It’s uncommon these days that a working farm has remained in operation by the same family for a full century.
However, that’s the case with the Luce family, Ponoka County’s latest Century Farm that was officially recognized during a sign raising and ceremony on July 28 at the ranch located nine kilometres north of Crestomere on Secondary Hwy. 792.
Originally settled in 1919 by the grandparents of 91 year-old Bob Luce, the property is currently being worked as an organic beef operation having evolved and changed a few times over the past century.
“My grandparents, along with my father and his brother and sister, came up from Montana after the original 1912 homestead failed to produce a decent crop in seven years,” he explained.
“There are very few families left on their own land this long up here, but even less are still farming the same land.”
The farm is entering its fifth generation and is showing no signs of slowing down, with Bob and his wife Rhonda still living in the house he built more than 60 years ago and their son Brian with his family residing in houses on the same property.
Bob was actually born in a log home on the land and only left briefly to go to Olds College, at which point he got more involved in the operation in late 1950s. Bob’s dad took over the farm in 1925 after showing up on his honeymoon, learning then that his father was going back to the U.S. after suffering a heart attack.
“We’ve always run beef, but I sold off the dairy and pigs and never regretted it. Just wasn’t enough time to do everything,” said Bob, who was all gung-ho for progress and innovation.
“Modernizing was a good thing and not owning all the land, you couldn’t get big enough so we eliminated the rest. The cattle business though is like an insurance policy, it’s always there. You can sell a cow anytime and, so, it’s worked out well for us.”
Brian took over in the 1980s, even though Bob kept working a bit until about five years ago, going from a mixed farm to grain and beef then to grazing and now back to more grain plus certified organic beef on about 1,700 acres.
“Having the kids – David, Matthew, Thomas, Rachel – around to help continue on, its really nice. That isn’t the usual on the farm anymore,” Brian said.
“It’s a lot less physical labour now and easier with the automation, but the economies of scale and having to crank out the product hasn’t changed. Though, the real challenge is dealing with things with no chemicals or weed spray.”
For Bob, he is proud of the recognition, calling it quite an accomplishment to maintain a running farm in the same family and he really hopes the latest generation can keep it going for another century.