Stretch family works together to ‘get the job done’ on sixth-generation farm – Ponoka News

Established in 1901, five minutes east of Ponoka on five quarters of land, Stretch Family Farm has been in business for six generations.

Traditionally raising a commercial herd of both grass-fed and grain-fed Angus and Simmental cattle, the family is now transitioning to a holistic approach to sustainability and biodiversity while adding nutrients to the soil and continuing to produce high quality animals.

Run primarily by Randy and Angela Stretch, their daughter Samantha (Sam) and her husband Brennen are now taking the reins. They hope to one day fully run the farm and Sam is full of ideas and enthusiasm for the future.

In everything they do, their rule is, “What do you want our family to eat?” and they follow that, Sam said.

After receiving her Bachelor of Education from Lethbridge, she married and returned to the family farm.

Now she, her husband and their two children all contribute to the daily running of the farm.

“I would like to see a point where the kids could take over. That would be really cool,” Sam said.

Sam attended a holistic conference a few years ago where she said she learned “far too many ideas to try.”

Her husband always tells her to slow down and focus on growing what they already have, she said, laughing.

One of her passions is diversifying the farm with direct farm sales, which she and Brennen have managed for the past year. Customers can now purchase goods, including whole chickens and a selection of cuts of beef, direct from the farm, either through their website or their Facebook page.

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With feed costs tripling this year, they’ve had to make some changes to remain affordable for customers, but their hens are still fed as close to organic as possible, Sam said.

Raising a small flock of sheep has been a new adventure in recent years, Sam said. They now have about 20 sheep and the first finished lambs should be ready for sale in December.

Enriching the soil is a top priority for the family.

They use rotational grazing and convert some quarters of their land to organic farming, without spraying, chemicals or fertilizers.

They have moved away from using Ivomec to treat their cattle for parasites, and Sam said residues returning to the soil can disrupt biodiversity, such as: B. Earthworms.

Besides raising livestock, they also have a few crops, including barley and oat mixes, and a few canola fields.

They use swath grazing and their cattle remain on the pasture for most of the year.

To add more nutrients to the soil, they planted 10 different seeds in their barley field, including peas, radishes, and beets. Peas add nitrogen to the soil and the others are good for reducing weeds.

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The cows are then released onto this field during the winter, with the fence being moved a little more each day through the snow. The cows also add extra fertilizer to the soil.

Since most of their harvest is used for livestock, they rarely need to buy feed, which is fortunate given the rising costs.

They rotate their cattle through the fields and then harvest the rest after the animals are done.

In the fall they have a rye field where they calve and then harvest the rest.

Sam, in one of the rare breaks in her busy day, spoke enthusiastically about the farm.

On a typical day, she gets up with the kids at around 7am. After breakfast, one of her first tasks is to feed her other young charge, a bottle calf. Her mother takes care of the chickens.

Her children, ages three and one, come with her when she walks the sheep out on new grass every few days and enjoy going out with her, she said.

She can provide meat the rest of the day, although she adds that every day on the farm is different than the last.

“It’s constant; There is always something that needs to be done.”

A common history with family farms, her father and husband also work off the farm to supplement their income, her father builds in the summer months and her husband works in the oil field.

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The goal is for everyone to eventually work full-time on the farm again, she said.

Sam invests daily in maintaining and growing the family farm she grew up on where her grandparents still live in the neighborhood and believes in the value of generational farming and farmers supporting other farmers.

“I think (family farms) are a big connection to our history,” Sam said. She said it’s amazing how much is passed from parents to children and how close these families are.

“I think there is a lot of knowledge that would not be passed from generation to generation without the family business.”

An example of a simple but valuable lesson she learned from her parents was, “Get your work done.”

One of her favorite things about farming is that while it’s competitive, it also has a community that has your back whenever you need it and there’s always more to learn.

“The value of different farmers working together is enormous.”


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