Wednesday, 17 August 2016 13:49

Barnwell family earns BMO Farm Family nod

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The Molnar Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing Municipal District of Taber at this year’s Calgary Stampede. The Molnar Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing Municipal District of Taber at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Photo courtesy ShowChampions

The sign says ‘Molnar’s Taber Corn & Pumpkins’, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of the Molnar family’s farm near Barnwell, just west of Taber.

With cash crops, cattle, some sheep and a market garden too, the 2016 BMO Farm Family of the Year for the Municipal District of Taber have a lot going on.
When Louis Molnar came to Southern Alberta in the 1920s, he had no interest in dryland farming. According to his grandson James, who now operates the farm with his wife Jennifer and their children, Louis believed that to do well, you had to have water and row crops. The farm today consists of 1,850 acres — all irrigated. About 60 acres are for specialty crops — corn, pumpkins and the garden — with the majority of the rest divided between durum, barley and canola.
James says he has tried the no-till method but, like most of the farmers on irrigated land in the area, he has gone back to conventional tillage as it helps the land better absorb the water.
“On the garden stuff, we’ve gone to all drip-line irrigation,” he notes. “Sixty per cent is on raised beds with plastic mulch on them and a drip-line underneath. I’d say we’re using half the water with almost no disease and the quality is unbelievable. I think it’s really going to start taking off. There’s no evaporation. It just keeps the roots wet.”
The farm also has 110 commercial Red and Black Angus mother cows as well as 40 Suffolk-cross sheep belonging to their son.
Taber corn is well-renowned and Molnar says he is one of only three operations growing it.
“It takes a lot of dedication. When we first started, we’d sit in our roadside stand for hours without anyone stopping.”
It’s not like that now and, if he can find the help, James would like to add a second stand near Lethbridge.
What may turn out to be the Molnar family’s signature crop though, is pumpkins. The farm produces 35 varieties of pumpkin, James says, in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colours.
“It’s a real niché market. We’re kind of focused more on the specialty side.”
The one-day Pumpkin Festival hosted by the family since 2008, has turned into quite an event in the Taber area. The idea was sparked by James’ wife, Jennifer, who grew up in Fernie, B.C. She was amazed the first time she saw a field of ripe pumpkins. In 2015, more than 3,000 visitors came to the farm to pick their own pumpkin and enjoy a range of other activities.
The Pumpkin Festival, the proceeds of which go to various charities, earned the Molnars the Spirit of Taber Award in 2015, but the family has other community involvements too, such as school, 4-H and the Canadian Angus Association.
“I think we’re rich in that we have the best life there is,” James says.
He believes there is no better place to raise children.
“I absolutely love plants. They amaze me with what they can produce and, if you put a lot of care into them, how they respond,” says James. “I used to be told that I couldn’t survive as a small operation. I always say, ‘It’s not how much land I have, it’s what I do with the land I do have.’ It’s possible, if you work hard at it, to survive as a small farmer.”

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