Century farm: This Alberta family has farmed the same land for 100 years

An Alberta family is celebrating a century of farming.

Earlier this month, Ed and Ellen Plunkie received the Alberta Century Farm and Ranch Award — a distinction for families who have continuously owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years.

“It is quite an honour, since there aren’t many awards in the [farming] life, other than what you make for yourselves,” Ellen told CBC News on Friday.

Ed’s father and uncle immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1919. The brothers arrived in Montreal, but like many immigrants, were told to head west to the prairies, where land was cheap. 

The next year, for “a few bucks,” Ed said his father took out the title on a piece of land in what is now Leduc County, southwest of the City of Leduc.

Ed, one of nine children, was born on the farm in the cold morning of December 22, 1935.

“Dad had to get the old Model A Ford started and get the doctor,” he said.

When Ed was a teenager, his father started passing out in the yard and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes. 

Since Ed’s older siblings were working in the oilpatch at the time, his parents turned to him for help with the farm duties. By 18, he was running the place. 

He met his wife-to-be at 21. Ellen lived nearby and had also grown up on a farm.

Both recall childhoods full of manual chores, with no electricity or running water. 

“The kids nowadays don’t know what a day’s work is,” Ed said.

For 40 years, the family raised Holstein cattle and ran a dairy farm. After they sold the dairy farm, they switched to Angus cattle. 

Families who provide historical documentation that their farms have been family-run for a century or longer receive a cast bronze plaque from the province. (Rod Kurtz/CBC)

Ed, now 85, recovered from heart valve surgery last year. 

The octogenarian has no plans to live anywhere else.

“I’m going to live here as long as I can walk,” he said. 

One of the couple’s grandchildren, Chris Bonnard, plans to take over the farm’s daily operations.

Bonnard grew up farming after school and watching his grandfather haul cattle and manoeuvre equipment. 

He worked in the oilpatch but grew tired of it, preferring to be his own boss, even if it meant working longer days.

Bonnard said he’s excited to run the farm. His grandparents are happy to hand over the reins.

“That means a lot to us that he wants to do it,” Ed said.

“He’s got to do the next 100 years.”

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