Derek and Tannis Axten farm in Minton, Sask.
By Diego Flammini
Grain producers located near Regina, Sask. have been named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for this year.
Derek and Tannis Axten, who own and operate 6,000-acre Axten Farms in Minton, Sask., received the honour along with Véronique Bouchard and François Handfield of Ferme aux petits oignons from Mont-Tremblant, Que. during an event in Penticton, B.C. last week.
Being honoured with the award while surrounding by other Canadian farmers was a great feeling, says Derek.
“It was an absolute honour – especially when you consider the company we were among,” he told Farms.com today. “We were just glad to be part of the process but to win is definitely icing on the cake. It’s hard to look at your own operation from a different perspective until someone suggests you do.”
The Axtens’ presentation to the judges focused on their farm’s challenges, including soil health issues, and how they navigated those difficulties.
“We live in one of the lowest rainfall zones in the province,” he said. “We also live on a century farm and a lot of farming practices from the past degraded some of the resources. Our soil biology was almost non-existent. Our water wasn’t infiltrating the soil and it was running off.”
Derek and Tannis Axten
When implementing no-till practices on their farm didn’t show results, the Axtens began using intercrops and cover crops, all with the goal of increasing their soil quality.
After noticing marginal results, the farmers started creating their own compost to put nutrients back into the soil.
“Within the last few years we started a composting program with relatively low-cost ingredients like wood chips, beef manure, grain screenings, flax straw, wheat straw and hay,” Derek said. “Obviously there’s nutrients in (this compost) but we also use the compost as a biological inoculant in furrow and on the crops. We just started trying things to see what worked and to restore the soil food web.”
The Soil Food Web
Judging by what Derek saw in B.C., Canada’s farmland is in good hands.
“It was really interesting to be around other farmers and appreciate how many facets of agriculture there are,” he said. “We came home energized based on everybody’s excitement for farming. Everything was really eye-opening.”
Top photo: Derek and Tannis Axten
Photo: Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers