beef cows. They don’t have a favourite breed.
“I look for sound feet and udders, lots of milk, and good temperament. If they’re ornery they get shipped,” says Manyluk.
Manyluk has wanted to farm since her childhood in Denmark.
“It was a dream my parents had and it passed through to me.”
After the hardships of the Second World War in Europe, her family immigrated to Canada in 1955 when she was seven years old.
Being a woman farmer has presented challenges.
“You stick it out long enough and hopefully gain some respect,” she says. “But I always went my own way. I never looked for approval.”
Glen Manyluk works full time through the week in the school system. He grew up on an acreage near Vermilion, Alta. His help on the farm is invaluable.
“I tell people I’m a professional fencer. I’m also the cattle waterer fixer.”
The list goes on — snow clearer, bale deliverer, tractor driver, house builder.
The heritage hogs, cross-bred large English Black and Tamworth, belong to Manyluk’s grandson, MacGregor, 18, who’s in his first year of commerce at Red Deer College.
He travels up and down the highway a lot these days because he also plays basketball for the Red Deer College Kings. Sales from the hogs fund his schooling.
MacGregor’s sisters, Sophia, 12, and Elleissana, 9, appreciate their rural life and the menagerie of farm animals. It also means they have a lot to do.
There are chickens to feed, eggs to collect, farm tours to lead, bikes to ride and newborn kittens to discover. They’re used to responsibility and want more of it.
Glen, their grandfather, says the girls are constantly asking when they’ll be able to drive the tractor.
MacGregor, Sophia and Elleissana live across the lawn with their parents, who both work off farm, but help out when necessary.
In the third home lives Kiersten Jarvis, 94, Manyluk’s mother.
“She does my dishes and keeps an eye on the pigs to see if any are out and she lets me know if any of the ducks are being chased.”
The farm’s location between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake makes it an easy drive for people wanting fresh eggs, heritage pork or free-range beef. If the live attractions don’t capture the visitors’ attention there is lots to see in HolmeHus Antiques.
Manyluk makes it clear that she’s been collecting antiques for a long time.
“I still have the cast metal animals I was given as a young girl.”
Before opening the on-farm store in 2000, Manyluk and her mother attended antique shows in Edmonton and Calgary for about 20 years.
As a contributing writer to Discovering Antiques magazine, she pens under the byline Susan Holme Manyluk, Holme being her middle name. She supplies retail outlets and a tea house in the area with items from her store.
“We cross promote,” she says. “It’s terribly important for rural tourism; like neighbours helping one another.”
The family also markets their farm products and antiques through social media and word of mouth. Busloads of school kids tour the farm. Alberta Open Farm Days attracts urban visitors.
“I’ve been telling people for 50 years to eat local and in season,” says Manyluk.
She’s a positive force living the life she chose.
“If there’s anything I want to teach my children and grandchildren, it’s to live the dream. Give it a try. It might not work out, but it generally does”.