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Thursday, 02 August 2012 16:05

Claresholm’s Leeds Family wins Farm Family Award

Written by  Courtesy Calgary Stampede
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The Leeds family has farmed and raised cattle just a few kilometres northwest of Claresholm since 1887. Today, the two Leeds brothers, Charles and Doug, continue the family’s presence on the land.

In fact, Charles Leeds lives with his wife Patricia in a house built in 1907, on the east side of Willow Creek.
The creek itself has played a big role in the history of the Leeds family’s farming efforts. In 1891, their land was the site of the first irrigation project on Willow Creek. At the time, flood irrigation was used, but there were difficulties because of the erratic nature of the creek.
“When they needed the water it wasn’t there, and when they didn’t, it was too wet,” Doug explains. “Sometimes, you can cross it in your Oxford shoes and not get your feet very wet, but when it floods, it really lets loose. In ’95 and ’05, it was a quarter-mile across and 16-feet deep.”
Since the late ’70s, Willow Creek has provided irrigation again, but this time the water is pumped, not brought down in ditches. Most of what is grown on the brothers’ irrigated fields goes to feed their cattle, Charles says, although Doug is putting in a second pivot and plans to seed canola. Where the land is not irrigated, the main crop is oats, direct-seeded onto stubble.
Neither brother’s farm has as much cropland as it once did.
“We’ve seeded a lot of it back to grass,” says Doug. “We’re right on the edge of farming what shouldn’t be farmed.
We’re on the edge of the foothills. West of the creek, it’s very rocky.”
Charles notes the riparian areas near the creek are treated gently to preserve the trees and cover.
The two brothers run herds of 140 to 150 cows, mainly a Hereford/Angus cross, selling the calves in the fall.
All three of Charles and Patricia’s boys work off the farm, but two of them, Shayne and Cameron, have cattle of their own and are back regularly.
The other son, Monty, assists as time permits.
Doug and Irene have twin sons, Anthony and Christopher, in Saskatchewan. Their son Mark and daughter Paula help out as well.
Both Charles and Doug have a strong sense of history. Doug is on the Museum Board Committee with the M.D. of Willow Creek, as well as the Pine Coulee Advisory Board, and worked on the district history book.
Charles and Patricia are both on the executive of the Willow Creek Historical Association. Charles is also a member of the Heritage Acres Pioneer Museum of Pincher Creek.
This strong sense of the past, paired with community involvement, led to the Leeds family being named the BMO Farm Family representing the M.D. of Willow Creek for 2012.
“If it was a farm I’d bought and lived on for a few years, I wouldn’t care if I sold it,” Charles says. “A heritage farm? You feel like you have to pass it on.”

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