Thanksgiving has passed but the celebration makes us reflect and be thankful that we moved to the farm from the city in 1992.
August 1st, 2017 was the 25th anniversary of living on our land. I still remember the excitement and joy that our family had when we pulled a holiday trailer into the farm site and started cleaning the old farm up and building our new home and out buildings. The farm yard was in a great state of disrepair and there were numerous outbuildings that had relics from many years before. Sheila and the girls went through each building and looked for treasures which they rescued and put in a safe place before the buildings were demolished. Ernie and Eileen Kartz, neighbors, who had rented this property for over 30 years welcomed us and filled us in with the history of our piece of land. They were helpful in teaching us about wells, fences, septic tanks and many other activities that we had no knowledge of, since we came from the City of Leduc and had never farmed or lived in a rural setting before.
I had the idea that we would be hay farmers so we started to sow grasses and legumes into the land. I remember talking to one of our neighbors Daryl Skaret about the best equipment to buy for haying and he started talking to us about using animals to harvest the grasses and forage and about Holistic Management. Daryl then pushed Sheila and I to take a 10-day Holistic Management course that was being offered in Camrose. Taking this course was a turning point for Sheila and myself and we set our goals to improve our land, for me to come home from my surveying job, raise clean food for our family, become organic farmers, raise our children in a positive uplifting manner, teach them to respect the environment and to have a social conscience.
We have to thank Daryl for the support and knowledge that he gave us as we bought cows and moved into a livestock operation. Shortly after we took the Holistic Management course we were given a chicken shelter by Don Ruzicka, a Holistic Management classmate and then Sheila’s sister Dorothy Marshall gave us 80 chicks that she had brooded and we started growing chickens. Dorothy was the go to person about raising chickens and we thank her for all the knowledge and support that she shared with us.
Another person who worked with us at the start was Colleen Biggs from TK Ranch. She was able to help us connect with Community Natural Foods and other retailers to market our poultry.
We also thank Tim Hoven from Hoven Farms for inviting us to share a stall with him at the Blackfoot Farmers Market in Calgary. This was a summer farmers market but we were able to sell to our customers year-round when we went into the Blackfoot Inn for the winters.
The goal for me to leave my job as a surveyor was finally reached on March 20 in 2001. Our business had grown to a point that the family had to have me at home to help with the work load. Sheila threw a party for me with our neighbors and friends to celebrate that I would never have to leave home again to work because I was now a full-time farmer. With me being home, we could grow our business and move into more farmers markets including the Old Strathcona Farmers Market. In 2004, we moved from the Blackfoot Market to the new Calgary Farmers Market and again this was a turning point in our business and lives. The folks in the City of Calgary were so receptive to our clean organic food that we had to expand our business dramatically between 2004 and 2009 to keep up with demand.
Another person who has had and continues to have great impact on our lives is our farm manager and business partner Isaac Fregoso. Isaac has been working with us on the farm for over 11 years and as of 2 years ago became one of the owners of Sunworks Farm along with Sheila and myself. Isaac’s dedication to organic agriculture and knowledge of the farm and livestock is invaluable. He shares a passion with us to raise organic and humane livestock as well as caring for the land in a respectful manner.
We have known and worked with our processing plant manager Carlos Lopez for over 12 years and we want to thank him for his dedication and passion for making clean food. Carlos has over the years perfected the flavors of our sausages and continually brings us new flavors in our sausages and deli meats. Carlos rises to the challenges that a processing plant with up to 19 employees can bring.
We want to thank all our past and present employees for their dedication to help us grow and process great food for our customers. We still remember the names of all our employees and are still friends with many of them.
Our retail managers Allison Thotz, Bev Christensen and Lerin Generoux should all be thanked for the work they do with their staff and in expressing to all our customers the values that Sheila, myself and Sunworks Farm has.
Farming communities are based on neighbors helping neighbors and we have to thank all our neighbors both conventional and organic for helping us when we need it. From bringing over their big tractor to help get a semi truck unstuck after a really muddy spring, to helping put out a brush fire that started in our front trees. They have helped us in countless ways.
Our business is based on relationships and we have met thousands of people in our lives, either at the farmers markets or through doing business with them, we have had the pleasure to connect with many of them on a one on one basis and build long lasting relationships with them. We want to thank them for the time they have spent with us telling their stories or listening to our stories. Many people have helped us over the last 25 years and we are so greatful and thankful for all the support and help that we have had.
Our girls, Shae and Erin, need to be thanked most of all for all the work they did in those early farming years and their belief in what direction we took in our lives. They worked tirelessly with Sheila while I worked away from home. We are proud to see who they have become and their continued dedication to organics and the environment. With their husbands they are now raising our grandchildren with the same core values. Shae still works for us in our farm office and Erin owns an organic retail business
Since we moved to the farm 25 years ago we have realized our passions and dreams which include raising happy animals, building our soil, living with nature and being providers of clean pure real food. We are proud to say this is more than a farm, this is our life.
Ron and Sheila