Norquay farm couple wins provincial award

In what they described as “quite an honour”, Jordan and Jennifer Lindgren of Norquay were named the winners of the Saskatchewan Outstanding Young Farmer award on June 21 at the Western Canada Farm Progress Show in Regina.

The award recognizes young farmers who demonstrate excellence in their profession.

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The program seeks to recognize young farmers who are less than 49 years of age, make the majority of farm management decisions, and derive a minimum of two-thirds of their gross revenue from farming.

Each year an honouree is selected to represent each of the seven regions across Canada. These seven honourees are then recognized for their achievements at the National Outstanding Young Farmers event.

The Lindgrens farm in the Norquay district, and Jordan said being a farmer was always what he planned.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he said during an interview recently at the couple’s kitchen table.

Jennifer was not quite as focused on being a farmer, but agriculture was certainly her area of keenest interest.

“I went to the school of agriculture,” she said, adding she was thinking of a job in the sector if not specifically running a farm.

But then the pair met, married, and began to farm.

The couple started out farming with Jordan’s father and uncle, buying some land of their own, and working in what evolved into a three-way partnership.

Over time Jordan had assumed the management role, and then about eight years ago the couple bought out Jordan’s father and uncle.

“We had to buy everything,” said Jordan, noting his father and uncle deserved to be paid for what they had built up through their partnership of nearly four decades. “It’s what they had worked their whole entire lives for. They deserved getting the most they could out of all their hard work.”

There was never any hesitation to buy out the farm, but it took planning. There were kitchen table discussions regarding succession, and Jordan and Jennifer were helped out by having some of their own land and equipment to soften the impact of taking over.

“We were preparing for it,” said Jennifer. “We had built up to where we were able to do it.

The move increased the couple’s debt load, but Jordan said debt is part of farming these days. If someone is going to farm “debt is going to be part of it,” he said.

“If there’s no risk, there’s no reward,” added Jennifer.

Without a base, Jordan said starting to farm today would be very difficult.

“Trying to start up (from scratch) is almost impossible with the costs that are involved,” he said.

Jennifer worked off the farm in the early years of their marriage, but as the farm grew, and their family arrived, they have four children ages eight to 12, she evolved to stay home and be an active member of the team.

Jordan said having her on the farm where she can bring meals to the field is a huge asset. He said having a hot, home-cooked meal is something his employees look forward to during the busy seeding and harvesting seasons, the time of sharing a meal being a key element of building camaraderie.

Keeping workers happy is important on an operation where they employ two full-time and four seasonal people to get all the work done.

Jordan said he tries to create a working atmosphere where he’d want to work himself, if he were not farming. The workers are looked at almost as extended family.

“The kids think of them as uncles,” said Jennifer.

Jordan said he needs good workers because his focus is on dealing with breakdowns, planning crop sales, doing the management that increasingly has his attention on a computer screen rather than the steering wheel of a tractor.

“As it is 25 per cent of my time is in the office,” he said, adding he probably should be on the computer even more than he is.

“You’re always trying to run scenarios in your mind,” he said.

Jordan said he still enjoys time on the tractor the most, but that is something generally left to others.

“It’s working the land and being hands-on. But my phone never stops,” he said.

The couple also have their children involved, including being out in the field at meal time.

“Having the kids out there means they get a feel for farming,” said Jordan, adding meals in the field are certainly one of his best memories from his own childhood.

Jennifer said while the farm is now large, and most certainly a business, they have made it a priority to focus on family too.

“We decided a long time ago it would be a priority to us, to have the kids involved,” she said.

It’s not always easy to keep the family farm philosophy and the business realities separate, but the couple tries.

“It does get blurred,” said Jennifer.

But, they already make sure the children are aware that it is a family farm at heart.

“Everybody in the family knows we are in this together,” said Jordan.

And it takes all hands on-deck to operate a farm where 11,500 acres is seeded annually.

Jordan’s father “is still out there all the time,” said Jennifer with a smile, adding his uncle still plays a role too.

At times the elder pair are a sounding board for Jordan, although they have not seen eye-to-eye on everything through the years.

“There’s still some stuff where they’re set in their mindset,” he said, adding when he was first taking over a greater portion of the decision making there were things “they felt that they knew what would work best.” He said that was just the process of viewpoints based in different eras coming together.

Today, Jordan said he still appreciates being able to bounce things off the pair.

“To have that experience available when I’m thinking about doing things, those guys have seen more things in their lives than I have,” he said.

As for cropping choices Jordan has kept that part of the operation rather straight forward, growing wheat and canola in rotation.

For the wheat they shoot for an average of 70 bushels an acre, with a crop that dips below 65 seen as disappointing.

Over the years Jordan said they have tried other crops, most recently soybeans, but so far wheat and canola on their varied land conditions do best under the input regime they use.

“We’re definitely testing the limits,” he said, adding he is a believer in fertilizing to the maximums to realize the genetic potential of the varieties they grow.

The Lindgrens also see a role in helping share information with other farmers. They do that by partnering with local agriculture distributors to host the ‘Field of Dreams’ tour that is held annually on their farm, which is an opportunity to share trial results from previous years and showcase the current trials that are focused on new genetics, applications and variable fertilizer rates.

And this year they also plan to be a part of educating the next generation as they incorporate a ‘Food Farm’ into their operation which is an interactive tour geared at educating Grade 3 and 4 students on agriculture.

So what of the Outstanding Young Farmer award?

Jordan said the nomination came as a surprise when they were asked if they would allow their names to be submitted.

“We just said we’d be honoured,” he replied, admitting they were left to ponder if they were worthy of the nomination.

But then the process of reviewing their farm’s history to fill out additional forms began, and they came to recognize they have accomplished a lot since taking over the farm from his father and uncle who had farmed together for 40-years. Reflection is not always easy amid the “bustle” of farming day-to-day, said Jordan.

Jennifer added, as they delved into the records, while taking time to fill out the forms, it was a good process in terms of reflecting on their farm to-date and setting a few new goals moving forward.