ESTEVAN - The 2023 Estevan Farm Family of the Year Award recipients have found enjoyment in agriculture and success as cattle ranchers.
Wayne and Connie Brokenshire were presented with the prestigious honour Thursday night in front of a large crowd at the Farmers' Appreciation Evening banquet at the Beefeater Plaza.
Estevan MLA Lori Carr, who presented the award, noted the Brokenshires currently run a 300-commercial cow/calf pair operation, along with 50 commercial cows belonging to Wayne's youngest daughter Tess.
Winning the award came as a big surprise, Wayne said.
"I'm sure there's many, many more people that qualify for this, but it was quite rewarding that people did notice how long our family had been there, and worked in agriculture as a family, not as a corporation or a big land owner," Wayne said in an interview with the Mercury.
The Brokenshires know quite a few of the past recipients. They have been going to the Estevan Farmer's Appreciation Evening and its predecessor, the Estevan Farmers' Day, for many years, as their children were involved in 4-H.
He remembers when some of their friends won the Farm Family Award. The Brokenshires never imagined they would join them on the list of recipients.
Wayne noted that his parents, Bill and Dorothy, began farming 14 kilometres west of Estevan in 1945. The couple had 11 children. The Brokenshires still farm at the site today.
"The farm started with race horses," said Wayne. "Bill had a string of 21 runners. He would race in Estevan, ride them to Weyburn, then head to Arcola, rest them overnight, and race there the next day. We didn't have trailers in those times, so it was a little different story.
"They had a little bit of land, milk and beef cows. Over time, with a lot of hard work, that was expanded to a hundred cows and six quarters of grainland. All of us kids worked on the farm and a lot of us still work in agriculture today."
Showing cattle was something they always enjoyed. In 1964, the Outram-Madigan 4-H Club was formed, and Wayne won the grand champion steer that first year. He was nine years old at the time.
In the early 1970s, exotic breeds came to Canada and the Simmental breed caught their attention. Wayne and his father bought their first Simmental heifers and started raising and showing purebred cattle.
"We were fortunate to show cattle all over Canada and the States," said Wayne.
Carr noted Wayne has been a successful breeder throughout the years. In 1982, he showed a bull named Long Distance which captured the grand champion title in Denver at the Fort Worth Stock Show and in Regina at the Canadian Western Agribition.
"Wayne has been one of the few to ever achieve this accomplishment all in one year with the same bull," Carr told the crowd.
Another bull was the reserve champion at the Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City.
"Over time, purebred showing took a backseat to raising a family and growing the commercial business," said Wayne.
He was a partner at the Estevan Auction Mart from 1986-2000 and the Arcola Auction Mart for a time.
In 1986, he also took over the homestead.
"Summer is spent processing, hauling to pasture, haying and it is a group effort by everyone," Wayne said.
In the past 59 years, there have been only a few 4-H shows that they haven't been a part of as members, parents, grandparents or sponsors. Their two granddaughters entered the grand and reserve champion steers at the regional show and sale in Estevan last year.
Their daughter Tess Brokenshire, who spoke at the event, noted her parents have six children. Five of the six were able to be present for the awards presentation. She thanked the selection committee, nominators, nominees and event sponsors for making the award possible.
"To say we didn't see this coming is an understatement," said Tess. "Growing up, we were a 4-H family, and the Farmer of the Year banquet was always an opportunity for volunteering and for public speaking if you were selected to read your speech."
She recalled she was fortunate enough to be chosen to deliver a speech one year.
"Watching my parents, as they were presented this award, feels like a very full circle moment, to introduce my dad and to speak to you all as a recipient of this award, rather than a 4-H member," said Tess.
Wayne said farming allows the family to be their own boss. It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding with the results at the end of the day.
It is rewarding to farm with members of his family, but it's not always perfect. Often the people he fights with the most are his family. But even when they're mad at each other, an hour later they'll have figured out what happened and they'll be getting along again.
"I think the biggest thing is to see them succeed in what they're trying to accomplish with agriculture," said Wayne.
One of his sons, Wade, has 250 cows through his family.
Even one of their daughters, who works as a costume designer in Calgary, helps out with the cattle whenever she comes home.
Wayne recognizes that farming is not an easy life. There are long hours. The weather isn't always great. And the money might not always co-operate.
As for community involvements, their faith is a big part of Wayne and Connie's lives. Carr noted she attends the same church as the family.
"If you ever have the opportunity to attend a service on special occasions such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, the church will be wonderfully decorated," said Carr. "This will be the work of Connie and her family, taking the time to make it a special place. My favourite is the fall Thanksgiving decorations. They will bring in bales, wheat sheaves and so much more."
Connie is part of the praise-and-worship band with one of their daughters, Carr said.
"It is always nice to see people who are so busy running their business, and in this case a large ranching operation, who still have time to give back to others," said Carr.
In addition to the church, Wayne has been part of the Saskatchewan Simmental Association and the Estevan Exhibition Association. Both Wayne and his son were presidents for the District 1 4-H council. The kids played hockey, which kept them on the road during the winter months.
Wayne noted his wife Connie always worked on the farm, and for 18 years, also taught preschool in Estevan.
"While I was raising a herd, Connie raised our kids, driving them up and down the highway, attending every band concert, piano lesson, voice lesson, the list goes on to say the least. They're a musical bunch."
Life on the farm has helped Wayne and Connie instill important values, such as work ethic, into the kids and grandchildren.
"We count our blessings for family, good neighbours and great friends. Being a farm family is not for the faint of heart. We've had droughts, floods, killer blizzards and fires. We haven't had many hired hands. The best equipment is certainly not the nicest truck," he said to laughter.
"We are a hard-working, fourth-generation farm family producing a safe, healthy product for a growing population."