Farmer convinced ‘this is the best place to be’

On the Farm: Couple considers themselves fortunate to be able to work with their two sons and daughter-in-law

RIMBEY, Alta. — “With the way things are right now, I’m glad I’m a farmer,” says Calvin Sargeant during a phone interview from his rural central Alberta home.

He’s referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whole countries are closing up shop on non-essential services and requesting, sometimes demanding, that people stay home. Many workers have no jobs to go to and are worried about their future. The economic markets are in a state of flux.

Recent panic buying resulting in empty grocery store shelves has highlighted the importance of farmers, agriculture, and a stable food supply chain. People who may never have questioned or considered food security are understanding why agriculture is an essential service.

“I think this is the best place to be,” Sargeant said.

He farms 2,600 acres of owned and rented land with his wife, Louise, and their two grown sons and daughter-in-law. Eldest son Jamin and his wife, Paige, and the Sergeant’s younger son, Jayden, live together in the farmhouse where Calvin was raised.

“My dad moved there in 1948 and built the house in 1965,” he said.

It’s about five kilometres from Calvin and Louise’s new house on a 90-acre parcel just outside Rimbey.

Last year the family seeded canola, wheat, barley, and oats. Paige, who was raised on a farm at Hoadley, Alta., came into the marriage with more than half dozen horses and her own herd of 20 bred Simmental-cross cows. The first calf of 2020 was born April 3.

“Her first five cows came from our herd,” said Calvin, who got out of cattle in 2016.

“Louise was a cow lover too.… She helped a lot with the calving.”

Calvin said his wife grew up on a mixed farm at Dewberry, Alta.

While the couple may not officially own cows anymore, they’re still involved. They were on watch when Jamin and Paige took their delayed honeymoon this winter. The young couple arrived home from Florida shortly before the mandatory isolation rules were established for Canadians returning from international travels. The entire family stays close to home now, other than for what has to be done on the farm.

“I go over to the farm a bit,” says Calvin. “And Jamin’s been hauling some wheat.”

The next order of business will be to salvage the remainder of the 2019 crop.

There’s still 700 aces of canola on the ground, 170 acres of wheat to bring in and oats under the snow, which was their first oat crop.

“We didn’t get it all,” said Calvin. “There’s still 70 acres out.”

The family was able to complete the barley harvest.

“We combined about 12,000 bushels of dry barley,” he said. “Everything else we dried.”

The Sargeants did custom work for neighbours.

“We were drying into December.”

He said the last time they were forced to delay combining until spring was following the harvest of 2016. It necessitated their 2017 grain dryer purchase.

Before that, Sargeant remembers his dad buying a grain dryer back in the 1970s, which he said they used off and on until the mid 1980s.

“We sold it in the late ’90s after not using it for quite a few years.”

Calvin said he’s never considered another career. He always wanted to be a farmer.

“I like everything about it,” he said. “I like going to work every day.”

His son, Jayden, 26, is of the same opinion.

“He’s always been my helper.”

Jamin Sargeant runs the combine last October while his wife, Paige, pulls the grain cart on a 420 acre barley crop right on the edge of Rimbey. The couple, who were married in mid-September, delayed their honeymoon until winter. | Maria Johnson photo

On the other hand, Jamin, 29, left the farm after high school. He completed a heavy equipment operator course at Olds College and then ran a packer one summer. At 19, he started a glass shop in Rimbey, which he sold after nine years.

“He decided that was enough”, said Calvin.

The decision came at a time when the family was starting to find the farm more than Calvin, Louise and Jayden could handle.

“I wanted him to come back,” he said. “And he did. He came back to the farm last summer.”

Calvin said that everyone helps out with whatever job needs doing.

“But Jayden loves trucking the most. He’s our main trucker. He got his Class I at 18.”

“And Paige typically drives the grain cart.”

Sargeant said the family hires outside help on occasion. He said he’s already had people let him know they’re available.

“There’s going to be a lot of people looking for work.”

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