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Wednesday, 01 August 2012 13:55

Oyen family wins Special Area 3 BMO Farm Family Award

Written by  Calgary Stampede
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The Chiliak Family from Oyen were the Special Area No. 3 recipients of a 2012 BMO Farm Family Award from the Calgary Stampede. Following is their story.


The Chiliak family calls its operation Red Wing Farms Ltd. for the many red-winged blackbirds that share their habitat.
“We’re avid birdwatchers,” says Ramona Chiliak. “We’ve acquired a nice little library of bird books.” Additionally, she says, the family looked after a five mile stretch of birdboxes that provided shelter for bluebirds and swallows.
In a nutshell, that’s one of the big advantages Alan and Ramona Chiliak find in life on the farm. The chance to home-school their children and spend time as a family — even during the workday — are opportunities they know they wouldn’t find in an urban setting.
In celebration of these family values, as well as their successful farm, the Chiliaks have been chosen as the 2012 BMO Farm Family for Special Area No. 3.
Alan’s grandfather moved to the Alsask, Sask., area in 1930. In 1950, his son Bill made a short move west that took the family over the provincial boundary, and began to build a cattle herd. Alan, the youngest son, began farming on his own in 1992 and assumed responsibility for the whole family operation in 1998.
Over the years, the family has grown a wide variety of crops on the farm portion of their land, which totals about 3,500 acres. This year they’re growing yellow mustard, canola, wheat, and barley.
“I try to never have the same crop in the same field two years in a row,” Alan says. “In the coming years I’m hoping to reintroduce pulses into the rotation.”
Over the years, the farm has kept up with the changes in agriculture.
Chem-fallow was introduced in the 1980s, and minimum-till in the early ’90s. The Chiliak operation was a directly-seeded, continuously-cropped no-till operation by the end of that decade. After noticing yields were up to three times better off a chem-fallowed field than a continuously-cropped one, Alan now chem-fallows half the land each year.
The bloodlines of the cattle on the farm’s 2,000 acres of pasture have evolved over the years.
For about 20 years the herd was mostly Simmental with a Red Angus or Gelbvieh cross, but Black Angus has come into the mix since 2007. At present, there are 52 cows on the place with some heifers and four steers. Alan says his father Bill is more of a cattleman than he is.
Over the years each generation of the family has contributed to the community. Alan and Ramona are members of the Sibbald Community Club, on the executive of the Big Country Agricultural Society, and members of the Oyen and District Historical Society, and have been active in the church and 4-H.
Their children, Allison, Tyler and Steven are active with school, church and the BCAS.
“That’s the way we were raised,” Alan says. “We’re not just here to make money. We’re here to contribute, and we do that in the best way we can.”
Adds Alan: “Farming has been in our family as long as I can remember. I’m hoping that one of my kids takes over. I’m trying to set the farm up in a way that it’s ready for the next generation.”

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