The McAllister family has deep roots in Central Alberta where five generations have farmed for 125 years.
In 1890, Ephriam McAllister filed for a homestead in what is now the Antler Hill district along Hwy 2, south of Penhold. Born in Ireland to Scottish parents, he moved to Canada in 1883.
His son Edward eventually took over the farm, followed by Edward’s son Art. Art’s son Wayne is now running the farm with his two sons Wade and Scott.
“Our passion for this business, it’s carried us 125 years,” said Wayne McAllister, 53, about Antler Valley farm, his family’s 3,000-acre grain farm.
Antler Valley Farm celebrated its 125th anniversary on Saturday afternoon with a huge party with tractor rides, farm tours, a Scottish pipe band, local dignitaries, old-fashioned games for children and face painting.
Tool Shed Brewing Company, of Calgary, was bringing beer samples from their microbrewery made from malt barley grown at Antler Valley Farm.
Wayne and his wife Sherri share the big farm yard with Wade and his wife Sabrina and their one-year-old daughter Mia, along with Scott and his girlfriend Ashleigh Ure.
As a McAllister farm from 1890 to now, Wayne said few farms in the area have carried the same surname through out its history.
Prior to taking the reins, Wayne always helped out on the farm and returned full time when he was 30.
His son Wade, 27, spent four years as a helicopter pilot, but missed the farm and returned in 2010. His brother Scott, 25, a journeyman millwright, also decided the family farm was where he belonged.
Their grandfather Art McAllister, who is 83 and lives in Innisfail, still visits the farm on a regular basis.
The family’s enthusiasm for farming helps get them through 16-hour work days when required.
“It’s a huge gamble. Huge costs. You put everything you’ve got into this crop and hope mother nature works with you to get this crop off in the fall,” Wayne said.
This year seeding started at the end of April.
“Seeding and spraying were really good because it was drier. Now it’s getting to the point where it’s too dry.”
Antler Valley Farm has been a zero-till operation since 2002 which helps keeps moisture in the soil.
He said last year it was a battle to seed because of too much rain, but there was a good crop in the end.
Grain prices are also hard to predict.
“Prices were down a bit last year, but now the prices are coming up because it’s dry out there across Alberta and Saskatchewan and places.”
He said his family always aim to grow human consumption quality product and harvest is a great time because you see what you’ve grown.
But he said farming isn’t just about seeding, tending crops and harvesting. Marketing and hauling grain are their focus during the winter and that’s when they also do 90 per cent of their own machinery maintenance.
Wayne said they “live and breathe” farming. Even when they can take a break from their work at Antler Valley Farm, agriculture is often the topic of conversation and has become an long-running, family joke.
“It’s pretty rare that we don’t talk about farming,” he laughed. “It always comes up somehow.”