Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth presents a commemorative gate to Rich and Luke Bowie.

Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth presents a commemorative gate to Rich and Luke Bowie.

Ponoka farm celebrates 100 years as a family operation

Communities such as Ponoka would not have been built without the brave family farmers who came and cultivated the land.

Communities such as Ponoka would not have been built without the brave family farmers who came and cultivated the land. The Bowie farm near Morningside celebrated 100 years of farming.

Marie Bowie and the rest of her extended family converged on the Morningside Community Hall Aug. 10 to remember how the farm came to be. Charlie Cutforth, Ponoka County CAO, used notes provided by Bowie’s brothers-in-law, Charlie and Rich Bowie, to speak about the early beginnings of the farm. “It’s impossible to capture 100 years in just a few minutes.”

The farm is 2 ½ miles east of Morningside and was purchased by John and Emma Bowie in 1913. They had travelled from Cody’s Corner, West Zorra, Ont. in 1911 and rented a quarter section of land from the Smith farm until they had saved enough to buy the farm.

Emma and John also brought their five boys with them: Lloyd, Harrison, Lucas, Charles and Arthur. It was Arthur who stayed on the farm and married Edith, they had two boys, Charlie and Bill; then Jack and Jean, who were the first twins to survive birth at the Lacombe Hospital and then Rich.

The home place is now owned by Bill’s widow, Marie; she gave birth to Danny, Kim and Luke.

Making the farm into a viable business required a trip from John in 1913 back to Ontario to purchase 20 Holstein heifers. Those heifers then produced enough milk for the family to haul milk to Ponoka three times a week, explained Cutforth. In 1919 a new barn and silo were built to enable more cream production, which was sent to Lacombe by train three times per week.

There was no heavy machinery in those days.

“The horses were huge in the Bowie operation for years,” said Cutforth.

Up until 1970 horses were used although machinery started making its way onto the farm in 1923 with the purchase of a Ferguson tractor made in England.

More machinery came to the farm with a new John Deere tractor in 1930. Despite the equipment the Bowies used horses to pull their binder, mower, harrows, manure spreader and for the wagons. Eventually a baler was purchased in 1953.

Grandson Charlie remembers keeping the goats with the horses and them never getting sick. They also never had any horse injuries.

Building up the farm equipment came with the purchase of an IHC W6 tractor with power take-off and pulley. As time passed the horses were used less with the Bowies riding them for pleasure rather than work in 1970.

Charlie recalls riding his horse Flash, to get to school and believes he rode the horse for 30,000 miles.

“She lived to 36 when lightning killer her in the pasture,” Charlie wrote in some notes Cutforth presented.

Up until 1967 the Bowies used a threshing machine with six or seven racks that needed 12 to 14 horses.

Winter was a busy time as well for the farm. Between the morning and evening milkings the boys would cut spruce trees using cross-cut saws, some eight-feet long if the trees were big enough. After 1962, chain saws became the tool of choice. If there was snow, sleighs were used to haul the logs, if snow was sparse then wagons were used.

During crop season the boys would work with the crops, weather permitting, and saw lumber when it rained. These were busy days for the Bowie farm trying to battle the elements while continuing with their farm chores.

Cutforth praised the Bowies for their love of sports. “You’ve spent the last 100 years building a community.”

“The Bowie Clan have always been people of great character and have greatly contributed to the fabric of the Ponoka community. They don’t do it in a public, flashy way but rather with quiet, strong confidence,” he added.

He presented Marie with a special welded gate showing 100 years of farming.

“This family has been and still is an integral part of our community,” said Cutforth. “I would just like to say to the younger generation of Bowies that if you live your lives the way your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have lived theirs, then our future will be in very good hands.”

Although Bill died two years ago, Marie was proud to have the rest of the family around to celebrate the growth and strength of their farm. “It just kept carrying on.”

Son Danny enjoyed seeing many family members attend the celebration. “I think it’s great to see all the relatives and some I’ve never met.”

Danny’s brother Luke, became somewhat emotional when talking about milking the cows and dealing with the crops. “(My) fondest memory was driving the truck for my dad and brother.”

His parents and older brother would milk the Holsteins while he helped out.

“I’m really proud of hitting the 100 years,” said Luke.

His biggest regret was that his father did not live to see the celebration. “It would have meant the world to him.”

Marie wants the farm to stay in the Bowie family and intends for her children to take it over.

Also in attendance was Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox who brought greetings from the Alberta Legislature and presented some scrolls to the family.