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Manitoba farm family ‘slows down’

The Friesens’ idea of taking it easy is to manage chicken and hog barns, breed dogs and be heavily involved in sports

LANDMARK, Man. — Janet and Jeff Friesen have decided to take it a little easier these days.

“We slowed down, moved some things around,” said Jeff about the couple’s decision to sell their motorbike shop and two farming operations.

“We were doing four farms and raising a family and racing motorbikes.”

Today, on their green and pleasant southeastern Manitoba farm, the couple seems comfortable and relaxed with their lives, which are still much busier than most people’s.

They live beside a commercial broiler chicken operation, which takes a lot of their time and attention. They own a nearby hog barn.

They breed Rottweilers beside their home.

Jeff is heavily involved with regional softball, coaching and often umpiring games.

They are raising five kids — Keara, Karlee, Dean, Kendra and Jackson — who range from 20 years old to 10.

They have horses and are avid hunters, with bow-hunting a key recreation.

“It’s such a good life to raise your kids in,” said Janet about how the family’s lives can be so busy yet the home life so comfortable.

It hasn’t been easy to get to this point, though. They were lucky to have farming on both sides of the family, but while they were able to slowly take over family operations, they had to earn what they got.

“It was so uninsulated, (Janet’s) hair would freeze to the walls some winter nights,” said Jeff, recalling the simple trailer the couple lived in while they worked a number of jobs as they built up the capital to ease into farming.

They met while working at Granny’s Poultry, on the cut-up line.

They got married and immediately began figuring out farming.

“The first thing I did after getting married was bought five cows,” said Jeff.

Over the course of a number of jobs for both of them, they salted away $10,000 to $15,000 per year so that they could eventually take over Janet’s father’s farm and get into hog farming. That slow evolution into full-time farming has provided much of the wisdom they believe has saved them from making some common mistakes.

Jeff worked in the small hog barn they were able to set up, as well as working in a local commercial hog barn.

He then began managing a 1,200-sow hog barn, which for that time was very large.

“There I learned the economics of hog farming,” said Jeff.

They bought Janet’s father’s farm in 1997, moved onto the farm and started having children. Things got busy and busier and productive.

But the busy lifestyle doesn’t seem to have turned off the kids to a future in agriculture. They don’t know who will take over the family farm, but their eldest is already in agricultural school at the University of Manitoba.

They have seen up close their parents’ demanding but rewarding life in farming. They promote it to their children not as a great way to make a lot of money (Jeff says their Rottweiler litters make about as much profit as their commercial chicken barn) but as a way to have an enriching life.

“Nobody’s in this farming to get rich,” laughed Jeff.

“If you wanted to get rich you’d sell the farm.”

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