Farm Family Award
It's a long way from Nova Scotia to Three Hills, but that's the trek Don Ferguson's father Tom made at the age of 13 during the Great Depression. Today, the roots Tom put down have resulted in three further generations of farming Fergusons--the BMO Farm Family of the Year representing Kneehill County for 2016.
Traveling with his slightly older sister, Tom joined an uncle and aunt who farmed in the area. Soon, however, he was living and working on a series of other local farms for room and board. Don recalls his father telling him that once he wrote a letter to his mother but couldn't mail it for six months because he didn't have a penny to buy a stamp. At one farm though, Tom met Alice, who became his wife.
Eventually, times improved and Tom was able to purchase and farm his uncle's half-section, the base for today's family operation to the southeast of Three Hills, as well as running a trucking business.
These days, Don and his sons, Matt and Mark, don't really have time for trucking. The farm has over 9,000 acres under cultivation- about 20 per cent in either peas or malt barley and the rest equally divided between canola and wheat. The Fergusons were early adaptors of the new no-till technology Don says. "As soon as the air-seeders came out, they offered a whole bunch of new opportunities we hadn't had before. Soil conservation has always been our first priority. Look after the soil and it will look after you!" He recalls days when extensive labour was required to repair washouts from the spring runoff and when any wind would pick up topsoil and blow it away.
The Fergusons also make extensive use of GPS tracking. "We don't have anything on that farm that you steer," Don observes. "It's all auto-steer. My boys really like technology. If we can see it's useful, we adopt it." Don says he often wishes his father could see the technology and equipment the farm uses today.
Matt and his wife Jen also have 150 head, grass-fed cow/calf operation using Angus/Simmental cows bred Angus. Don's daughter, Sarah Richardson and her husband also have a cow/calf herd.
"All of us farm our own land and share machinery," Don explains. "We all work together. We just do the work the way we think it should be done. It doesn't really matter whose land it is. At the end of the day, the work's all done."
The Fergusons have been very involved in their community for many years. Tom was a county councilor for 18 years in the 1970s and 1980s. Don is approaching his 40th year as a member of the Elks Club. His wife Krista worked for many years in the lab at the hospital and still volunteers there. Their children, Matt & his wife Jen, Mark and his wife Jordana and the Richardson's have all been busy volunteering with local boards, 4-H, church and coaching minor sports.
It isn't hard for Don to single out the best thing about being on the farm. "For me, it's undoubtedly working with my family every day. I have nine grandkids now and they're all within five or six miles of the house." Even better is that some of the younger generation are showing interest in the farm. "If there's a job they can do, they're more than happy to help out and work," he says. "We feel very blessed to have that."
Ferguson Family: 2016 BMO Farm Family
Alberta Agriculture Service Board representatives from local rural municipalities nominate a farm family from their area. All nominees are honored at the Farm Family Award Ceremonies held in conjunction with the Calgary Stampede.
Kneehill County Ag Services Board & Council recognize together, with the Calgary Stampede and Bank of Montreal (BMO) the importance of honoring farm families. These who best typify the ideals and way of life for the farm family unit and their contributions to the enhancement of the family’s quality of life, their rural community and society.
These guidelines include Community Involvement, Agricultural Industry Involvement & Business Updates, Team Farm Management, and Technical Practices.