On the Farm: The Leguees focus on sustainable production and developing long-term business relationships
FILLMORE, Sask. — Farming on the Canadian Prairies can be a risky business.
That’s why effective risk management strategies are so important to farm manager Jake Leguee.
Jake and his wife, Stephanie, are partners at Leguee Farms near Fillmore, Sask., about an hour’s drive southeast of Regina.
The family has been farming in the Fillmore area since the mid-1950s, when Jake’s grandparents relocated from Ogema, Sask., about 100 kilometres away.
Today, Leguee Farms consists of 15,000 acres of dryland crop production.
Jake and Stephanie are partners in the operation, along with Jake’s parents, Russ and Sharon, sister Sarah and brother-in-law Erik.
Together, the family members share duties on a modern operation that’s focused on sustainable production and building long-term business relationships.
Jake’s father, Russ, is in charge of trucking and logistics.
Sarah, who lives just down the road, is in charge of grain inventory and management.
Erik — married to Jake’s youngest sister, Amber — is a journeyman mechanic, who used to work at a local John Deere dealership as a service manager.
Jake is in charge of agronomy, marketing, bookkeeping, financial management and data management.
During the busy seeding and harvest seasons, it’s all hands on deck, with every member of the family running one machine or another.
“We farm about 15,000 acres of canola, durum, hard red spring wheat, lentils, peas and durum,” says Jake, an agronomy grad from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
“We also grow flax, soybeans and winter wheat occasionally.”
“We follow a wide rotation, partly because we can — we’re in a part of Saskatchewan where you can grow almost anything — but we also consider it important to have a lot of variety, in terms of what we’re growing, what we’re marketing, what chemicals we’re using to manage resistance and how we’re using the proper fertility packages.”
Jake, Sarah and Erik are the family’s third generation to be involved in primary agricultural production.
Together, they are dedicated to managing the farm carefully and responsibly, with an eye on building opportunities for their children and grandchildren.
The family has established a set of core values for the farm. They have a strategic plan that outlines where they want to go as farmers and how they plan to get there. And starting next year, they’ll be using a board of advisers, which will add another dimension of depth and understanding to the farm’s managerial capacity.
“Our long-term goal is to build a business that any or all of our kids could come into at some point, if they wanted to,” says Jake.
“We want to create an opportunity for any and all of them to make a living on the farm … and in order to do that, we have to create a lot of structure and governance.…
“We want to make sure that nobody feels like they’re getting the short end of the deal on anything. And of course, we also have to be financially successful in order to make that happen.”
In that context, the farm’s sustainability — both financially and environmentally — has been identified as a top says.
“We have to try to make things better,” Jake says.
“We have to make our soil better. We have to make our finances better and we have to make our communication and relationships better.”
Over the past few years, the family has spent a lot of time and energy on succession planning.
At the same time, significant emphasis has been placed on improving production and enhancing the farm’s financial viability.
The farm’s partners have invested in various technologies that will give the operation a competitive edge.
The farm employs outside agronomy and grain marketing services and has been using variable rate technology since 2010.
It is working toward mapping every field within the 15,000 acre land base.
It is also expanding its use of soil moisture probes through Crop Intelligence.
The metre-long probes collect soil moisture data at various depths, allowing growers to make informed fertility and land management decisions.
Jake says water in the ground is like money in the bank. It doesn’t go anywhere until you pull it out.
“They (the probes) have been one of the best investments that I think we’ve ever made on this farm,” he says.
“They’ve really kind of reshaped our understanding of what’s happening under our feet — the water that’s there and how we can use it.”
The probes — there are five installed so far but more to come in the future — have changed the way Leguee Farms determines its fertilizer rates and times its applications.
“They’ve kind of led to more in-crop applications as a way to reduce our financial risk,” Jake says.
“You know, if you’re going to target a 70 or 80 bushel wheat or durum crop, are you going to put all of your fertilizer down at the start of the year and hope for the best?
“We just don’t consider that to be a good risk management strategy. We prefer (an initial) rate that matches our average yield, and then we’ll top up if necessary mostly with liquid fertilizer that’s applied with the sprayer.”
Jake also serves as a board member on the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.