MEET BRAD BOETTGER
The Alberta Oat Growers Commission had the opportunity to interview and learn more about their Past Chair, and current POGA President, Brad Boettger. The Boettgers farm in Tofield/Ryley/Roundhill, and Beaver County, producing a variety of crops including: oats, barley, wheat, fall rye, peas, fababeans, and canola. Brad is the 4th generation, on the farm that began with his father’s maternal grandparents. He continues to farm there with his wife and 4 children.
How did you get into farming?
I was born and raised on Beaver Creek Farm, which later changed to Boettger Farms Ltd. At that time it was my grandfather, father and his 2 brothers , and one older cousin that ran the farm and one older cousin. I grew up loving animals and machinery and all things farm related. However, there wasn’t work for myself so I went to university and got my Petroleum Engineering degree. I worked in that realm for 8 years before my brothers and I bought, at the time, one uncle’s half of the farm. In 2011, I quit my career in Calgary to farm full time which was always my passion.
What do you love about farming?
First off, the lifestyle. There is so much flexibility with raising a family, owning and running a family business along with my father and brother.
Secondly, I enjoy growing crops and trying to do it better and more efficiently all the time. I’m always looking to improve, learn, and apply. I find it satisfying growing food and helping to feed people. For myself, I love the smell of freshly seeded ground, watching the crop grow, and then harvesting the crop. To me it always feels like an opportunity and not a job.
What other activities are you involved in (outside the farm or association work)?
I enjoy playing sports, but golf and hockey would be the two I currently spend time playing. I am currently Chair of AOGC and a Vice President of POGA and been involved in the organizations since 2016. I sit on the Beaver County’s Ag Service Board. Our family goes to Heartland Alliance Church where we volunteer and involve ourselves in a small group.
What types of on farm sustainability practices do you employ?
We partnered with local poultry producers to apply their manure on our land, this has allowed us to reduce our use of industrial fertilizer substantially. It does take a lot more extra work and equipment but we feel its worth it.
Our farm was one of the first, if not the first, in our area to direct seed. Our farm has been direct seeding for over 30 years and this has helped improve the land immensely. Tillage is only done out of necessity. We know our ground is the heartbeat of our farm operation and we do everything we know and can to keep it healthy and strong. We are always trying to find ways to minimize the use of pesticides, in my farming career we have never sprayed an insecticide.
What excites you about the future of farming?
The change I have seen towards soil health and improving our soils is key, and it is exciting to see investment moving in this direction more and more. Soil is not just a medium to grow a crop but a living organism that needs to be cared for and fed.
What concerns you about the future of farming?
I have 2 major concerns: first is the divide between rural and urban and the loss of farming experience/knowledge of our fellow urban citizens. I think it is imperative that we not only try to tell our story whenever we can, but I think there needs to be specific classroom teaching and field trips from Kindergarten to grade 12.
Secondly, since joining the oat board in 2016 I have seen continual attempts and pushes by our Federal government to push objectives through onto the farming community (from biased urban society) that are not given the proper consultation, scientific rigour, or risk analysis.
The Alberta Oat Growers Commission (AOGC) was established by the provincial government in 2012 to begin collecting a 50 cents per tonne levy on all Alberta-grown oats marketed commercially.
AOGC uses the producer funds for oat research and market development to enhance the profitability of oats for growers and increase its value to the customer.
The strategic priorities of AOGC include research, market development; advocacy; building partnerships; and communication with oat growers, consumers, the oat industry, and governments.
The Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) was launched in 1998 by oat growers from the three prairie provinces and continues to act as an umbrella agency, coordinating activities with and through the producer associations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
Each provincial oat commission has a Chair who is elected by the board, and that Chair is automatically a Vice-President of POGA. As well, members of the AOGC board are directors of POGA.
AOGC communicates with producers through the POGA newsletter that is distributed at least two times annually to inform producers with timely information on events, industry issues, research findings, and market information. Click here to view the Oat Scoop newsletter.
The Commission also connects with oat producers and industry at the annual general meeting (AGM) held in January each year. The AGM is an opportunity to inform producers of the activities of the organization, build relationships, and encourages members to bring their views to the board in-person.
Through its ongoing efforts, AOGC has successfully contributed to the profile, representation and profit of Alberta oat farmers.
As of 2021, through the three provincial associations, the Prairie oat growers have turned $3.9 M of levy dollars into $27.4 M which means growers in Western Canada have contributed less than 15 cents of every dollar spent on research and marketing.
The continued success of the AOGC is based on ensuring that producer interests are at the forefront of all decisions.