On the Farm: Lesley and Matt Kelly left good jobs in Alberta to become partners in a Saskatchewan grain operation
For Lesley Kelly, the decision to leave a stable job in Alberta’s financial sector and return to Saskatchewan to pursue a career in farming wasn’t easy.
But today, she and her husband, Matt, can’t imagine a more rewarding lifestyle.
“I absolutely love living in a small town and working with family,” said Lesley.
“To me, there’s no better way of life than waking up every day, being close to my family and doing the things that I do every day, with people that I love.”
The Kellys — Lesley, Matt and their two sons, Jennings, 7, and Copeland, 4 — have been living in Watrous, Sask., since early 2018.
Lesley, a farm girl, grew up near Watrous and went to school there before moving off the farm to study marketing at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in the early 2000s.
Around the same time, she started dating Matt, whose family owned a grocery store at Imperial, Sask., about 30 minutes south of Watrous.
After completing her bachelor of commerce degree in 2004, Lesley and Matt sought their fortunes away from the farm.
Lesley landed a job with ATB, a financial services company in Edmonton, and Matt, a heavy duty mechanic, found work in the oilfield.
The couple got married in 2006 and seemed to have defined career paths in front of them.
But the appeal of living in Saskatchewan and pursuing a career together as farmers never disappeared.
The couple decided to return to Saskatchewan a few years later when Lesley’s father, Garnet Martin, called to see if they were interested in becoming partners in the family grain farm.
Lesley and Matt moved back to Regina in 2011, where Lesley worked as a brand manager with Farm Credit Canada and Matt commuted to the farm.
A few years later, they moved again, this time to Watrous, Lesley’s childhood home.
Sons Jennings and Copeland are both involved in minor hockey and enjoy spending spare time with Grandma and Grandpa.
Matt and Lesley are enjoying their lives in rural Saskatchewan and are looking forward to building their future in a community and a career that they love.
“I think it (the transition) was easy for Matt,” Lesley said.
“It was a bit hard for me because I loved my job (at ATB) and I really liked where we lived in Alberta.”
Since returning to Saskatchewan nearly a decade ago, Lesley and Matt haven’t looked back.
Today, the couple are full-time partners in a 6,500-acre grain farm along with Lesley’s parents, Garnet and Darlene, and her brother, Derek.
A typical harvest on the farm includes wheat, durum, barley, canola, peas, lentils, flax and oats.
The family has recently bought more land in the area and have developed a farm succession plan that will allow the farm to prosper when Lesley’s parents decide to step back.
Duties on the farm are shared between the partners. Lesley’s father, Garnet, acts as chief executive officer and is in charge of grain marketing.
Matt and Derek share duties as operations manager. Lesley focuses on farm management and finances and also handles human resources.
Aside from family members, the farm employs one-full time worker and two seasonal helpers during the harvest season.
In recent years, Lesley has also cultivated a strong presence as a farm advocate, using social media channels and connections in the farm media.
In 2015, she launched a farm blog called High Heels and Canola Fields, which deals with farm-related issues that are close to her heart.
The blog, which can be viewed at highheelsandcanolafields.com, shares day-to-day stories about life on a Saskatchewan grain farm.
It also addresses relevant issues such as growing food, using responsible farm management practices and bridging the gap between rural farmers and urban food buyers.
“The goal of my blog is to help make a positive impact and to help make people’s lives a bit brighter,” she said.
Lesley is also a co-founder and board member of Do More Ag, a non-profit group that was formed to bring attention to mental health issues in the Canadian agriculture sector. It can be found at www.domore.ag.
Late last year, she was elected as one of three new board members to the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, known as SaskWheat.
When she was approached about running as a SaskWheat director, Lesley said she had doubts.
But encouragement from friends, family and people in the agriculture industry convinced her to give it a shot.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity (with SaskWheat).
“I’m looking forward to learning more about the wheat industry and using my skills to bridge gaps within the industry.”
As far as the future is concerned, Lesley and Matt can’t imagine a career in any other field.
“We absolutely love where we are,” Lesley said. “There’s no better life.”