Wednesday, 05 August 2015 14:13

Thompson Family recognized at the Calgary Stampede

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The Thompson Family from Spring Coulee was the BMO Farm Family Winner representing County of Cardston for this year’s Calgary Stampede. The Thompson Family from Spring Coulee was the BMO Farm Family Winner representing County of Cardston for this year’s Calgary Stampede. Photo contributed by the Calgary Stampede

They aren’t quite as numerous as they used to be, but the family of J. R. and Nicki Thompson is still farming the same land their ancestors did, and still looking to the future. The Thompsons of Spring Coulee are the Cardston County BMO Farm Family of the Year for 2015.


It only took one Thompson brother to come to southern Alberta in 1902 and see the area’s potential. He sent word back to Iowa and the rest of his brothers headed north, including J. R.’s great-grandfather, John.
“They owned a whole township in the Spring Coulee area,” J. R. says. “We’re the only ones left. I grew up in the same farmyard as Grandma and Grandpa and now I live in their house. Mom and Dad are still in the house I grew up in, 400 feet away.
“I just knew from a very young age that I wanted to farm.”
His father was a lawyer, and operated the farm, too, so J. R. was given responsibility quite early.
“Right when I graduated, he said, ‘I’m ready to let you take over’.” J. R. recalls. “I could see the pressure of Dad’s busy law practice and him trying to keep the farm going. I started right out of high school and was able to expand a little and then a little more. I learned by doing and it seems like I’m learning something every year.”
Operating as Bar XT farms, the Thompsons seed 4,200 acres in hard red spring wheat, feed barley and canola in equal proportions. Minimum tillage is used rather than no-till.
“We just knife in some fertilizer in the fall and a narrow opener with our seed in the spring,” J. R. says. “We try and keep straw and trash in place. We’re tried no-till, but we found that our ground down here was always cold in the springtime. If we just open it up a little bit in the fall, it helps to warm the land up. We’re close to the mountains and 3,700 feet up.”
Bar XT also has enough pasture for about 75 cow-calf pairs. The Thompsons ran a small herd until about three years ago.
“I sold them to my father-in-law,” J. R. says. “He’s a big cowboy. I just focus on grain right now until my boys get a little older.”
J. R. and Nicki’s five children are all interested in the farming, he says.
“They love to get out and help. Now they’re starting to drive trucks and tractors.”
A house full of school-age children usually makes for a lot of school and community involvement and the Thompsons are no exception. Nicki volunteers with the school and sports teams while J. R. is on the board of
the Spring Coulee Seed Cleaning Plant and the Magrath Co-op. Central to the family’s commitment to the community is their involvement with their church.
“When you get to know people and work with them and serve with them, you grow a special bond,” he says.
The Thompsons have been very involved in previous generations, too, with J. R.’s grandfather serving two terms as an MLA.
Although the equipment and technology deployed in modern farming is a big change from the past, the fundamentals are the same, J. R. says.
“It’s growing a plant in the dirt and relying on moisture and sunshine.”
Bar XT also has about 40 laying hens and J. R. thinks he might increase that part of the operation at some point in the future.
The cycle and rhythm of farming is what J. R. finds most appealing.
“I love the seasons — even in winter when you’re out hauling grain in the fresh snow. In spring you’ve got the fresh grass. In the summer you’ve got the heads of the wheat and barley and the canola flowers waving, and in the fall — that beautiful stubble field. I love it all.”

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