This year’s Outstanding Young Farmers weren’t expecting a win when they were nominated alongside three other Alberta farm families at the Outstanding Young Farmers’ regional event in early February.
“In the beginning, we didn’t think we were anything too special. We just do what we do,” said Natasha Pospisil, who owns and operates three agricultural businesses in Kirriemuir with her husband Dallas Vert. “This is very humbling.”
The couple might not see anything special in what they do, but their hard work speaks for itself. In addition to raising two young children (with another on the way), Pospisil and Vert own and operate an 11,000-acre grain farm; an independent retail outlet for fertilizer, seed, and chemical; and a general store that has everything from agricultural parts to a post office.
This diversification is part of their plan to create a sustainable farming operation through progressive management practices. In everything they do, they strive to leave their land, their community and their industry a little better than they found it.
“We love it and we have passion for it,” said Vert.
“There are challenges, but you just have to have an open mind. You might get beat down, but you just have to get back up and carry on. We accept challenges as stepping stones, not roadblocks.”
Pospisil hopes that their win will help them “contribute to agriculture on a bigger scale than just (their) own community.”
“I think we can expand on the public’s overall education of agriculture and how many different aspects you can be involved in beyond just growing grain,” she said.
Vert and Pospisil were nominated by last year’s Alberta winners, Craig and Jinel Ference, also of Kirriemuir. The Ferences were also chosen as winners at the national level in Winnipeg last November.
“We had followed their win and were very excited for them, and then we got an email one day saying that they had nominated us,” said Pospisil. “It was such an honour.”
Those connections within their community have been vital to the success of their multi-faceted operation. And now, as part of the Outstanding Young Farmer family, the couple will have an opportunity to connect with farmers across the country.
“We’re looking forward to meeting new contacts who are like-minded people and bouncing ideas off people who are successful in what they do,” said Vert.
“This will help us engage in different ideas than what we’d normally be hearing about.”
“These are people we wouldn’t normally have access to — people we wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to engage with,” she said.
“If you want to progress, you have to step outside your box. You have to meet other people and learn what they’re doing. You have to broaden your horizons beyond what you’re doing.
“There’s such a diverse group within Outstanding Young Farmers that you can find those people.”
Canada’s OYF program has been bringing young farmers together for the past 40 years. The annual awards recognize successful farmers under the age of 40 who exemplify excellence on their own farms and promote agriculture beyond the farm community.
This year’s other Alberta finalists included Andrew and Denise Mans, who run an organic greenhouse near Coaldale; Jordan and Tynnell Schmaus, grain farmers from Smoky Lake; and Jered and Julia Serben, who have a mixed farm-fresh operation near Smoky Lake.
“We’re honoured by the win, but very humbled because of the company that we were with,” said Pospisil. “Everybody was outstanding.”
And as far as Vert is concerned, everyone who was nominated is an outstanding young farmer.
“There are no winners and losers. It’s about the camaraderie and family we’ve entered into now,” he said.
“We’re all here for the same end goal — success in what we love doing.”
Both Vert and Pospisil say they’re excited to represent Alberta at the national event in Fredericton, New Brunswick at the beginning of December.
“We look forward to becoming closer knit with the family that we’ve made here and at the Outstanding Young Farmers national level,” said Pospisil.
“We think it’s going to be an amazing experience.”