The Schoff Farm, located 10 kilometres northeast of Bashaw, has been an intergenerational family operation since 1960 and stays up-to-date on agricultural best practices.
Born and raised on the farm, Trevor Schoff is now at the helm of the operation that was founded by his father and uncle. Now, with his knowledge and experience, he’s keeping the farm current and growing moderately.
With a degree in agriculture from the University of Alberta and prior experience as an agronomist Schoff believes being as environmentally responsible as possible and using modern scientific practices to keep the soil and the farm in as good condition as possible for the next generation.
Schoff worked for the government as well as some private companies before returning full-time to the family farm.
Their main products are grains — wheat, barley, canola and hay — and mixed beef cattle they raise on pasture land during the summer months.
The farm’s 150 cows and about 30 yearlings are either Simmental or Red Angus, though they use mostly Simmental bulls.
The herd calves in the spring and they raise them through the summer to mid-November when the Schoffs sell the calves rather than finishing them. The rest of the remaining cattle (some replacement heifers, the cows and bulls) are wintered on the farm, fed from their own hay and some silage grain from their crop land.
Their farm animals also include a few horses and chickens for their own use.
The majority of the wheat, barley and canola will be harvested and taken to market, although most of the hay is for the cows. Some crop land is used for silage.
The farm is home to his parents, him and his wife Joanne — who locals may recognize from Bashaw Crop Services where she works — as well as their three children, Tristan, 17, Julia, 15, and Jason, 12.
You may also know Trevor from coaching minor hockey in Bashaw over the last 10 years.
With fall being harvest time and the start of hockey season, it’s always an interesting time for his family.
With the hot weather over the last few weeks, the grain was dry enough, and the Schoffs were able to begin combining.
Now that they’re getting a bit older, the kids able to help around the farm more with some tasks they can handle safely and effectively, said Schoff.
The younger children can feed the chickens, check the cows, or feed a bottle calf and the older ones are able to run some equipment and machinery.
Although he hopes one of his children may be interested in keeping the farm going someday, he says with them still being in school, it’s too early to know where their career paths may take them.
While working to grow the farm, his focus has been on ensuring its longevity and the health of the soil.
The Schoffs are in the practice of taking soil samples each year to test for levels of nutrients to determine what types of fertilizer or other products may be suitable.
The Schoffs make sure to leave some of the grain stalks when harvesting their fields.
“We really believe in direct seeding,” said Schoff, explaining that leaving some straw covering the soil protects it from wind erosion, as well as safe guarding the micro flora.
With some coverage over the cropland, moisture from snowfall in winter is also better retained as it doesn’t blow off as easily.
Protecting the topsoil is key, as in Canada, it is some of the most fertile soil, developed since the last glacier, said Schoff. It’s the most valuable for productivity and farmers don’t want it to wash off in the rain or when the snow melts and a field with more moisture in the soil is all the better for starting off crops the next season.
They also try not to over-graze the pasture land so they have a good, healthy ground cover that reduces runoff into natural ponds present in the area. They utilize swath grazing in early winter to extend the grazing season by about two months, which is good for the cattle, the landscape and economics.
“Agriculture is changing pretty quickly,” he said, adding it’s hard to tell where things may be in 20 years.
His main goals are just to keep the land productive and healthy so whoever is farming it for the next generation has a good factory to start from, he said.
“I’m not trying to be the biggest farmer, but I do want to do a good job of what I do.”
Schoff said he wants to help people understand where their food comes from and why farmers do what they do and how they do it.
The main thing he wants people to know is that those who chose to work the land as he does mainly want to provide healthy food in a manner that society benefits from.
“More and more people are getting further away from the farm so they don’t understand agriculture in general which is a challenge,” he said.
“There’s a lot that is beyond a farmer’s control so just having public support is a great thing for agriculture.”