Brett Penosky, a fourth-generation Stettler-area farmer, currently lives around a mile from where his grandfather first settled into the area in 1911.
Suffice it to say, Penosky’s roots run deep in the area. Originally emigrating from Czechoslovakia, the current European nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Penosky’s great-grandfather first settled in the United States, where his grandfather was born.
The family then made the move to the Stettler area in 1911, first renting a place for a number of years before buying their first land around 1922. Since then, the farm has grown and stayed within the family.
Penosky’s grandfather attended school until around Grade 6, before he began working on the family farm when he was 12 years old. His grandfather continued to work on the family farm with his father and two brothers until around 1950.
Around 1950, Penosky’s grandfather, his brothers and father decided to split the land. The land, which was over 30 quarter sections at the time, was split with Penosky’s grandfather and father acquiring the “lion’s share.”
Once the split was complete, Penosky’s father and grandfather ended up with a farm 23 quarter-sections in size around 10-miles northeast of Stettler.
One of the other brothers took the rest, while the oldest brother moved to California.
Back then, they only had small equipment, such as a 14 foot cultivator and 10 foot drill, along with some other equipment.
“There’s been a number of changes over the years,” said Penosky.
“It’s in the same area, but it’s not near the size it used to be.”
One change, according to Penosky, was the loss of his twin brother, something which greatly affected the family. However, the family pressed on with running the farm.
At one time, the family operated a purebred cattle farming operation which “was one of the larger ones in Canada.”
The purebred herd was dispersed beginning in 2007 and by 2012 the last of the animals were gone, leaving the operation as just growing straight grain.
“My grandfather started a purebred Angus herd in 1942 … we were at it for quite awhile.”
With the high costs of everything, and the focus on the environment, Penosky has focused his operation on regenerative agriculture.
He doesn’t bail the straw, allowing it to build ground cover which both helps return some of the nutrients to the soil and prevent the ground from drying out.
“With the high cost of inputs, we’re having to look at other options,” Penosky said.
“Nitrogen fertilizer is over $1,000 a tonne. Input costs have doubled from last year, and going forward it is anyone’s guess.”
Penosky is looking into the possibility of putting cover crops on his land, which he could then leave for a year or more to grow then plow under to provide further nutrients to the soil in place of fertilizer.
Still, with the rains this year, Penosky did get some good crops off. At least those not hit by hail.
Penosky says he has heard of some farmers getting yields of around 100-bushels an acre on some fields from crops this summer. Others, including some of his own fields, have been hit as hard as 90 per cent with the hail storms that have swept through the region.
“That was pretty disappointing. It didn’t take long to wreck a crop.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from the original version to indicate that Brett Penosky is a fourth-generation farmer, not a fifth-generation. The Stettler Independent apologizes for the error.