The County of Newell award programs is designed to recognize the many farm families and County residents that make an extraordinary contribution to the development of our agricultural landscape. We also help administer federal and provincial grants that help farm families achieve their stewardship goals.
2015 BMO Family Farm Award Winner
Each year the County nominates one farm to be the BMO Bank of Montreal Farm Family for our region. Please help us congratulate the Dyck Family for winning this award for 2015.
There have been a lot of changes in the way the Dyck family farms over the last half-century or so. When John Dyck’s grandfather came to Alberta from Germany in 1951, he started out hoeing sugar beets in the Lethbridge area. Before long, the family had rented land and was operating a dairy farm. Finally, in 1967, they were able to purchase a farm of their own just northeast of Brooks.
Today, the family is still farming on the same property, and John and Charlotte Dyck of Brookside Farms Ltd. are the BMO Farm Family of the Year for the County of Newell. In those early years, the family raised cattle and grew vegetables for sale through the Newell Vegetable Co-op. The animals are gone, and so is the Co-op, and the Dyck operation today is 1,300 acres of mainly irrigated cropland.
Irrigation practices have changed, as well, Dyck says. Flood irrigation was replaced by irrigation wheels, and the wheels were replaced by pivots. "It’s extremely dry here,” John says. "You couldn’t really grow a crop here without irrigation. It’s a lot more efficient than it used to be. We’re growing better crops with less water.”
Part of the increase in efficiency, Dyck says, came as the result of an Environmental Farm Plan he created after taking a course. Moving to low-pressure sprinklers improved water conservation. "With the high-pressure lines we used to use, you could see water blowing off with the wind,” he recalls. "Years ago we used to plow every acre, every year. This year we didn’t till one acre – everything was direct-seeded, right into stubble.” More sophisticated seeding, fertilizing and spraying technologies have also been adopted.
About 40% of the Dyck farm is seeded for hard red spring wheat with another 20% in canola. For the last three years, Dyck has had fava beans in his rotation, too. "They’ve worked out really well. They’re actually the highest nitrogen-fixing legume, which has really saved on fertilizer costs. They are easy to harvest. They don’t lay down like peas, they stand up and the leaves just sort of dry off. By harvest-time, all you have left is a stalk with pods.” The dryland corners are seeded to grass, which is usually good for one cut of hay.
"I don’t remember wanting to do anything else,” John says. "After college, the neighbor’s farm came up for sale. I bought that and added it to the operation. It’s been interesting, working with my grandfather and father, then with my brother and then my father worked for me.” John’s brother Thomas became a teacher but now lives in the grandfather’s house, farms in the summer and substitute-teaches in the winter. John, Sr., still lives on the family farm and helps out when needed. "We’ve always worked together,” says John Jr.
The family has done its best to contribute to their local community over the years. Church, school, and their children’s sporting activities have kept them busy off the farm, but farming offers some unique parenting opportunities, too, Dyck says. "When my children were younger, I’d be terribly busy, but they could come with me. There are a lot of teaching moments when they come to work with you.”
John Dyck knows exactly what he likes best about farming. "Being your own boss is very appealing, and the satisfaction you get from hard work when you can see the results. I love working outside, to watch a crop grow and then to harvest it is a really satisfying thing. I feel very blessed. I’m doing what I love with the people I love. I can’t imagine having to go to work every day and hating it. Every day I look forward to what I have to do the next day.”