Working the land for 100 years

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July 14, 2015 8:15 AM

Josef Jacobson photo Century Farm and Ranch Award recipients stand up when introduced at the Colonial Days Grandstand on July 8. The 10 families were recognized for farming the same land for over 100 years.

Joseph Heck’s grandfather first founded his family’s farm just north of Bodo, Alta. 101 years ago. Today, Heck’s grandchildren are running the operation.

Heck, 80, and his family were one of 10 clans to receive a Century Farm Ranch Award from the Government of Alberta at the Colonial Days Fair at the Lloydminster Exhibition on July 8. The bronze plaque recognizes families who have farmed the same land for at least 100 years. Since 1993, over 1,500 families have received the honour, including 58 this year.

“It’s a pretty big thing. It’s nice to be recognized and it was hard work,” said Heck. “Things have changed so much in my lifetime. I remember my dad, he was plowing with oxen first, then they went into horses and now big tractors.”

The Heck family farm was passed down from his grandfather to his uncle. Heck bought the farm from his uncle and now it is in the hands of his grandchildren. He says sticking together helped the farm through a century’s worth of ups and downs, and it’s that family support that will help his grandchildren, who hope to keep the farm going for another 100 years.

“In the last three years we’ve started these recognition events where we try to bring the families together at different rural exhibitions across Alberta just so they can share the experience together,” said Colin Gosselin, Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture senior project co-ordinator. “It’s a significant accomplishment and they’re representative of the heritage, and at the same time, future of agriculture in Alberta.”

After the ceremony, the recipients were acknowledged at the Colonial Days Grandstand. The spectators applauded as the family members rose from their seats.

“I have the honour of introducing to you some of Alberta’s outstanding farm families,” said Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jessica Littlewood. “We applaud their hard work, dedication and strong sense of community that has been passed down from generation to generation.”

When it comes to Heck, who describes himself as “semi-retired,” after decades of working the land his sense of hard work and dedication is still going strong.

“I like to stay with the grandchildren and help a little bit,” he said. “I still go out and help, cutting hey or fixing fence. Keeping busy.”

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