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Crooked Branch Ranch Honoured At 2023 Awards


Steven Westergaard & Cynthia Stringer and family were one of 12 recipients of the 2023 BMO Farm Family Awards during Farmfair International at the Edmonton EXPO Centre November 10. Photo submitted

Steven Westergaard, his wife Cynthia Stringer, and their three children Daven, Clara, and Finn of Crooked Branch Ranch near Islay were one of 12 farm families recognized at the BMO Farm Family Awards Banquet at the Edmonton EXPO Centre on November 10 during Farmfair International.

The Farm Family Awards are given to farm families from North & Central Alberta for their outstanding contributions to their communities and reflecting the values of the family farm.

“Today, we recognize the contributions farm families make to their community and the responsibility they carry in providing the world with safe, nutritious, and quality food,” said Farmfair International Director Leah Jones. “Alberta continues to be a leader in agriculture because of the efforts of farm families like this year’s recipients. Thank you for your dedication to your communities and the agriculture industry.”

For more than 50 years, farm families from northern and central Alberta communities have been recognized as the recipients of the Farm Family Award. Agricultural Service Boards in the region nominate outstanding families who best represent the values of the family farm within their rural community. The award honours both their farming business practices and community involvement.

Westergaard and Stringer are both heavily involved in their small community, from coaching soccer and junior curling to organizing Vermilion’s mini-soccer tournament and Islay’s firefighting curling bonspiel. The latter raised $12,800 for the local fire departments last year.

The family also demonstrates leadership through its use of innovative—and in other cases, deeply traditional—farming techniques. They operate a grain and cattle farm, where they have been broadening the rotation of crops, alternating between canola, wheat, barley, peas, green feed, and cocktail crops (i.e., polycrops of mixed plants, including clover, grasses, and turnips) to improve soil health. They are also working toward rotational grazing with the support of ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services—see www.alus.ca/what-we-do/).

One of the particularly interesting approaches the family is taking comes as the result of fences needing repair. They have decided to push their fencelines a few feet back along roadlines to make space for planting trees, again, with the support of ALUS. Although this will slightly diminish acreage, there are positives in that the trees act as a snow catch and cut down wind. Westergaard has also noticed that crops around trees tend to do a bit better than those that are not near trees.

Westergaard acknowledges that cultivating an appreciation for the land and a commitment to the well-being of community is important for him to pass on to his children. “You try to lead by example,” he says.

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