Happy Wednesday everyone!
As today is August 7th, its my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. I had posted an article in June, for my first authentic Canadian food experience. I unfortunately missed July’s post, since I was in Costa Rica then, but I’m back on board with contributing for August.
For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the project began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.
August’s topic is: a Regional Canadian Food Hero. There were several different examples of Canadian heroes we could use- such as local bakers/chefs, an artisan farmer, or even someone who provided lessons or classes.
However, as soon as I heard that we would be writing about a local Canadian food hero, I knew who mine would me. Technically, I was suppose to go with an Edmonton food hero, but since I’m originally from Saskatchewan, I chose my hero from there.
It’s my Dad, Randy Ford.
I’ve mentioned on my blog before that my Dad has farmed for most of his life. However, I’ve never gone into any detail of the true heartbreak that he’s experienced with farming, or his complete love for it.
My Dad grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. He briefly moved to Saskatoon, a city in Saskatchewan of about 250,000 people, to go to college when he was 18. He took farming mechanics, and he met my mom while there. After college, they moved within 5 km of where he had grown up, and he bought his own farm land and started a pig farm. They lived there from 1981-1989.
Unfortunately, the winter of 1989 was an extremely cold one in Saskatchewan. As such, the pipes in his pig farm froze shut. Now, I know nothing about farming, but I know that when pipes freeze- you’re in trouble. My parents couldn’t afford to pay to fix the issue, and my dad was forced to sell his land and pig farm, and we moved back to Saskatoon. Although my dad now lived in the city, in his heart, he was still a farmer, and he craved the land.
Sadly, my Dad didn’t have a chance to farm again until 2002 (due to many issues including my parents divorcing). My Grandpa still had the same farmland that he had been farming since my dad was a young boy (in the late 1960′s). He was getting older, and needed some help with the farming. My Dad first started by helping him out, and slowly started buying pieces of his land.
My Dad would work a full job as a letter carrier (which requires him to walk about 10 kms a day) and on the weekends he would go to the farm to do all the work that is required of a farmer. He would fix the equipment, seed the land, fertilize it, harvest it, everything: BY HIMSELF. He would sometimes have a friend or two come out to help him, but for the most part, he did it alone. He spent every minute of his vacation time on the farm- using it mostly in the spring for seeding, and in the fall for harvesting. He mostly grew canola, wheat and lentils. Everytime I visited my dad, I would be sent home with a fresh bag of lentils that he had grown himself.
There were heartbreaks along the way- which only a farmer can truly ever understand. Being a farmer has you so dependent on the weather- it’s a cruel game. One year, his crop was beautiful. The weather had been stunningly amazing and he had the best crop he had ever seen. 2 weeks before harvest- it hailed, and he lost over 60% of his crop.
The next year, there was not enough rain, so the crop didn’t grow as thick. The year after that, there was too much rain right at the time of harvesting, and it ruined a lot of his field. This doesn’t include other issues- such as pests, lowering prices for wheat and canola, and increasing costs of all farming inputs.
But throughout it all, my Dad loved it. He complained, certainly, but he was never as happy as he was behind the tractor.
Last year, my grandpa turned 78. As such, he decided it was time to sell the farm. My dad is 53, and decided he was getting too old to do it all himself. My grandpa and my dad found a buyer, and the land is now gone. In May, my dad was so happy he could actually enjoy a vacation, and we went to China as a family to celebrate that he wasn’t seeding.
However, his true feelings came out last week when I was chatting wtih him. He had driven through the area where the farm had been, and the crops are coming in beautifully. He told me he had seen the land and admitted, “I wish I had just one more year to farm.”
So my Dad, the farmer who loves the land, is my local Canadian hero.