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Agriculture This Week - The changing face of farming

For some undefined reason of late I have been thinking about my grandfather and what his take on a modern farm would be.

For some undefined reason of late I have been thinking about my grandfather and what his take on a modern farm would be.

That thinking came into focus more sharply when a friend of mine Harold Petkau posted a few photographs of what is left of his family’s old farm yard, a collection of gray and dilapidated buildings.

The house was small, yet no doubt raised a family far larger than the norm today.

The barn was tiny, but would have likely kept the family in pork and beef, and milk, the cream going to market in cans to generate some cash flow on the farm.

While that might not have been exactly the situation on the Petkau farm, it would have been close, because that was typical of any Prairie farm in the era.

It was the farm of my grandfather as well, a small-scale, increasingly looking smaller when compared to today’s operations. They incorporated a mixed farm approach, where there was a bit of everything.

In my grandfather’s case he retired to town having never farmed more than 480-acres, less when you took out the yard site, and a couple of river runs.

That small farm raised a family though, and kept ‘three squares’ on the table, with healthier fare than the processed food we often turn to these days.

And in terms of time that was not so long ago.

I’m only 55, feeling 75 some days, and thinking I’m still 35 on others. I can just remember our last milk cows, but watched neighbours hand milking and selling cream until I was into my teens.

I collected eggs, and helped butcher our own chickens in the fall, and add a pig to the huge deep freeze.

I hauled potatoes and carrots and turnips by the bag full from garden to cellar in the fall.

The aroma of homemade jams and pickles remain sharp memories.

These are the things of my grandfather’s era, fading away in my lifetime.

If my grandfather was alive he would have little reference for the huge tracked tractors used on many farmers today. If memory serves the last tractor he likely operated was a 930 Case.

The 930 came out new in 1969, selling for $6,700 US, and had a drawbar horsepower of 70.

For a quick comparison the CaseIH Steiger 435QT Quadtrac (tracked) came to the market in 2008, with a 2010 price of $336,979 US according to The engine is 435 hp.

Grandfather’s last seeder was a 12-foot press drill. You would put a lot of miles on a vehicle looking for a farm using a press drill today.

Instead, today farmers are using massive zero till units which would be completely unknown to my grandfather.

And, I can only imagine the look of disbelief at seeing a modern high clearance sprayer.

I wonder if he could even fathom the concepts of GMO crops, or GPS technology.

It would be a strange thought for him that grain had to be hauled past a dozen small towns to even find a rail line or elevator.

And not having to rise every morning on most farms today to collect eggs, milk a cow, or feed a few pigs would undoubtedly make him shake his head at the thought of why someone would rather buy their food than raise it.

It would be like walking into a sci-fi version of farming for my grandfather, and all in a matter of 30 to 40 years.

Which leads me to the next question, will I recognize a farm in another four decades as having anything in common with what I know today?

Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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