Kevin Bristow, President of the Board
Kevin and his wife Anne moved their family to Eastend, Saskatchewan, in 1997 to take over Anne’s family farm. It didn't take Kevin long to notice the adverse effect spraying herbicides and pesticides was having on his physical health. As he explored the idea of transitioning to organic, he saw that not only would it be healthier for his family, but also healthier financially, reducing the farm’s financial risk and input costs. In 2003 they started farming organically, and in 2006, they joined Farmer Direct Co-op.
Kevin is passionate about the principles of cooperatives. “I believe we are stewards of our land and it is our responsibility to farm in the best way possible. Organic farming is not perfect, but my hope is that we can move forward into the future, utilizing the best of all practices available to us.”
Gene and Kathy Davis
Gene and Kathy Davis farm 3,500 acres of organic land in southeast Saskatchewan by North Portal. Their land is a combination of pasture, cultivated fields, wooded areas and brush. The Davises grow a number of crops, including hard red spring wheat, durum for semolina, white and red millet, brown flaxseed and ancient grains such as prime einkorn and Ethiopian barley. The Davises have been farming organically for over a decade and are members of Prime Grains an innovative, 100% farmer-owned ancient grain development company. The Davises were some of Farmer Direct Co-op’s first members, and Gene is a former president of the board of directors.
Gerard Draude farms 993 acres in Saskatchewan’s northern grain belt near Anaheim. His land is a combination of cultivated fields, forest and sloughs. In order to maintain the nutrition of his soils and continually grow high-quality food, Gerard rotates numerous crops through his fields, including barley, oats, yellow mustard, food peas for splitting, French green lentils, and alfalfa for fixing nitrogen and providing organic matter to the soil.
In the late 1990s, he attended a meeting about organic farming that really got him thinking about how he wanted to farm and inspired him to make a change. Organic principles coincided with his love of nature and the land he grew up on. He continued working his family’s conventional farm with his parents until their retirement in 2000. Then in 2001, he transitioned the family farm to organic and hasn't looked back. Gerard has been farming organically for over a decade, was one of Farmer Direct Co-op’s original members and is currently on the Farmer Direct Co-op board of directors.
Keith and Monica Neu farm 1,200 acres of organic land in Saskatchewan’s northeast grain belt near the town of Hudson Bay. The Neus’ land is a combination of pasture, cultivated fields and forest, with the beautiful Etomami River making the family’s farm a picturesque sight. The Neus grow peas, flaxseed, wheat, hay and alfalfa to enrich the soil with organic matter and nitrogen.
“Desperation got us into organic farming. We figured there had to be a better way than giving all our profit to the chemical companies," says Keith. This desperation has made the Neus into innovative farmers—they transitioned to organic in 1990 before Canada had a national organic standard, and they started the first community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Saskatchewan in 2005, which has grown to more than 120 members. The Neus also raise grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and omega-3 eggs for their CSA along with a certified organic vegetable garden.
Keith has been a member of Farmer Direct Co-op for ten years and on the board of directors for two.
Greg and Rhonda Gleim
Greg and Rhonda Gleim farm 1,800 acres of organic land near Chaplin, Saskatchewan. Their land is a combination of pasture, native prairie and cultivated fields. The Gleims grow brown flaxseed, soft white spring wheat, oats, durum, hay, and clover that they plow back into the soil to fix nitrogen and to enrich the soil with biomass. The Gleims have been farming organically for over a decade.
John and Martin Finnie
Father and son John and Martin Finnie farm 2,500 acres of organic land in western Manitoba just outside of Kenton. The Finnie farm is a family affair, with sister Tricia and spouses Erica and Danny also part of the operation. Their land is a combination of pasture, native prairie where they raise their bison herd, and cultivated fields. Along with raising bison the Finnies grow peas, barley, hard red spring and winter wheat, oats, black beans, alfalfa and hay. The Finnies have been farming organically for more than 10 years.
Murray Horkoff, Vice President of the Board
Murray and his wife, Emily, took over his fourth generation family farm in the 1990s. The land had been farmed conventionally since after World War II, but after carefully assessing the economics, Murray decided that he didn't want to be held hostage by the conventional agriculture system. The Horkoffs made the decision to go organic more than 20 years ago and have been members of Farmer Direct since 2003.
“I didn't want to use chemicals. I can remember spraying and I knew it was poisonous and deadly. I didn't feel good about that,” he says.
"This cooperative is like we are one big family.” Murray is also attracted to the transparency that Farmer Direct provides. “We like that we are building something together, with people who are as passionate about organic farming as we are.”
Lorne and his wife, Theresa, have been farming for more than 40 years. Although he originally farmed conventionally, Lorne never cared much for the chemicals and fertilizers. “I just didn't trust it,” he says.
Lorne went to a meeting about organic agriculture in 1973 and remembers learning a lot. Each year he found he was spraying less. In 2000, he took the plunge to acquire his organic certification and hasn't looked back.
“I love farming. I have found organic to be the only sustainable way to farm. The philosophy of organic has always been in my DNA. I also find it very rewarding to be getting paid fairly for our labour.”
Lorne has always been a supporter of co-ops and community-based organizations. He joined FDC in 2003 and has been on the board of directors for two years.
Paul Thorburn, Secretary-Treasurer of the Board
Paul and his wife, Crystal, took over her parents’ family farm in 2012. With more than 32 years in the conventional grain industry, he was looking to make a change.
Crystal's parents had already determined their commitment to organic agriculture—they’d been certified since 2004. They had also been members of Farmer Direct Co-op since 2006.
Paul and Crystal embraced the vision her parents had for the farm. “As a co-op, we can pool our production, which offers end-users quantities of production that fit their needs, yet which I could never offer on my own,” says Paul. “The co-op also provides the opportunity to rub shoulders with other members who share the same ideals. Looking back, the challenge has been both exciting and rewarding.”
Allan has been farming for 43 years. In 1988, he made the bold move to transition to organic farming and was certified in 1994.
Allan believes that organic farming is not only sustainable, but it provides better stewardship of the land. He likes working with nature. “It's enjoyable, challenging, and empowering. Most of all, it's a way to provide healthier food and a healthier way to farm,” he says.
Allan both likes and trusts the people that work with Farmer Direct Co-op. Most of all, he likes the transparency that being a member of a cooperative provides.
Allan started selling grain to Farmer Direct in 2006 and became a member in 2009. He has been on the board since 2011.