CARLYLE - Kelvin Rutten has farmed all his life.
Residing 13 kilometres southwest of Carlyle, Rutten, 63, owns and rents 1,900 acres of farmland located in the Rural Municipalities of Moose Mountain and Moose Creek.
Together with his brother Larry, Rutten started organic grain farming in 1987. This year, he has 700 acres sown to oats, hullless barley, wheat and einkorn wheat. The remaining acres are either hay land, clover, alfalfa or summer fallow.
A successful organic grain farmer will continuous crop using very varied and extensive rotations. In June, clover and alfalfa is plowed down which results in an excellent base for next year’s crop.
This is only the third year in 35 that Rutten has not planted rye. As well, peas and flax were not sown this year. Instead, he has been experimenting with einkorn wheat.
This variety contains gluten and has a higher percentage of protein than modern red wheats. It is considered more nutritional because it also has higher levels of fat, phosphorus, and potassium. It also benefits people that have mild celiac disease.
Wild oats and yellow mustard are the main adversaries of organic grain farmers. Contrary to popular belief, farmers can spray their crops using natural or organic herbicides including sulfur.
There are only a handful of organic farmers in the RMs. The operators must be certified and are strictly governed by the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA). Rutten belongs to TCO Cert, which is a unique organic certifier because it is made up of member run chapters located across Canada. It is headquartered in Humboldt.
His certification number is 005, which shows how long he has been involved in the organic grain business.
Organic fields are inspected annually and there must be a 25-foot “buffer” cultivated between conventional grain lands. For years, Rutten has sold his organic grains mainly through Canadian brokers with most of his products transported to the United States.
Rutten loves talking about the organic grain business.
“I’ve been farming organically for 35 years and have been happy with the results. Neighbour George Coffey was a mentor to me. Yields are lower than conventional crops because we can’t use fertilizer, but prices are often higher too.
“My inputs are far lower than the average grain farmer and I don’t need any hired help. I do, however, have several friends and relatives that assist me: my stepchildren Corey, Brittney and Greg Wilson and, of course, my 91-year-old neighbour Lorne Luedtke.”
Sadly, Rutten has seen a lot of tragedy in his life. Both brother Larry and sister Cathy died of ALS many years ago. Brother Ron and his family died tragically in an automobile accident over 30 years ago just a couple of kilometres away from his home quarter. He also had two nephews pass away far too soon.
He was common-law to Sandi Wilson of Redvers for 16 years and she died from cancer in 2015. He has three stepchildren and four step-grandchildren from that relationship.
Despite the personal setbacks, Rutten is a very upbeat and positive individual.
“I have fond memories of my nephew Michael. His three older brothers all halter broke cattle, Michael halter broke chickens,” he said with a smile.
Rutten is an avid reader and is never afraid to ask a question. He enjoys studying alternative medicine practices and likes the odd game of golf.
Deep down, Rutten loves the farm and the rural way of life. He is in good health, and although he mentions retirement, there’s still a few years of combining to go.