Meet One Earth Farms on Prairie Ferries

July 5, 2011:  “Welcome home!” Yes, it’s good to be home, although ‘home’ is a broad concept for us. We’ve learned to be home wherever we are. Our farm house northwest of Westlock, Alberta is still our main base though. And it’s good to be in my own kitchen, dig in my own garden, and sleep in my own bed! We were away almost six months.

There are still a few places on the praries where ferries provide the only link from one side of the river to the other. The Klondyke ferry first operated in l932. This version began operations in l983.

There are still a few places on the praries where ferries provide the only link from one side of the river to the other. The Klondyke ferry first operated in l932. This version began operations in l983.

     Only half an hour’s drive from here the Klondyke Ferry crosses the Athabasca River. My sister and her family were down visiting from their ranch north of Fort St. John, B.C. We decided to take the ferry and go hiking in the sand hills beyond.

     One of only seven ferries still operating in Alberta, the Klondyke Ferry links Highway 661 from Vega to Fort Assinaboine, north of Barrhead. The ferry can carry up to 50 tonnes, and operates from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The sand hills on the Fort Assinaboine area are a favourite spot for quads and motorbikes, so it gets quite busy on weekends. During the week it’s mostly local traffic. Quite a few Neerlandia farmers own land on the other side of the river. Some of the smaller equipment still goes across the ferry. Having to plan for the ferry can add an interesting dimension to farming!

     Marg Krikke told me they used to have land on the other side. They took most of their equipment over the ferry, including seeding outfits and grain trucks. When they combined at night, they would always have to remember that the ferry closes down at night. If they missed it, it was a pain.

The Riverhurst ferry in Saskatchewan crosses Lake Diefenbaker. It carries all highway vehicles, but there is a half hour wait on one side, and an hour wait on the other. Plan extra time when going through there!

The Riverhurst ferry in Saskatchewan crosses Lake Diefenbaker. It carries all highway vehicles, but there is a half hour wait on one side, and an hour wait on the other. Plan extra time when going through there!

     Last fall, travelling back from Moose Jaw, Robert and I took the Riverhurst ferry across Lake Diefenbaker, near Riverhurst, Saskatchewan. That ferry operates 24 hours, and carries up to 100 tonnes, enabling it to transport a fully loaded semi truck, or up to 15 cars. As we waited for the ferry, it came towards us carrying a grain truck, a tractor with a large grain auger and a combine header (we’d crossed the combine just a little earlier). Mary McArthur, reporter for the Western Producer, was also with us and she jumped up into the tractor cab to have a talk with the driver. Guess who it was!

One Earth Farms unloads from the ferry. The short ride across the lake provides a brief respite for busy farm workers.

One Earth Farms unloads from the ferry. The short ride across the lake provides a brief respite for busy farm workers.

     We’d just met one of One Earth Farms’ outfits moving their harvest operations. If you haven’t heard of One Earth Farms, check out their website at www.oneearthfarms.net. One Earth Farms made headlines in the spring of 2009, when it announced its intentions to begin farming operations that would eventually include one million acres of leased First Nations land. The business strives to combine sustainable agriculture practices, with good economics and leading technology, and building up the First Nations community. (Their CEO, Larry Ruud, used to be our farm consultant when we first started out here in Westlock, during the 1990s.)

      There’s still something special about taking a ferry, and you just never know who you’ll meet up with!

 

 

 

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