Alta. combine crew ruled by women

Colleen McCracken, left, Shelby Paulgaard, Shayna deKoning, Jill deKoning and Nicole Booker comprise the combine crew at C.G. Paulgaard Farms near Hayter, Alta. Jasmine the dog goes everywhere with McCracken.  |  Nicole Booker photo

At C.G. Paulgaard Farms, the women run the combines during harvest.

When they do, things tend to run fairly smoothly on the 15,000 acre crop and livestock operation, according to Joanne Paulgaard, who runs the operation along with her husband, Rod, children Kyle and Shelby and Rod’s mother, Norma.

An operation their size requires a crew of 15 to 18 people, depending on the season, but it’s the five women on the team who get the most time on the combines.

“The women are very good with equipment and very good on the combines. If one of them is gone and we switch someone else on, it doesn’t usually go as well,” said Joanne.

“We really do like having them on the combines, that’s for sure. But I’m cautious. I don’t want the men to think that they’re not appreciated here either because they work really hard for us as well. They do all have their strengths,” she said of the crew.

The family farm is near Hayter, Alta., between Provost, Alta., and Macklin, Sask. It has about nine year-round employees and hires additional people for the busier times.

“We have five women working for us, including our daughter, Shelby. Four run our combines and the fifth drives a semi and hauls grain. Shelby was taught how to combine by Cliff, and in turn she has trained some of the other women, who have gone on to train other new employees,” Joanne said.

“Cliff had farmed his whole life and was an expert combine operator. His skill has been passed on and taught to our current group of operators. In the past, Norma spent many long hours on the combine as well.”

Quality, not gender, drives their hiring process. And good people bring good people, said Joanne.

“I believe that because we have some excellent people and then they have a relative or friend and they’ll come part time or come after work … it kind of builds from having good people here.

“It’s a lot just to put someone on one of these machines if they aren’t good. It can cost you a lot in a hurry.”

Their combine operators are easy on the equipment and are particularly good at reading the machine and know what to do before it plugs or malfunctions, Joanne added.

“We have little down time due to operator error since we have had these women running the combines. They are such a hardworking and dedicated group.”

As for harvest in the region, Joanne said there have been a few interruptions from small showers but in general it is going well.

“It’s going better than in the last three years, so we won’t complain.”


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