With humble origins as a homestead for Belgium immigrants, the Deleeuw family farm has flourished under the care of four generation of farmers and have recently been recognized with the Century Farm Award by Ponoka County for their achievement. “We provided them with a big gate sign,” said assistant CAO Tom Webber.
Families are required to apply for the award and must be given approval by the Government of Alberta and once provincial support has been ensured, the county steps in.
Requirements for the award stipulate that farms must be operated by the same family for 100 years and the county mandates a historical search of and titles.
Last year the county handed out six awards and Webber says there are many eligible farms in the east end of the county. “We’re coming up to a stage in history, a lot of this area was homesteaded between 1900 and 1914.”
Current landowner Bo Deleeuw, son of Gord, grandson of Arthur and great-grandson of Fedor, who was one of the original eight immigrants, decided to hold a 100-year celebration earlier in the summer to honour and delight Mary Deleeuw, Arthur’s wife.
“It’s pretty special for Grandma,” said Bo.
Between the years of 1904 and 1912 eight brothers emigrated from Belgium to Canada; Hector, Earnest, Fedor, Marcel, August, Arthur, Jules and Adhemar.
Ludwena — Bo’s great-grandmother — was initially married to Hector but after his death she re-married to Fedor. Together they had Arthur and his two brothers, all born on the farm. From her first marriage Ludwena had two other sons. However, all five men have passed away.
“There was this farm and two of the brothers had farms nearby,” said Bo. Only two of the three farms remain with the family.
For most of his life Bo worked in the oilfield industry while farming on the side. “Just this year I’ve quit the oilfield, focused more fulltime on farming.”
He remains proud — in an era where family farms are dropping off to make way for large commercial operations — that he is a fourth generation farmer on the same 1,000 acres.
“I think it’s just kind of neat to have the same last name (for the farm) for four generations,” Bo explained.
“This is where we lived, this is where we got married. I think it’s wonderful myself. I think our forefathers would be intrigued,” added Mary.
The Deleeuw farm has always been a cohesive family operation.
“Just to be able to farm together as a family is pretty neat. To be able to operate together,” said Bo.
On the original farm there were a variety of ventures, from chickens to pigs, beef, diary and grain. “It was great . . . whatever we did. We had the dairy, it was really a step forward in our life.”
Now the farm mostly focuses on grain and cattle.
The property still boasts three original structures, the barn, the pump house and the machine shed. Mary now lives at a farm nearby but still visits her grandson’s land to reminisce. “It just feels like a part of me is gone . . . when you leave a place, even though the family has taken over it, there’s an emptiness inside. But I’m happy too.”
With two sons, the oldest is 14 years old; Bo says there is a good chance the farm will pass to fifth generation.
“It’s a pretty nice lifestyle. Like, I worked the oilfield and you always had a boss, you weren’t home all the time,” said Bo.
“We just loved it because it was handed down from generations and we all did the same thing at that time. We were all in the same boat and had to work hard,” said Mary.