Wednesday, 20 July 2016 13:02

Neubauers named a BMO Farm Family

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As part of the Calgary Stampede, BMO Bank of Montreal and the Calgary Stampede recognized 17 southern Alberta families who best represent the values of the family farmer to society.

 

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the BMO Farm Family Awards were created to promote a renewed urban-rural relationship and focus on recognizing the contribution to the enhancement of quality of life as a family unit.
There might be some farmers in Alberta who host more people every year than Mark and Nichole Neubauer, but it’s hard to imagine how.
In 2015, 3,300 students visited the Neubauer place, about 10 miles north of Irvine, near Medicine Hat, to see first-hand how a modern mixed farm operates.
The Neubauers, who are 2016 BMO Farm Family of the Year for Cypress County, consult closely with teachers and have created a wide variety of developmentally-appropriate learning stations to teach students about cattle, crops, laying hens and the many factors that go into raising food.
It’s safe to say the first Neubauers on the land, who homesteaded here in 1910, had other things on their minds. Of German origin, but coming from Russia, they took on the challenge of farming a new land.
Four generations later, the family is still on the same land, but using very modern methods.
Part of today’s operation is a 50-head commercial cow/calf herd, mainly Black Angus but with some Hereford influence. The farm has two sections with some tame grass, but mostly native prairie grass, that is managed with rotational grazing.
There are about 1,500 acres under cultivation, primarily in durum this year, with some wheat on an irrigated quarter-section. Most years, canola and pulses are in the rotation, as well. The land is very dry, so no-till seeding and GPS-guided auto-steer have been vital in preserving sub-soil moisture.
“Last year was the driest year we’ve had since 1928,” says Nichole. “We didn’t have any land blowing and we had a crop growing — all because of modern agricultural practices.”
In 2010, the Neubauers launched a Community Supported Agriculture program which sees the farm provide 40 Medicine Hat families with farm-fresh produce and free-range eggs.
The 80 hens in the family’s flock don’t just produce eggs, Nichole says, they have also created a learning experience for the younger Neubauers.
“It provides a natural opportunity to teach the kids some economic principles,” she says.
Quality control, record-keeping and profitability are all things she’s seen them learn.
The children are also active in 4-H, as is Nichole. She is also a founding member of the Southeast Alberta Agriculture Advocate Board, which fosters and maintains the sustainability of area agriculture.
“We’re proud to be farmers. We have the best life there is,” Nichole insists. “We also see that it’s super-important, as the population becomes further removed from agriculture, to give people the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from.
“This isn’t a petting zoo. This is authentic. It goes back 106 years.”
While the early programs were made for children in the early grades, demand has expanded to a point where now the farm sees groups from local high schools.
With environmental studies a big part of the modern curriculum, “We can give them a more comprehensive view of what agriculture is and why we do what we do, how we can use science to grow more with fewer natural resources used and fewer inputs.”
Some classes have expanded to two-day experiences because there was too much to learn in a single day.
“Every single student who comes to Neubauer Farms leaves knowing where their food comes from. That’s our mission,” Nichole says.

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