Two city kids and a 32-year-old with nearly two decades of farming under his belt were among the entrants vying to be Alberta’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016.
In the end, Shane and Kristin Schooten were selected to represent the province in the national event, which will be held in Niagara Falls in November.
Kristin, an Edmonton native, is one of the two entrants raised in a city while Shane is the young veteran. He bought his first batch of cattle at age 13 and started a custom silaging business three years later.
The second enterprise was born of necessity. Shane’s father had ordered a new silage harvester and it arrived just after BSE hit in 2003, which dramatically changed the financial picture at the family’s feedlot and farm. But Shane, 16, did the math and figured he could turn a profit if he could find a couple of silage contracts in addition to his family’s silaging needs. He ended up with more than double the business he needed to be profitable.
That early start allowed the Diamond City couple, parents of two, and Shane’s brothers Cody and Justin to build a multi-faceted business that now employs 35 people. It includes feedlots able to hold 40,000 head, trucking, custom silage, and manure composting divisions; a 300-head cow herd; and 6,300 acres of crops and forages.
The runners-up for the title were Martin and Gaylene Van de Poi of Lacombe and Marc and Hinke Therrien of Redwater.
The Van de Pois had been in the hog business but the low, often negative returns, in that sector prompted the family to convert their hog facilities into broiler barns in 2008. The couple, who has four children six and under, now produce 40,000 birds at a time, with 6.5 cycles annually.
Marc Therrien is the other city-raised entrant, in his case St. Albert. But he did help out on his grandfather’s farm and studied agriculture at the University of Alberta, where he met his wife. After graduating, both became feed sales reps and Marc worked at a broiler farm to gain some hands-on farming experience. In 2012, they were asked if they wanted to manage a turkey operation owned by Hinke’s family. The couple, parents of two and expecting a third, took over a second location at Redwater in 2013, consolidated the business there, and has doubled production every year to 1.7 million kilograms in 2015.
The Outstanding Young Farmers program was created to recognize successful young farmers under the age of 40 and promote agriculture both within and beyond the farm community. Last year, Ponoka dairy goat producers Patrick and Cherylynn Bos were chosen to represent the province. They were selected as national co-winners earlier this winter.