By Jean Clavelle Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan
I spoke to Rob Stone today from his grain truck in central Saskatchewan where it’s harvest time. See what he has to say about their family farm and being a grain farmer in Canada.
Tell me about your farm.
I’m part of a family grain farm in Davidson, Saskatchewan. I’ve been actively involved since graduating from the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in 1999. The first order of business when I came back was to expand the farm, and we’ve been able to triple our acreage base over the last 15 years to reach the 7,000-8,000 acres we farm now.
My mom and dad, my wife Donna and I are involved, as well as two full-time employees. We have two kids, Joseph who is five and just started kindergarten (it’s pretty exciting to see the yellow school bus in the yard these days), and Benjamin who will be three in October and starts pre-school in January.
We farm canola, lentils, barley, durum wheat, and have begun to dabble in soybeans and corn. In addition to farming, I’m a seed sales representative for Pioneer Hi-Bred. That’s what keeps me engaged in the industry and allows me to learn more about farming through my interaction with other farmers.
Our farm was established in 1904 by my great grandfather who came to Canada from Missouri. We farm the same land he bought from the Canada Land Company. And that’s actually where we live today. Our farm name is Stone Farms Incorporated, and even though we are incorporated for tax purposes, we are definitely a family farm.
What did your day look like today?
I got up about 6:30 a.m., ran out of the house and started the grain dryer (the grain is too wet as it is so it needs to be dried before it can be sold) then I’m back into the house for coffee, breakfast, and to say hello to the kids.
Everyone else shows up at 8 a.m. these days. We were starting an hour earlier but it’s getting too cold to start at 7 a.m., so I let everyone sleep in an extra hour and it’s also a nice time for me to have some quiet to collect my thoughts before the others arrive.
Once everyone showed up, we started on the things we needed to do to get into the field – blow the combines off, grease and service the equipment, move equipment around from one field to another, and dad hauled a few loads of grain to Cargill (the company that buys our product).
Once we were up and rolling, I took over hauling barley from the field to the elevator/cleaning plant. This is when we sell the grain we’ve harvested and actually get paid for the work we’ve done all year. I’ve been sitting in line for about half an hour waiting to unload this truck, although last time it was about an hour because many other farmers are doing the same thing. The downtime can be quite hard on my cell battery. I think I’ll be hauling grain for the rest of the day while the rest of the crew is harvesting.
What kind of grain are you selling?
This grain has been accepted as “malt” barley. Malt barley is the good stuff, it makes the beer (most other barley goes into food products or feed for cattle). Here’s a fun fact: I’ve got 1,200 bushels on this truck and on average, you get 330 bottles from one bushel of barley. So behind me there’s enough barley to make 396,000 bottles of beer.
What is the best part of harvest for you?
You anticipate that moment all year of getting to start the combines and find out if you’ve made the cut – if the yields, grade, quality are where you expected. So it’s that moment of satisfaction to find if your hard work has paid off. It costs $300 per acre including inputs and other expenses to a grow crop. That’s just the cost of doing business. There’s the emotional layer that I love what I do, but then there’s also the economic reality of finding out if we can afford to keep doing it. I’ve always loved driving equipment and we’ve got some pretty cool equipment nowadays that we didn’t have when I was a kid. So starting the combine for the first time at harvest is a pretty great thing for me.
What is one thing you wish you could share with consumers about your farm or farming in general?
What we do to our food, regardless of whether its fertilizer, biotechnology or pesticides, I wish I could share that these technologies are positively impacting the environmental footprint on our farm and are actually helping to improve our land. I’m frustrated that marketing strategies could force us away from technologies that are providing these positives for the land and our environment because of misunderstanding. I respect that people care about their families and want the best for them. We as farmers are consumers and have families too, and just like consumers we are concerned about food safety and the environment. I wish that consumers would ask us rather than rely on marketing messages.
Want to find out more? Follow Rob on Twitter @RGStone1
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