Featured Grower

 

Meet Christine Wennekers

I grew up on the farm in Rolling Hills, the oldest in a family of 4.  My Dad was originally from Holland, and my Mom was from Ontario, they met in Brooks where my Dad was working on the rigs, and my Mom was waitressing at the Telstar bar. Their joint dream was to own a farm, with crops and cattle, and horses for my Mom.  They worked hard and made the dream a reality.  I went on to get a Petroleum Engineering degree from the University of Alberta, and even while I was working full time as an engineer in Calgary, I always came home to help when it was needed and sometimes even if it wasn't.  For me, it was my grounding, and reality check.  When my parents passed away unexpectedly, the thought of not being able to spend time at the farm was not something I was willing to accept, so my husband Dan and I decided to take it over. 

How long have you and your family been growing sugar beets?  
My parents started as soon as they bought the farm, so since 1976.  After some visits back to Holland, I always joked that my Dad had to bring some Holland back to him, with the irrigation canals and sugar beets looking eerily like a lot of farmland in Holland! When my parents passed away, I was able to take over the contract. 
 
Why do you grow sugar beets and farm?  For me, I farm because there is the ability to not only to be self-sufficient and able to provide for so many people, but also being part of such a great community and having my kids experience life and most importantly the life lessons you get on a farm.  While it can be trying sometimes, I actually appreciate the challenges, the constant learning and relearning, and the managing of the ups and downs that gives you perspective and makes you grow as a person.  Specifically, with respect to the beets it is really great that we are able to grow 100% Canadian sugar and process it in Southern Alberta.  I love telling people that and then showing off my 2018 20/20 Club plaque.  
 
What is your fondest memory of sugar beet harvest?  It's a bittersweet one... my Dad passed away suddenly the day our beet field was supposed to be opened up.  Not only did his beet partner provide much needed support for my Mom until I could get out there, but then they proceeded to get extra manpower to help us out with beet harvest.  And even though it was such a busy time of year for all farmers, we got many offers for much needed help from so many people in the community that fall, I still feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude when I think about it. 
 
What is the biggest technological advancement you have seen in the industry or do you foresee?  I truly think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in advancements in farming. The advances in plant biology technology are not only amazing but necessary if we are going to keep farming sustainable and keep the world fed.  I also have a feeling in 20 years or less driverless tractors, precision fertilizer and weed control, and precision watering will be almost the new normal. It's such an exciting thing to watch unfold. That being said, I think it will be important to realize there must be a balance between food production and caring for our natural resources. I think one of the biggest go forward challenges will be finding the balance between the technology that can be applied to food production but also making sure that the human component of farming can be maintained. 
 
What do you like to do in your spare time?  Think about all the fencing and yard cleanup work we should be getting done!! Seriously, whenever we get the chance we like to spend time in the great outdoors (preferably mountains) with friends, skiing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, aka anything with a little bit of an adrenaline rush and experiences we can all talk and laugh about later. The yard will eventually get cleaned up. 



 
Alberta Sugar Beet Growers

5810 62 St, Taber, AB
403-223-1110
office@asbg.ca