Sexsmith’s Balderston family is the recipient of a 100 Years of Farming Heritage Homestead Award.

Family members were recognized during an award presentation on October 26 by the County of Grande Prairie’s Agricultural Services Board for long-standing contributions to agriculture and the County’s heritage.

“This family is a pillar in the agricultural sector and the community at large,” says Councillor Bob Chrenek, Chair of the Agricultural Service Board. “We are pleased to highlight their contributions and legacy and wish them continued success.”

The original homestead, NE-16-73-5-W6M, was established in 1912 by current owner Kurt Balderston’s great grandfather, Edward Morgan who emigrated with his family from Wales, arriving in the region via the Edson trail with a team of oxen and a wagon. His son, Gordon Morgan, farmed between the 1950s and 1970s.

Kurt’s father, Gilbert Balderston, held the farm for much of the next three decades, with Kurt assuming the reins in 1982. His son, Cody, is in his second year of farming, leading to the family’s fifth generation on the land. Kurt’s wife, Marcy, and daughters Sarah and Sophie have also contributed significantly to the farm’s success.

The farm started on a quarter section, later expanding to a full section near Morningview Park Golf Course. Kurt’s dad continued to build on that. About 1,200 acres are now under cultivation.

“The ability to pass down and work the land that my great grandfather settled means a great deal to us,” says Balderston, who also serves as Division 2 County Councillor.

“It is a privilege to carry on the work he started. As farming increasingly falls under the umbrella of big business, the family farm is becoming a much rarer thing. We think that the family farm is a foundational part of this region’s communities.

“The business is changing, and the scale is getting much bigger. Even though change is inevitable, we want family values and a love for the craft of farming to stay at the center of our lives and careers. I hope that we see family farms continue to thrive in our area for a long time.”

Balderston says while farming is a challenging way of life, it was much harder for his predecessors.

“They cleared land by hand with horses and oxen, and originally farmed with horses. My dad’s generation used open air equipment with no cabs and most of the work continued to be by hand. Modern day farming comes with stresses of a different kind, but we will never match their ability to overcome incredibly difficult conditions.”

Malt barley and canola are primary crops on the farm. Wheat production was a focus early on, and until Gilbert Balderston’s era it was a mixed farm that included cattle, chickens, and pigs. Today, horses are the only livestock and just enough hay is produced to feed them.

As Balderston reminisces, his favourite memories involve working with his family.

“From as young as I can remember, I never doubted that I would spend my whole life farming. I am very happy that it will continue to go on beyond my time as well,” he says.

“My dream would be for the farm to stay in the family for many generations.”

Applications for the 100 Years of Farming Awards are accepted throughout the year. For more information about the Heritage Homestead Award and the Pioneer Farming Family Award, and to apply or nominate a family, visit the County of Grande Prairie website.

Information provided by the County of Grande Prairie