FORT ASSINIBOINE – Clearwater Farms, the home of Don and Deb Breitkreitz and family, were chosen for the Farm Family Award for Woodlands County in 2022.
The farm, a mixed 350 cow-calf pair operation and grain farm that spans 3,000 acres located along Highway 661 north of the Hamlet of Fort Assiniboine, is now in its third generation.
The original Breitkreitz farm began in 1958, when Rosie Breitkreitz and her late husband Ted moved from Edmonton where Rosie said they both had jobs and a home with running water and electricity. They bought three quarter sections of largely undeveloped land, just a few open acres on each quarter, and a small home they moved into with their young daughter and son, Diana and Darren — no electricity and no running water. Don came along later.
As Rebecca Creber, one of Don and Deb’s daughters who helped provide some of the information notes of her grandparents, “None of us would be here if it weren’t for my grandparents. Ted and Rosie Breitkreitz decided to invest in an undeveloped quarter of land north of land north of Fort Assiniboine. It is with their hard work and dedication that we have been able to expand to the 350 pair cow-calf operation we have today.”
And no doubt, their three children had to pitch in to help. Don recalls lots of rocks and roots to pick as the family cleared land and moved forward and expanded the farm to what it is today. Rosie still lives on one on the quarter sections and helps out where she can with the cattle, she says, and still loves being on the farm.
Although Don and Deb Breitkreitz own Clearwater Farms, it is a family operation, with all members, including their daughters Becky (Rebecca), Steph and son Randall and their spouses Conrad, Nate Larson and Jamie Breitkreitz along with Don’s mother Rosie, are all involved in the day-to-day operations.
Don’s brother Darren and his wife Beth Ann farm on their own nearby, but Don says they share some machinery through the year. His sister, Diane and husband Henry de Groot are retired, but also help out a bit during the year.
Being a cow-calf operation, Clearwater Farms is busy year-round. During the summer months, they are busy direct seeding between 400 to 500 acres of grain, roughly half barley and half oats, Don says. Some of that is put up as silage, and the rest combined. That, along with hay, is baled for winter feed. This time of year, along with feeding their cattle, they are busy calving. Steer calves are backgrounded to about 1,000 pounds and heifers to 900 before selling, and cull cows are shipped off to the plant.
Clearwater Farms has also recently started raising registered Simmental cattle, selling bulls by private treaty. Rebecca notes they prioritize the longevity of their animals in that they need to be able to maintain clean udders and feet as well as docile dispositions.
Clearwater Farms are always working toward the future. They fence dugouts, use buffer strips, solar panels and pumps for dugouts for watering cattle. As part of their crop rotation, they plant alternative crops, including corn, peas, and faba beans. They practise crop rotations with the green crops, then rest the soil by turning it into hay land for a half dozen years before going back to crops. They use legumes to build nitrogen back into the soil and manure from the feedlot is added yearly.
Looking to and planning for the future, different members of Clearwater Farms have taken a variety of courses. Becky has taken artificial insemination and mathematical courses. Deb has taken courses in mental health first aid, leadership and first aid and Don has taken agriculture mechanics and environmental farm plan courses.
The Woodlands County Ag Services Board also recognized Clearwater Farms as a recipient of a Woodlands County Rural Beautification Award in 2018.