Protecting the Pembina Valley’s rich soil, and reducing soil erosion, is a key value for Kroeker Farms in Winkler. Those values, shown through ongoing efforts to implement various conservation practices and initiatives over many years, have caught the attention of a number of organizations.
The Pembina Valley Watershed District (PVWD), in partnership with the Manitoba Department of Agriculture and Resource Development, recently presentedKroeker Farms with the 2022 Conservation Award.
The Conservation Award, in memory of the late Mike Cabernel, is presented each year to recognize an individual, organization, family or business who actively promotes wise farm management and conservation practices.
Clint Cavers, PVWD GROW Coordinator, says, “Kroeker Farms Ltd continues to demonstrate leadership in farm sustainability throughout all areas of their production. Their use of shelterbelts, cover crops, organic production methods and crop diversity show their desire to keep land and water health tied to farm productivity and profit.”
CEO and President of Kroeker Farms, Wayne Rempel, said they have practiced a number of methods to reduce soil erosion over many decades, starting with minimal tillage which he said is a great tool, but not the best for potatoes. Annual crop rows were also tried, but they too were still not the right thing for their fields. “Then we started going back to the drawing board,” said Rempel. “And one of the things we have used a lot of is cover crops, like Fall Rye, that we seed after the potatoes are harvested to get the fields nice and green.
“Trees are extremely important, and we plant a lot of trees every year,” added Rempel. “One of the problems with the trees that were in existence is that most were planted in the wrong direction, were in poor condition and needed to be taken out and replanted. That’s been our work in the last ten years or so.”
Rempel started working at Kroeker Farms in 1988, a time when potato farmers, in general, didn’t have the best reputation for protecting the environment. He said potato farmers had a bad reputation for allowing soil erosion, and many of them faced criticism for not doing enough to mitigate it. Kroeker Farms took a different approach, and has been implementing various conservation practices and initiatives for decades now.
“I’ve always hated seeing soil blow up in the air, and into the ditches, because this soil has taken generations and generations to get healthy, and fertile and healthy the way it is, and to see it blow away in an afternoon is just so painful. So I’ve always been determined to do whatever we can. I know we can’t totally eliminate it, but do whatever we can to reduce soil erosion.”
Rempel noted wind is the biggest cause of soil erosion in our area, especially with the light soils potatoes are grown on.
“This award really, is for me, one of the biggest honours I could have received,” he said. “Because it’s something I’ve personally worked on for the last thirty years, or even longer. It’s a big part of who we are as a company, it’s one of our values, protecting and enhancing the environment. So for us, (Kroeker Farms) it could hardly be a better award, and I am personally very honoured, and our company is very honoured.”
Kroeker Farms will also be recognized at the Manitoba Association of Watersheds (MAW) Conference this December for exhibiting, exemplifying and executing environmental stewardship practices that will help enhance our environment for future generations to enjoy.