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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:38

Farm family from Hilda recognized by Calgary Stampede

Written by  Calgary Stampede
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The Bauer Family from Hilda were the Cypress County recipients of a 2012 BMO Farm Family Award from the Calgary Stampede. Following is their story.

Although the entire history of agriculture in Southern Alberta is more than a century old, there have been a lot of changes in that relatively short time.
For example, when Norman Bauer’s great-grandfather and his family homesteaded near Hilda in 1911, the plough was the implement that marked their progress.
 “You weren’t a good farmer unless your land was good and black,” Norman says.
By 1964, when Norman and his wife Jean began farming the same land, they grew wheat, barley and hay, and half the land was summerfallowed — but wind and water erosion was still a problem. The next generation, their son Gregory and his wife Cathy, brought some new ideas with them when they joined the farm. Together, their progressive attitude and community focus have earned them the 2012 BMO Farm Family Award representing Cypress County.
Over the years, the Bauer farm’s operations have changed — to the point where today, a wide variety of crops are grown on several thousand zero-till acres.
“I was skeptical of all this stuff,” Norman admits. “(Gregory) wanted to try this stuff and I played along. He’s pretty well proved it. No-till farming has been quite successful. Our soil has a mulch of plant residue on the surface. The plants can make much better use of the rain that falls, and not as much is lost to evaporation.”
There is satisfaction for the Bauer family in actually seeing their land improve, but, Norman cautions, “It will take quite a while to make it as good as it was when our forefathers broke it up.”
The Bauer farm is only part of the family’s operation. The other part is the Bauer ranch, which has also seen some big changes over the years.
“When my wife and I came here in 1964, my dad’s herd was Hereford,” Norman recalls. The big change Norman brought in was switching to Charolais cattle, a program they kept going for 20 years.
“We sold all the cows in ‘84 and went to a yearling program,” he continues. “In 1997 we started out again in the cow business with the black cows, Angus cows.”
The herd has grown to 900 cows, and Norman admits freely he can’t say what is next.
“It’s evolving all the time. What the next 20 years will bring, I don’t know.”
Over the years, the Bauers have been quite involved with their community. Norman still serves on the church board and, in the past, served on boards for the Hilda Community Association, Forty Mile Gas Co-op and the Alberta Cattle Commission. Jean volunteers on the Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation Board. Gregory is a volunteer fireman and belongs to a farm management group, and Cathy is active with the Schuler School Council. Gregory and Cathy’s son Luke is a student at Schuler School.
“I think if you enjoy what you do, the chances of success are greatly increased,” Norman muses. “I honestly never get tired of going out to check on the cattle along the riverbank. Not many people have that nice a place to go to work.”

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