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Wednesday, 07 September 2016 08:00

Darch Family represents M.D. of Willow Creek as farm family

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The Darch Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the M.D. of Willow Creek No. 26 at this year’s Calgary Stampede. The Darch Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the M.D. of Willow Creek No. 26 at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Photo courtesy ShowChampions

In 1912, realizing that there was little chance of them ever being anything but labourers on someone else’s land in England, the family of Thomas Darch came to the Claresholm area.

After working to earn a stake, Thomas settled east of Claresholm in 1917 where he began growing grain.
Nearly a century later, the Darch family is still on the same land, still growing grain and are honoured to be the 2016 BMO Farm Family of the Year for the M.D. of Willow Creek No. 26.
Jeff Darch, the fourth generation of the family, is now the principal operator, but his father Doug still spends time helping where he can. Doug’s daughter, Susan, and her husband David Howe can also be counted on to pitch in when needed.
The Darch Family Farm consists of 6,400 acres, about 4,000 owned and the rest leased, seeded in equal proportions of wheat, peas, barley and canola.
“These crops rotate well and work well for us,” Doug says, although he notes other crops have been, and likely will be, tried.
Continuous cropping and seeding through stubble, he adds, make farming very different from the way it was when he took over from his father, Fred, in 1964.
“I ask my wife if she remembers us farming with just a fork and spoon,” he laughs. “It was just about that bad. Machinery improvements and technology advancements have enabled us to farm at a level that was not possible years ago.”
The Darch family did experiment with a cow/calf operation in the 1990s, Doug admits, but decided to concentrate on cash crops.
“We found they were too labour-intensive and stealing time from the grain farm. It’s worked well ever since. There’s less confusion. They’re always in trouble, it seems like.”
With roots going back so far, it’s not surprising to find the Darch family has been very involved in the community.
Doug, a 36-year member of the Lions Club, enjoys working on club projects such as catering special events. A club can’t just have meetings, he believes, because projects are what get everyone working together.
He was also a founding member of the committee that built the Agriplex community centre. Doug’s wife Olive is on the golf club executive and helps tend the garden club community flower beds.
School projects and coaching sports are among the many other community endeavours that various members of the family support with time and expertise.
Perhaps Doug’s proudest achievement was helping to develop the Big Sky Water Co-op.
“We had quite a bit of water on our farm, but it was rusty and full of soda,” he says.
Most of his neighbours were in the same boat. After an intensive effort selling memberships and securing government funding, the project was finally completed in 2004.
“We put a water line in, which was 67 kilometres through the rural community, from a flowing well up by Stavely. It has 42 families on it,” Doug says.
A family farming for a century on the same land is a very special thing in the modern world, Doug notes.
“Sometime, on a quiet day, memories come back about this place or that quarter and that farm. We have kind of an unwritten understanding that we’re never going to sell it. It’s part of our whole family.”

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