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Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:15

Papworth family earns Farm Family nod

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The Papworth Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing Lethbridge County at this year’s Calgary Stampede. The Papworth Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing Lethbridge County at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Photo courtesy ShowChampions

The Papworth family has been on the same land north of Lethbridge for four generations and is now being recognized as the 2016 BMO Farm Family of the Year for Lethbridge County.


One thing each generation has in common is that farming wasn’t their only option.
Frank Papworth was a windmill operator in Cambridgeshire, England before homesteading in the Sundial District in 1906. He continued with the farm, but moved his family to Calgary so they could be well-educated.
His son, Dick, became a teacher at the Turin school in 1942 and also took over the farm.
Richard, the third generation, is a mechanical engineer who worked in that profession for 10 years before he returned to the home place.
His son Kyle, who presently runs the farm with his brother Landon, has a degree in Kinesiology and worked away from the farm for three or four years.
“He proved to us he could have a job, and then he came back to farm,” says Richard.
A third son lives in Calgary.
The Papworth farm is a dryland cash crop operation on about 6,000 acres — half owned and half leased. Barley, durum and canola are grown in equal rotation with peas as part of the mix when the economics make sense.
The farm is no-till and in the early stages of variable-rate and yield-mapping technologies.
Richard remembers when a third of the land was summer-fallowed, even during a drought.
“Mother Nature’s your boss a lot of the time. In the mid-1980s, it was horrendous down here. All we had was grasshoppers and dust back then. It’s unbelievable how this farming technology has changed. The productivity of the land has improved and the wind can blow 100km/hr and there’s no dust in the air. I couldn’t get my head around it five years ago and now you can’t live without it. If it stops, it’s like a breakdown.”
The Papworths have a tradition of community involvement.
“My father was very active,” Richard says. “He was in every group there was.”
Bringing electricity to the area and the founding of two seed-cleaning co-ops were accomplishments that Dick was very involved with. His son worked for a local improvement that he takes pride in, too.
“The water in the wells around here was unfit for human consumption,” Richard remembers.
Every method possible had to be used to conserve water in the early days.
“When I was a kid and would get in the bathtub, it was pretty dark sometimes,” he laughs.
In 2009, the Lethbridge Potable Water Co-op, of which Richard was the vice-president, succeeded in opening a pipeline that delivers clean water to 600 customers.
“City of Lethbridge water on our farmyard here is still unbelievable,” Richard says.
Richard is also president of the Sundial Community Association and Kyle is the treasurer.
Until he passed away in 2011, Dick Papworth was very involved in the Prairie Tractor and Engine Society that operates the Coyote Flats Pioneer Village south of Picture Butte.
One of the features of that museum is the homestead shack that housed Frank Papworth in those early days.
“In the next few years, I’m going to re-involve myself,” Richard says.
Seeing his sons come back to continue the family’s farm means a great deal to Richard Papworth.
“At times, it brings tears to my eyes,” he admits. “The family farm continuing on — what more could I ask for? What more could my father have asked for?”

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