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MD of Willow Creek nominates Halls for Farm Family Award

Hall family

The Hall family was the MD of Willow Creek’s nominee for the 2015 BMO Farm Family Award presented last week at the Calgary Stampede.

Seventeen southern Alberta families who represent the values of the family farmer to society were honoured Monday at the Calgary Stampede.
The Hall family of Stavely was the MD of Willow Creek’s nominee for the annual Farm Family Award.
“Alberta farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our thriving agriculture sector and rural communities,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said. “These awards are a great way to recognize their incredible commitment to family, community and agriculture in our province.”
Each year, the municipal districts and counties in southern Alberta nominate one family.
Selected families, who best display the qualities of a farm family, are brought to the Stampede for the BMO Farm Family Awards, which includes a reception, greetings from Alberta’s minister of agriculture, brunch, awards presentation, and family photograph session.
The winning families are then treated to the afternoon Stampede Rodeo.
The Hall family’s tenure on their farm 12 miles east of Stavely is coming up on the century mark.
In 1980, Roy Hall purchased the home section from his father Fred and, with his wife Karen, has grown the operation.
When their three sons began to contemplate their futures, Roy and Karen set some conditions.
“All three wanted to farm and I said, ‘You can’t come back until you have a trade’,” Roy said. “It would have been nice if I’d had something to fall back on.”
One son is now a journeyman carpenter, one is a B pressure welder and the other is about to finish high school.
Since all three sons have rented farmland, it looks likely that there will be a fourth generation of Halls farming in the area.
In fact, the boys’ roots in the area are not just on one side as their grandmother’s family, the Ohlers, homesteaded before the Halls even got there.
The Hall operation is a mixed ranching and farming enterprise.
“Where we are is quite sandy,” Roy pointed out. “You have to be diversified. There are guys who are strictly farmers around here, but we’ve always had both cattle and grain.”
The Hall herd of 260 Black Angus-cross commercial cows is pastured on 2,600 acres, following a program of rotational grazing.
Usually about 60 heifers are kept as replacements and the rest of the calves are sold in the fall.
“We don’t use any steroids or growth hormones or anything like that,” Roy said. “I’ve done my part to keep it as natural as I can.”
About 2,500 acres, half of them rented, are seeded in hard red spring wheat, barley, peas and canola using zero-till technology.
The land is irrigated by five owned and six rented pivots. Two of those pivots are on hayfields.
“The way we farm now is definitely better,” Roy insisted. “With the summer fallow, the land would blow when it got dry. That’s not a problem with the no-till and minimum-till — and we grow more grain.”
New technology like GPS guidance has helped, too, Roy noted.
“The best thing about it is for spraying. I don’t know how we did it without it. The days are easier. When you were having to drive all day, by the end of the day you were plumb-tuckered. Now, with the GPS, you’re tired — but not like you used to be.”
There are two big challenges for the modern farmer, Roy said.
“Trained labour is hard to find. The equipment is too expensive now to just turn anyone loose on it.”
The other challenge is the cost of production.
“Just trying to own the equipment to get it all done on time is no different than it’s always been, I guess,” Roy said. “It’s just more money. I’m not making any more money than I used to, but I’m handling twice as much.”
The local rodeo committee, pheasant derby, Elks Club and community hall board have all benefited from Hall family involvement over the years.
“We try and do our part,” Roy said. “People have to think about it and stay helping out or it all falls apart.”
Owning and working the same land that the Hall and Ohler families started with is important to Roy.
“It gives you that little warm, fuzzy feeling,” he admitted. “It’s nice that we’ve been able to keep it, that’s for sure. It’s huge to see that it carries on. Our parents saw hard times and could have got out. They stuck with it and I have to do my part to see that it doesn’t happen.”
Are the Hall sons as committed to the family’s heritage?
Roy laughed, “They’d better be, or why am I hanging around?”

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