Wednesday, 03 August 2016 14:14

Eliason Farms Ltd. recognized as BMO Farm Family

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Eliason Farms Ltd. were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the County of Warner No. 5 at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Eliason Farms Ltd. were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the County of Warner No. 5 at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Photo courtesy ShowChampions

Building a successful, multi-generation family enterprise requires a combination of two qualities — adherence to certain time-tested principles and the willingness to recognize and embrace new opportunities.
Take for example, the Eliasons and Nevils of Eliason Farms Ltd., the 2016 BMO Farm Family of the Year for the County of Warner No. 5.

The Eliason family came into the Stirling area from Utah in 1903 with a shipment of cattle. In 1910, Elmo Eliason was born and the family homesteaded south of Wrentham in 1914.
After his graduation from the Olds School of Agriculture, Elmo married Mary Diakow in 1939 and moved onto land that the Eliasons now consider the home place. The family operated a typical mixed farm, growing grain and raising beef cattle, milk cows and chickens.
In 1965, their son Bruce married Connie Kunz and moved onto land just down the road. The Eliasons had made the first big change in the farm’s operations, moving away from the cattle business and focussing mainly on cash crops. A job he took just after high school would influence their son, Troy, and later his wife Sabrina, to move the family business in a new direction.
For two winters, Troy worked for a neighbour bagging 50 pound sacks of safflower and canola seed for export to the U.S.
In 1991, he and Bruce had begun cleaning Harrington Malt Barley seed. Over the years, they experimented with a number of crops — mustard, canola, barley, wheat, durum, peas and lentils. Barley, because the farm produces good yields of high quality and demand for malt barley seeds has been consistently strong, continues to be a mainstay.
Currently, they have about 2,000 acres in barley along with 650 acres of canola and another 300 in peas. About a third of the land is equipped for pivot irrigation.
In 1996, Bruce and Connie’s younger daughter Michelle and her husband Duane Nevil began a 30-head cow-calf operation — partly on family land and partly on leased land.
Three years later, Duane moved into cattle full-time and tripled the size of his herd while Michelle continued her career in education.
Today, the Nevils run 300 cow/calf pairs as well as 100 heifers. The herd is mainly Angus-based, with both Red and Black bloodlines, although some Hereford influence has just been introduced.
The use of horses to move the herd, which mainly grazes on natural grass, combined with no-till practises on the grain side illustrates the family’s commitment to natural and sustainable agricultural methods.
“You have to feel good about what you do,” Sabrina says. “As farmers, you strive for sustainability with your land and your water. You’re out on it every day and you see how good it is if you’re good to it.”
The family has also contributed to the community over the years, with Bruce and Connie working with the local school and church as well as the Wrentham Community Centre, Lions Club and curling club.
Troy and Sabrina take a major part in organizing the annual Men’s Bonspiel — a week-long community event that has been running for 60 years.
Michelle and Duane have spent many hours coaching local sporting teams.
“It gets you off the farm and out into the world,” Sabrina says. “You have to pick up the slack, otherwise your community dies.”
Another generation of Eliasons and Nevils is coming along and showing interest in agriculture, raised in the family culture of enterprise and hard work.
“There’s so much opportunity, the sky’s the limit,” Sabrina says. “It’s just a question of picking the direction you want to go.”

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