Sustainability essential as family farm expands

Running Creekridge Farms Ltd. is a family affair. Back row: Brooklynn, Samantha and Kristyn, daughters of Josh and Janelle Prybylski.
Front: Bill, Neil, Mark, Josh and Richard Prybylski.  |  Family photo

WILLOWBROOK, Sask. — Labour is the one thing the Prybylski family doesn’t have to worry about on their farm.

When a grain company once offered them a supper in the field, there were 22 people to feed.

That’s because each member has a skill to bring to the operation, even if it’s for only a short time.

Creekridge Farms Ltd. is an incorporated family farm owned by Bill Prybylski, his brother, Richard, and Richard’s sons, Josh and Mark.

However, Bill has four children and Richard has 10.

There are also spouses and grandchildren as well as two full-time employees and spring and fall workers. And there’s the New Zealand farmer who comes each fall for a couple of weeks of vacation to help with harvest.

“You never know who’s driving a combine,” Josh said with a laugh.

Bill is the youngest of seven children and lives in the yard his parents established in 1951. He began farming with his father and bought the operation in 1991 when his parents retired to Yorkton, Sask.

Richard and his family live down the road, where they ran a dairy for a long time.

Josh worked off the farm as a welder until 2007, when the farm was incorporated. Mark bought in later and the corporation is set up to allow others in. Bill’s daughter, Amy, home from university where she is studying agricultural business, said she might.

“It’s definitely in the plan,” she said. “I just don’t know when.”

Bill said the farm has been steadily expanding since incorporation.

Acreage increased by 50 percent last year, and it may have to grow again.

Bill’s son, Neil, a journeyman welder, is interested in coming back to the farm. His oldest daughter, Mary, is the bookkeeper, and youngest daughter Tracy is off to Olds College on a hockey scholarship in the fall to also study agriculture business.

“We would look at any land that comes up for rent or sale here,” said Bill.

The Prybylskis seed 10,000 acres and have a 250-head cow-calf Charolais and Angus based herd. Calves are sold in the fall at Heartland Livestock in Yorkton.

“We stuck to February-March calving so this time of year we can concentrate on getting equipment ready for seeding,” Bill said in late April.

They grow canola, wheat, barley, oats, peas and occasionally flax. This year, they will plant 300 acres of soybeans for the first time for both the challenge and rotation.

“Moisture is our biggest limiting factor,” said Josh.

In 2001, when much of the province was dry, they had one of their best crops ever.

They were able to seed last year but lost crop to too much rain. It’s been so wet the last five years that yields have been average and salt is rising to the soil surface.

The record production year of 2013 was not the best for them.

Creekridge gets its name from the three creeks that run through the farm — Cussed, Sorefoot and Willowbrook — which provide natural drainage into the Assiniboine River system.

The creeks also provide enough marginal land to pasture cattle and grow hay. The cows stay out on pasture and graze corn or bale graze through the winter until calving season.

Bill was honoured at Yorkton’s Harvest Showdown in 2014 with the Farmer Recognition Award for his contributions to agriculture and the community.

“We’ve always run demonstration plots, research and field days, corral building and cattle equipment demos,” he said.

“We’re always looking for ways to do things better.”

For the last 10 years, the family, with the help of neighbours and company donations, has donated the proceeds from one quarter to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Giving back and participating in the community is important to Bill. He has been a rural municipal councillor and still sits on some boards. He is the RM of Garry’s representative to the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

From manager of Tracy’s AAA Midget girls’ hockey team in Melville, Sask., to the Willowbrook Veselka Ukrainian dance club to 4-H to the Ukrainian Catholic church, Bill’s contributions are many.

These days he says he spends more time in the office than in a tractor, thanks to having so much help.

“I’ll probably never leave entirely, but I will have no problem turning it over,” he said.

“Succession should be a fairly simple process. We’re just hoping to build an entity that we’ll be able to pass on, that’s sustainable.”

Farming is an attractive option for Amy and Josh and the others.

“I think with new technology and development, it’s just more appealing,” said Amy.

Josh, who with his wife is raising another generation on the farm, said it’s a way of life.

“Hopefully it will stay a profitable way of life,” he said.

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