A Central Alberta farm family that helped build Red Deer’s first log schoolhouse is the latest to be honoured with the community-building Golden Furrow Award.
Members of the Kemp family of Innisfail were presented with the plaque last weekend at Sunnybrook Farm Museum. The Pioneer Farm Family of the Year is the 15th to receive this award, which has been given out annually to civic-minded rural families since 2005.
Sharing the recognition with previous winners — including the Bowers, Hermarys, Braithwaites and Hazletts — is a huge honour, said Rita Kemp, whose husband, Gerry Kemp accepted the award on behalf of the family Saturday.
“We are thrilled to bits and very appreciative,” she added.
Rita Kemp feels it’s great to recognize people who helped create the area we live in: “A community is built on its history. We learn as we go… and we learn from the past.”
According to local historian Michael Dawe, the Kemps have been in this area for 137 years. William Hazelwood Kemp arrived at Red Deer River Crossing in 1882 after travelling from his native Ottawa.
He broke the first farm land in the region with a team of oxen and ended up producing some winning crops. A sample of his wheat was sent to the 1893 Chicago World Fair, where it won a prize — a streak that continued at local and regional agricultural fairs.
William helped build the first log school in Red Deer. He also became a trustee with the newly formed Red Deer Public School Board before marrying Katy Lundy in 1897.
That spirit of altruist ran through the Kemps’ descendants. Dawe said the family became involved in the various Co-op board, town council, 4H, and Innisfail agricultural and historical societies. They also contributed to the Parkland Credit Union, Goldeye Foundation, International Farm Exchange program, Red Deer College, and the local curling club, among many groups.
Rita said the family’s dairy farm eventually was turned into a hay farm, but her children still run it.
Ian Warwick, executive-director of the Sunnybrook Farm Museum, said early pioneering families “built our churches, our community halls,” so it’s appropriate to recognize their contributions.
Previous winners are: the James Bower Family, Emile Hermary Family, Herve Johnson Family, George A. Braithwaite Family, Richards Family, Charles Alberta Boyden Family, Alberta F. Wagner Family, Nelson Family, Niels Lund Family, Swainson Family, Northey Family, Towers Family, Van Slyke Family, and Hazlett Family.