A grain farming family that places a unique emphasis on building soil health has been named ‘Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ for 2017.

Derek and Tannis Axten, along with their children Kate and Brock, operate Axten Farms at Minton, Sask., seeding around 5,500 acres. (Minton is near the U.S. border south of Regina.)

Living in one of the driest parts of Western Canada, Derek explains they originally sought ideas to improve soil health to improve water holding capacity and water efficiency.

As you can tell in the interview, they are passionate about improving their soil, having implemented many innovative practices, including the use of intercrops, companion and cover crops, controlled traffic farming, composting, and grazing. As a result, they’ve been able to not only increase water retention, but improve organic matter levels and reduce the use of synthetic crop inputs, says Derek, noting they haven’t used an insecticide on their farm in the last six years.

Derek and Tannis Axten

“We are very excited, honoured, shocked. The other couple we were against were phenomenal, so it’s an honour,” says Tanis.

Terry and Lichelle Aberhart of Langenburg, Sask. were the other provincial finalists.

The Saskatchewan OYF program was held in conjunction with the Farm Progress Show in Regina this week, with the award presentation taking place on Thursday at a reception in the new Mosaic Stadium.

The Axtens will represent Saskatchewan at the National OYF Program, to be held in Penticton, BC Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2017.


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