A Stettler-area farm family with roots over 100 years was honored among the top in central and northern Alberta.
Allan and Rita Hennel of Hennel Farms was one of 17 recipients of the 2009 AMA Farm Family Award presented Nov. 8 by Northland and Alberta Motor Association during Farmfair International in Edmonton.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to receive this award – it was a great feeling,” said Allan who farms in the Linda Hall area about 12 kilometres south of the Town of Stettler.
“His mother and father would have been very proud of this,” said Rita.
Farming with their son David, 36, on 16 quarters, the mixed farm of 175 beef cows and over 700 acres of crops such as wheat, canola, barley and oats has progressed since the farm was established by Allan’s great-grandfather Kristian in 1904 when he was among one of the first immigrants from Estonia to settle in the area.
Since then the farm has flowed down through son William and Allen’s parents Rudolph and Doris Hennel.
David and Leslee’s sons Tallin, 9, and Emmit, 5, are already setting their eyes on becoming the sixth generation to operate the farm.
“Hopefully the boys will take over one day,” said Allan, 61.
Rita and Leslee are very helpful on the farm in a variety of ways with the equipment or driving to town to pick up parts or for other farming business.
“They make sure we’re well-fed,” said Allan.
Their daughters Teresa Campbell and Kimberley Lafournie of Red Deer also help on the family farm.
“Leslee has been a farmgirl all her life so she’s not new to farming,” said Allan.
Hennels were honoured in front of a large crowd that included Premier Ed Stelmach, who has deep agricultural roots in Alberta.
The annual awards recognize outstanding families from northern and central Alberta who best represent the values of the family farm within their rural communities.
Now in its 41st year, the AMA Farm Family Awards show appreciation for the contributions each of these families make to the further growth of the agricultural community.
Winners of the annual AMA Farm Family Awards were selected by the Agricultural Service Boards north of Red Deer, based on a review of their farming expertise and community involvement.
“We do this because we want to – it’s a good life,” said Rita.
Besides being busy on the farm, the Hennels are active in their community as members of the Linda Hall committee and the men’s and women’s clubs, while Allan and Rita formerly served as caretakers with the cemetery.
“In the early years, the Hennels helped build the first Linda Hall,” said Allan.
“They always helped each other thresh and we always help other farmers in the area.”
Farming has long been a passion for the Hennels through the generations.
“When it’s in your blood, it’s hard to quit,” said David, 36.
“It’s something that has been passed down to us and we want to keep it and pass it on to the next generations,” said Allan.
His grandsons Tallin and Emmit are already talking about plans to take over the farm as they actively care for their chickens and diligently and daily collect the eggs.
“They both take pride in that and after school they are eager to put the eggs in their baskets,” said Allan.
Farming faces many challenges today and for the future.
“We’ve got higher costs and lower profits,” said Allan.
“For the grain we sell, we’re getting the same price today that we got 40 years ago.”
“Costs of the products we’re selling aren’t going up, but everything we buy is,” he said, referring to rising costs of fertilizer, sprays, large machinery and fuel.
“We’re not wealthy but we have great pride and dignity.”
“It’s hard to make a living these days just on farming,” said Allan.
That’s why David also works as a welder.
Even regulations are restricting family farms.
“Everyone used to have milk cows, chickens and pigs on their farm sell them in simple ways,’ said Allan.
“Now that’s a thing of the past because now you have to have a quota.”
Despite the challenges and the weather, the Hennels are committed to their farm and rich family heritage.
“One of the good things about farming is that you’ve always got lots of work,” said Allan.
“There’s no shortage of work.”