Go Ahead, Be Hard On Your Beliefs

FarmOn Einstein Quote


“We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.” – Tim Minchin

What we believe is important – really important, for that matter. Because our beliefs naturally guide us to make decisions and take actions that carve our path and influence the direction we take. And while our beliefs play a big role in shaping us, it’s critical that we take the time to truly examine our beliefs and reconsider some of our assumptions. But sometimes, that’s easier said than done.

In the agriculture industry, there are many different beliefs about the “right” way to do things. We operate on information overload, as each side of a heated topic bombards us with staunch proof and steadfast statistics to back up their unwavering beliefs. Often, people passionately argue their belief from habit or defense of their livelihood, rather than taking a step back to actually examine if their beliefs still hold truth when all of the information is carefully weighed.

But here is the awesome thing about truth: it can handle questioning. It isn’t offended by poking and prodding. I think, at times, we are afraid of questioning because we fear that it will damage all that we have built to be true based on our belief. However, that’s the beautiful thing about questioning, it pushes us towards answers. Because questions can’t change what is true, but they can inspire understanding that leads to either a confirmation or a change in our beliefs based on logic and fact.

As farmers, we must be careful not to segregate ourselves based on belief. The way you choose to farm is NOT the only thing that defines you. You don’t have to follow traditional practices to prove you honour agriculture’s past. You don’t need to farm organically to care about the Earth and understand the need for sustainability. You can love and respect animals while still raising them for food. Too often we become so entrenched in our beliefs that we can’t see the big picture: that when it comes to food, we’re all in this together!

If we are honest with ourselves, and truly question our beliefs based on the quest for truth, we must admit that there are sustainability issues with some of the ways we produce food and that every type of farming will play an important role in the solution. Sparking change that will ensure the health and future of our planet for generations to come will require a new way of doing things and the ability to set aside pride, fear, and the need to be “right”. Instead, we must move forward with great intention based on what we now know, rather than what we have always believed. The need for innovative collaboration and unity within the brotherhood of farming has never been greater. Each of you will play an important role in that which will be a defining moment, a “tipping point” for food production as we know it. So be brave in questioning your beliefs. Understand that just wanting something to be true cannot make it so. Be comfortable knowing that it’s okay to change course if need be. What you do as a farmer is essential, how you do it is ever evolving based on new knowledge. And that, friends, is as it should be.

Even When the Roof Collapsed, These Dairy Farmers Refused to Quit

Amanda and Markus Helhi are a young couple, operating the Helhi Family dairy operation near Rimbey, Alberta.  Markus has been working side by side with his father, Heini Helhi, for his entire life, and they are now in the process of succession planning as Markus and Amanda transition into the driver’s seat of the family operation.



When we visited Markus and Amanda last month to do some filming at the dairy, we arrived at about 5:15am and they were already hard at work in the milking parlour.  As each cow finished being milked the next would be brought into the double 6 flat parlour system, and you could see that even though they’d been through the motions a thousand times before, Amanda and Markus took great care with each and every animal.  Every teat was carefully cleaned and prepped, and Markus several times would stop to jot down notes on his notepad, tracking details that help him to maximize production and also watch out for the health and welfare of the animals.


Later in the day, Markus shared with us a story that I cannot imagine having to cope with.  A few years ago during an extreme winter snow storm, their dairy barn’s roof collapsed under the heavy snow load, in the middle of the night.  The way that the Helhi family and their friends and neighbours jumped into action and rallied together to first of all save the animals, and then carry on their operation and rebuild with a new and improved barn, is just inspiring.


How did the barn collapse?

“From one end to the other was down, the whole barn.  But because it happened in the middle of the night, the cows were in their stalls and the roof rested on the stalls.  So they were trapped and couldn’t get up, but they were okay.”

“It was minus 25C, and we had come out prepared to milk, so we went back and got dressed warmer, grabbed flashlights and called a few neighbours.  We thought about calling the fire department but decided not to, because once they’re there, it’s their scene and they’re most concerned for human safety, where we were more worried about the cows.”


“We had tractors right outside, so we took the stalls apart and then put halters on the cows and brought them out where they could get up and walk on their own, chased them into the holding pen, milked them, then put them along the outside of the barn.  Our parlour was ok, so we were able to milk.  Had the parlour gone done we wouldn’t have been able to milk.”


Where did the cows stay while the new barn was being built?

“It took 3 tractors all day to clean out the hay barn.  We put all the hay and straw outside, and then bedded it up and somebody brought over some panels and got a bunch of tarps and tarped it all off.  So it was really good, people were just right there to help.”


We all know that farmers work hard, and dairy farmers in particular have that reputation for dependability and determination, as those traits are basically built right into the job description and the demands of their milking schedule.  Markus and Amanda’s story is one that we hope will inspire many young people in agriculture to carry on, no matter what obstacles get in the way.


If you liked Markus and Amanda’s story, check out the rest of the#Farmvoice Stories here.





Life Gave This Family Small Pumpkins, But Look What They Made!

Shayne and Vicky Horn are friends of ours, and they have a pretty incredible story.  Their farm, Tangle Ridge Ranch, is a small mixed farm located near Thorsby, Alberta.  They raise pastured lamb and beef and sell directly to consumers and restaurants in Edmonton, Calgary and other communities in Alberta.

We went to visit Tangle Ridge Ranch recently, and after Shayne gave us a tour of the yard and pasture – along with his trusty (and giant) guardian dog, Mojito – we went inside to catch up with Vicky, who had just finished getting lunch ready for the kids.  We sat down to interview Vicky and Shayne in their gorgeous home and I quickly realized this was an interview that I wouldn’t soon forget.  It’s not every day that you hear what it’s like for a young couple to start a farm from scratch, when neither of them even grew up on a farm!  They shared their biggest struggles and frustrations, as well as some valuable insights for other people who might just be starting out in agriculture or thinking of pursuing their dreams of having a farm.  And at 3:15 into the video, Vicky shares a story that will melt you, of what their 5 year old daughter Shelby decided to do with her failed crop of tiny pumpkins.

And Shayne’s biggest piece of advice to other young farmers?

“I think the biggest thing is to talk to people.  Find people that are doing something similar to what you want to do, because I gaurantee you 100% that they’ve been at that same place before.  And so whether it be an older couple that’s doing it or a younger couple that’s been doing it for a while, you know, I would find someone to talk to.  That’s what we did.”






Why This Farmer Came Back Home After 17 Years Away

Melissa and Murray’s story is a pretty incredible example of how many young farmers are finding their way back to the farm, come hell or high water, or sometimes both. 😉
We’ve been in touch with Melissa for a couple years now, hearing about their progress ever since she shared her testimonial with us and how she and Murray were inspired after watching The FarmOn Manifesto to find a way to take over Murray’s parents’ farm.  It was the farm Murray’s great-grandfather homesteaded back in 1910, and that old red barn where the horses were fed over a century ago, still stands strong.  Walking through that barn I could see various family members’ initials carved into the rough wooden beams.  And now, since Melissa and Murray moved onto the farm just a few months ago, their son Colten calls this place home and he’s the 5th generation in the family to walk into the loft of that big barn and maybe one day add his own initials.


Keeping up with Colten (doesn’t that sound like a great title for a reality TV series?), wasn’t easy.  He’s full of energy, and just like most 4 year olds, he’s just as full of questions.  So I had a lot of fun with him as we went outside to feed the cattle and bust up the frozen water bowls.


Before I left, we all piled into Murray and Melissa’s truck and drove through the snow drifts out to their neighbours’ house, where we sat and visited with 80 year old Rod and his wife Carole, both of them real characters.  Gathered around the wood burning stove in the kitchen of their little Eaton’s catalogue home, Rod handed everyone a Coke and within seconds we were all laughing hysterically, listening to Carole talk about the early days of farming with no electricity and no plumbing in the house.  Rod and Carole still have a herd of about 80 head of cattle, and I’d say they’re living proof that farm life keeps a person young at heart.



One of my favourite lines from the interview we filmed with Murray and Melissa, was when they started thinking about the words of wisdom and advice that they’d want to pass along to other young farmers.  Murray is no doubt extremely happy to be back home on the farm, carrying on another generation of farming in the family, but his answer was simple and probably one that many of you would relate to:  “Don’t live with your parents at calving time!”

Here’s Murray and Melissa’s story, and if you like it make sure you also check out the rest of our #FarmVoices Stories playlist on YouTube.


5 Young Sisters Carry on Their Parents’ Legacy After the Biggest Challenge of Their Lives

In 2007, Leona Dargis and her 4 younger sisters experienced the unimagineable.  Their parents, Jean and Joanne Dargis, as well as their grandmother Anita Dargis, were killed in a plane crash near Swan Hills, Alberta.  The 5 girls, two of them still in high school at the time of the accident, were faced with the challenge of succeeding their parents estate and making decisions of what would happen to the family farm.
We had the privilege of interviewing Leona and hearing the story of how these 5 amazing young women not only carried on their parents farm business for the past 8 years, but more importantly, what they learned from the years that they had with their parents on the farm.
“Mom and Dad supported us to be who we wanted to be, and do what we wanted.  It wasn’t to stay on the farm, it wasn’t to go away from the farm, it was totally just ‘pursue your passions and follow your dreams’, and if something doesn’t work out then try something new.”

Leona’s own path has been an incredible journey, including a Nuffield scholarship that took her around the world and added a global perspective to her understanding of the issues facing farmers around succession planning.  And now, her career in public speaking offers her the chance to inspire many more people to live life to its fullest.  But what really took me by surprise was what Leona plans on doing next, which she talks about at 5:06 into the video.  Leona, as well as her 4 sisters, have an enthusiasm for life, a work ethic, and a passion for agriculture that are sure to take them to unbelievable places and make their parents very, very proud.



5 Steps to Telling Powerful Farm Stories

Connecting with consumers about farming is important. These days people really care about where their food comes from and how it gets from your farm to their plate, so it’s essential that you learn how to provide them with that information. A great way to share how life really is on your farm and how you produce the food that you sell is to tell your story.

However, it’s not enough just to tell your story, you need to learn how to tell it. We all know what it’s like to listen to a good story teller and also what it’s like to listen to a bad story teller. The difference in technique can either create a real connection with listeners or conversely cause listeners to walk away completely unchanged.

In this article we show you can be the former story teller, and create stories that connect with your audience and leave the listeners excited about your topic.

Made to Stick” authors, Dan Heath and Chip Heath, state that there are five things you must do to ensure your story “sticks” with consumers:

  1. Simplicity;
  2. Unexpectedness;
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional


  1. Simplicity

The first step is to be simple. Though this sounds deceptively easy, when you have a vast amount of knowledge about a subject it can actually be quite hard to do. The idea is to strip down your subject to its most critical essence. You should not be dumbing down the subject but rather you should give the listener, “just enough information to be useful.” As the authors state in the book, “when you say three things you say nothing.” Therefore it’s important to just stick to one core idea and ensure you communicate it in the most concise way possible.

  1. Unexpectedness

The second step is to do something unexpected. People are wired to notice change and disregard regularity. So, when people are expecting a particular line of thinking or sequence of events they often tune out. This is why it’s crucial to create surprise in your story. To do this the authors suggest breaking down your audience’s guessing machine. One way to do this is to use the gap theory of curiosity (ie: triggering people’s curiosity by creating a gap between what they know and what they want to know) and then using your story as a means to tell them the answer. If you would like some inspiration on what this might look like, check out Derek Halpern’s article on the subject over at Social Triggers.

  1. Concrete

The third step is to communicate in concrete and relatable language. If you want people to understand what you’re talking about you should communicate in a way that they understand. and this means not defaulting to industry terminology. The authors suggest utilizing the “velcro theory of memory.” The idea is that similar to a piece of velcro, your brain has many different loops so the more “hooks” an idea has the better it will cling to your memory.

  1. Credible

The fourth step is credibility. This should be the easiest step for everyone, afterall YOU are the farmers, so you should be the authority on farming and food production. To help you along the way consider how you can boost your credibility with these tips:

  • give vivid details (studies have shown that people are more receptive to ideas if they are given some details to imagine)
  • if you use stats – ensure that they show a relationship. This is really important since people won’t remember a number but they will remember a relationship between numbers.
  • Analogies work. Draw on ideas that people are already familiar with to explain new things to them.
  1. Emotional

The final step is to tell your story with emotion. As the authors state, “when people are primed to feel as opposed to analyze they are more receptive towards your message.” So, how do we make people care about our story? The answer is to make the story about them and ensure that you create an association between the things that they care about and your message. People are people, and so you can never go wrong by making the story appeal to their identity. If you do this you will be better positioned to tap into their emotional side, rather than their analytical side.

So, those are the 5 steps you can take to telling a better farm story. Put them to use, and get out there are share your story. As I discussed above, people want to know more about where their food comes from and the farmers that feed them, so go create your story now and share it with the world. People are waiting to hear about it, and it will never get told unless you tell it.

Link photo courtesy of Jill Clardy






5 Life Lessons from Dr. Suess for Farmers

If you’ve always wanted to farm…


  1. Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

There really  isn’t anyone out there who is more you than YOU are. No one else can think for you, farm for you, or experience life for you. Your choice to farm will impact not only your life but the lives of so many others. Nobody else on the planet has exactly the same dream as yours, so stay true to yourself.


  1. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

In farming, it’s very easy to fit in, do what everyone else is doing… and get what everyone else gets. By simply expressing ideas and beliefs that are uncommon and even going against the grain, you can change that status quo. So don’t be content just to farm the way everyone else is doing it – seek and create your farm business to stand out – anything is possible!


  1. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

It’s your thoughts that take you where you want to go in life. Listen to your guts and instincts to choose your own farming path. The great part is that we live in a world where sharing and connection to unique business models and innovations provide for many directions to choose from.


  1. It’s better to know how to learn, than to know.

If you know how to learn, you can pretty much learn anything you need to know in order to farm. So there’s no point in filling your head with a bunch of things you don’t absolutely need to know, much better to have the skill of being able to get the information you need. Technology makes the task easier if you have learned how to use it.


  1. Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.

Today could be the day that you pull off that amazing feat that puts you in the history books. If you’re a farmer, you’re already doing something that matters to a whole lot of people. Create the feeling that today could be the day you’re remembered for, for that’s the only way it can really happen. Bring those expectations to each day of your life. There’s no better time than today to do the things that you’ll be remembered for.


If You’ve Always Wanted To Farm…




Dave Limpert’s Family Farm Story

Almost 15 years ago, Dave Limpert and his brother tossed a coin to see who would get to stay on the family farm.  We spoke to Dave at his farm near Okotoks, Alberta, and captured some of these powerful quotes that we pulled from his interview where Dave shares his incredible story, looking back on this and other defining moments for their family farm.

Make sure you scroll down to check out the full video of Dave’s story, where he reveals at 2:21 into the video why his mother ended up paying so much in taxes after her husband’s unexpected death, and at 9:32 he identifies something that is causing family farms in Canada to disappear.

Tell us about a pivotal moment for your family farm.

There was a couple of defining moments in the history of my family and ranching and farming, that could have changed things and went a different direction.  Probably the most impactful one was in 1981. My dad was farming with my grandfather and my brother and I at 18 and 16 – I’m the oldest of 6 kids.  We were just getting into the family farm, and my dad passed away, at age 46.  One day he was there, and the next day he just wasn’t there.  And the most unfortunate part of that whole story is that we had never had anyone drive into our yard and teach us anything about financial management on a business or a farm.

What’s the biggest challenge facing young farmers?

A lot of the reason that the next generation, not even if they want to but can’t [take over the farm], is that we’ve paid for the exact same dirt four or five times over.  That has to be stopped, or everything we’re doing is for nothing.  That’s why the next generation can’t take over.  It’s not that they don’t want to.  They can’t.



What’s one major lesson you’ve learned about farming?

Harvest is a funny time of year, because while you’re harvesting, what are you thinking?  Gotta get done, gotta get done.  But the moment you’re done, what are you thinking?  Wish I had more, wish I had more. Right?  And I remember the day we were down there and my brother came in with our brand new John Deere combine, and up in the quonset I was leaning on that same 65’ chev half tonne that I learned to drive when I was like 8 or 9 years old.  And I was just kicking rocks there and going “man I gotta put that combine to work”, you know?  I got a payment coming out, and combines are a funny machine because you use them about 150 hours a year, and then they sit in the quonset.  So I’m kicking stones, and as my brother’s walking down from the quonset and I was just kicking those stones, looking down like this, and I had a defining moment.  And I realized where all our money was.  I was standing on it.  I was an asset millionaire, but I didn’t have enough money in my pocket to go to town for a coffee.



Dave Limpert’s Family Farm Story