On the Farm: Rusti Dean worked in radio and TV while Brendon Sobchuk played hockey; now they’re helping operate the family farm
LANG, Sask. — Early risers in southern Saskatchewan might have listened to Rustie Dean on one of several radio stations, or watched her as the weather morning host on Regina’s Global television station.
Earlier this year, she announced she was stepping away from her most recent radio show, putting an end to a 3 a.m. commute from the farm.
“It was our dream to live on the farm,” Rustie said during a harvest break. “It just happened really quickly.”
She and husband Brendon Sobchuk and son Porter, 2, live at the farm the couple established when they married in 2015. They live in the same yard as Brendon’s parents, in a house they built mostly themselves.
Together, the two families farm about 6,000 acres, growing durum, large green lentils, canola and canary seed.
In this difficult 2019 harvest season, they finished combining just before Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s mainly Dad and I up to harvest,” Brendon said of the workload.
Two part-time employees help at the busiest times.
“I move stuff and cook,” added Rustie.
She also grows a large garden and preserves the produce, and battles with drought trying to establish a shelter belt. She is lobbying to add chickens, or maybe a horse.
“No chickens,” says Brendon.
“I come from solely a livestock farm and I married into the polar opposite,” she said.
Rustie grew up on her family’s farm at Caronport, Sask., where her dad still has sheep, cattle and chickens.
After high school, she took a one-year job at the Moose Jaw radio station that turned into a 13-year media career.
“I’m only on month four of not having a full-time job,” she said in September. “I miss the people but being a part of the farm helps us focus on the operation as family. We’re making this unit function a bit better.”
They plan to add to the unit in December with another baby. During a gender reveal earlier this year a Peterbilt semi drove into the yard and belched blue smoke to announce a boy.
The Sobchuk family is part of a local community that boasts a large number of young farmers with children. Lang itself only has about 200 people.
“We are not isolated,” Rustie observes. “There are 44 kids from the Lang area who go on the bus to Milestone (school).”
Brendon was once one of those kids, but he ended up playing AAA midget hockey in Regina and then three years with the Melville Millionaires in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
He returned to the farm and planted his first crop in 2008, supplementing his income by becoming an ag tech and working at Young’s Equipment in Weyburn.
Naturally, he played senior hockey, and he met Rustie, a former figure skater who still coaches and officiates at competitions, at the rink.
“I assessed his skating ability and thought it was pretty good,” she said.
When they met and got to know each other they discovered they had the same life plans: to live on a farm and raise a family.
Brendon said ideally they would expand their land base by renting or buying but it’s not easy with prices, investors and the number of young farmers looking to do the same.
“Even just keeping the land you’ve got” can be a challenge, he said.
He sees rotations as key to the farm’s future, particularly to combat pulse diseases.
Recently, they changed the colour of the equipment in the farmyard.
“For 42 years we were 100 percent Case. I don’t know what happened,” Brendon said, referring to two John Deere green combines in the yard this year.
They were put to the test.
“It’s just been a challenging year,” he said. “It’s the first in years we haven’t been able to go straight through.”
He and Rustie plan to continue the family’s practice of never combining on a Sunday, no matter what.
While she still teaches skating in Yellow Grass and Milestone, and does fill in on a casual basis at Harvard Broadcasting, he is captain of the Lang fire department and a member of the rink board.
They agree they are living their dream, with help from their parents.
“I don’t know how easy it would be (without that help),” said Rustie. “It takes a lot to get started. It’s really a blessing to be young farmers and have the help from our parents like we do and be able to build a legacy for our kids.”