My wife Chandra and I, Clem Schraefel took over the family farm in 1996, moving from a great job in Calgary with 2 young sons aged 4 and 5. Farming 7 quarters in West Central Saskatchewan, we quickly discovered that we would either both have to get off farm jobs or find a different way to make a living on a small family farm.
Along with 3 other small farmers in the area we transitioned to organic methods. After talking with other organic and transitional farmers, buyers and retailers, we marketed our first certified organic crop in 2000. Since that day we have never had to sell any grain into the conventional market.
We have had some set backs and some disasters but the thing I remember in those early years is that our risk dropped immensely. We were able to ride through some tough times easier than if we had massive debt to service. Today we have learned that you can grow clean crops with good yield. Our average yield dropped less than 10 percent and prices are 2 - 3 times that of conventional grain. The math is easy.
Boys standing in an organic field of Peas!
Right away, after moving to the farm we realized this was the place to raise kids. Coming from Calgary, where you didn't let go of their hands, this was a place they could roam and explore and really be kids. We just needed to make the farming part work. We met with an organic farming consultant to learn what we could before we dove in. I was very skeptical as I was brought up believing chemicals and fertilizer was the only way to grow a crop. Even though my mother raised us on an organic garden. We added one more son since the move and now all of our sons work on the farm and are taking over control as Chandra and I enter a new stage by trying to help other young men and women take over their operation or even start a new one. Organic farming needs more producers to keep up with demand. It is a great life!
As our sons take over the farm we realize that the farm can't really pay for itself again. If they had to borrow the money to buy the farm so that we could retire, it would be a huge burden for them and the farm. The price of land has gone much higher than the farm can pay for and still make a good living. So, we started a company that can buy land and rent it to them. We have always rented land from neighbors but as they grow older, uncertainty about who will farm the land is a concern to the land owner and the operator. We hope that this company can help with that, by holding land for the exclusive use of these operators and help in any other way we can.