Farm of Faith
By Jennifer McFee
The hard-working family at Hespler Farms cultivates a healthy appreciation of farming as well as a strong faith in the process.
Located just south of Winkler, the 6,800-acre farm grows a variety of crops including potatoes, corn, soybeans, wheat and canola.
In 1956, Frank Suderman and his wife Helen purchased the land and started growing potatoes. Over time, they passed the farm down the family line to their daughter Dorothy and her husband Nick Heide.
The third generation soon got involved with the Heides’ daughter Joanne and her husband Wayne Derksen along with their son Richard and his wife Amanda.
Wayne, a former high school teacher who married into the farming family, says 91-year-old Frank still comes to the farm several times per week.
“He keeps on challenging us and says, ‘Boys, keep on remembering you are just stewards of the land. This is not yours. It is going to be passed on to someone else someday. Make sure you do the absolute best you can with what you’ve got,’ ” he says.
“He keeps challenging us to make sure we have our priorities in place. That is something about our farm that we value a lot. We are a farm of faith, and that has helped.”
For Wayne, he’s pleased to have made the career shift from the world of education to the realm of cultivation.
“They are both great jobs, but I really enjoy what I’m doing now, especially the flexibility that comes with it,” he says.
“I enjoy getting my hands dirty and watching things grow. I really love being out there in the open and being able to see how things are progressing. It’s amazing and wonderful how you can just plant a seed in the ground and later on you’re able to harvest something out of that.”
This love of the land is evident in the fourth generation of family farmers, with involvement from Wayne and Joanne’s children Mark, Linnea and Brent, along with their cousins Kate, Brooke and Peyton.
In addition, Hespler Farms welcomes a seasonal crew of workers, ranging from 18 full-time employees in the summer to more than 40 during harvest time.
“We don’t have any middle management,” Wayne notes, “so we work directly with our employees.”
Hespler Farms also appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with other farmers through Peak of the Market Ltd.
“Peak of the Market has been a good avenue for us to work with other Growers to market our crops. If we had to do that ourselves, that would take a lot of time to meet with the purchasers of all the different companies,” Wayne says.
“I think by working together, you get more done and you’re more efficient. You can do more than you could do by yourself. I’m very thankful. It’s a good group of people to work and be with. The more we work together, the stronger we are as a whole.”