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Wood Mountain, Sask. farmers named “Outstanding” for 2022

Wood Mountain, Sask. farmers named “Outstanding” for 2022

Cody Straza and Allison Squires will compete for the national title in November

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The owners of a cow-calf and certified organic grain farm near Wood Mountain, Sask. are Saskatchewan’s 2022 Outstanding Young Farmers.

Cody Straza and Allison Squires, who own Upland Organics, received the award during Canada’s Farm Show in June.

“It was a moment of shock, we weren’t really expecting to win,” Straza told Farms.com. “There were some other strong candidates, and they were just as deserving of the award.”

Upland Organics is made up of more than 8,000 acres of land, on which Straza and Squires grow flax, lentils, durum, peas, oats and cover crops. They also use their cattle as part of the organic operation.

The couple use their education to improve the farm operation.

Squires has a Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Saskatchewan and promotes the organic industry through on-farm research.

Straza received an agricultural and bioresource engineering degree from the U of S and implements principles he learned in university on his farm.

One of those is lean manufacturing, which focuses on reducing waste while maximizing productivity.

“We used to do a green manure plowdown and the cover crop incorporation is a pretty big tillage and we’re trying to reduce our tillage,” he said. “We used a roller crimper for a few years and saw benefits there, then we got into grazing cattle on our cover crops.”

Now, the nutrients are cycled through the cattle. Straza and Squires leave residue for the cattle to trample into the ground and they use an adaptive multi-paddock grazing system.

Using these and other practices, Straza and Squires try to demonstrate being able to improve soil and be excellent stewards of the environment while also realizing financial benefits.

“I think one leads to the other, and sometimes there’s short term pain for long term gain,” he said. “Especially when it comes to soil health it might seem like a step back at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it.”

Another practice used at Upland Organics is pollinator strips.

As an organic farm, they must have a buffer strip between themselves and conventional neighbours.

Rather than leaving the strip bare, Straza and Squire planted pollinator strips.

“I had it figured out that it was going to cost us $2 bushels an acre for one year to pay for the seed, but the benefits are ongoing after that,” he said. “By providing pollinator habitat, that provides more pollination for our crops, which gives us a yield bump and economic return.”

In addition, the couple built an on-farm grain cleaning plant, which they operate as a separate business along with Straza’s parents.

They use it condition grain to meet buyers’ standards.

“We remove all the dockage and get it to export standards and can ship to domestic or overseas markets,” Straza said.

Straza and Squires are excited about what future generations of farmers will be able to do.

The couple have three boys and hope to leave the farm in a better state than when they first purchased the land.

“What we’re doing now is a mixture of old and new practices,” Straza said. “I can’t wait to see what the next generation does to build upon what we’ve done, the same way we’ve built upon what previous generations did.”

Being named Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers means Straza and Squires will compete against other regional winners for the national title.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers will be named during the national event in Saskatoon in November.

The last time the national winner came from Saskatchewan was in 2012, when Vance Lester and Susan Echlin, winery owners from Perdue, Sask., shared the national title with Martin Brodeur Choquett and Johanne Cameron, sheep farmers from Quebec.

Straza is hoping to secure a hometown victory this fall.

“I think everyone involved in the Outstanding Young Farmer program has the desire to win,” he said. “We’d love to be the people to bring the national title back to Saskatchewan.”

The other regional winners so far are:

Photo: Cody Straza, Allison Squires and their children, Declan, Gavin and Caden. (Brown Eyed Girl Photography)




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