The Johnson family of East Sexsmith has received a Heritage Homestead Award.
Family members were recognized during an award presentation this week by the County of Grande Prairie’s Agricultural Services Board for their contributions to agriculture and the county’s heritage.
“The agriculture sector continues to be a vital industry and important way of life in the County of Grande Prairie,” says Councillor Bob Chrenek, Chair of the Agricultural Service Board. “These long-time families have contributed greatly to our heritage, and we’re pleased to honour them.”
The original homestead was established in September 1911 by Soren and Marie Johnson, great grandparents of the current landowner, Jamie Johnson. Throughout the generations, the farm changed hands with Soren passing it on to his son, James Johnson, in 1919. He handed it down to his son, Jim, in 1958 who then passed it on to his son, Jamie, in 1986. Located at SW2-74-5-W6M, what started as a 160-acre operation and has since grown to three quarter sections.
“There’s a great feeling of pride in this legacy,” says family spokesperson Doug Spry, whose wife Shirley is Jamie’s cousin. “The original family members came here looking for land to establish a new life. The country was opening, and it was a great deal for them,” he says.
Spry says this adventurous spirit continued as innovations were introduced to farming. “The family was right into the newest advancements as they moved from oxen to steam-powered tractors to gas models.”
As a member of the Peace District Historical Society, Spry has observed the number of family farms decreasing in recent generations, making this recognition significant. “There’s a sense of accomplishment to carry on over the years, through the good years and those with poor crops.”
Spry says in addition to the oxen at the beginning, the early farm featured crops along with horses, cattle, and poultry. Today, the focus is completely on wheat, barley, canola, and oats.
The Heritage Homestead Award recognizes farm/ranch families who homesteaded and continuously farmed/ranched the same land for 100 years or more. The County provides a sign for their property in recognition of maintaining and farming the homestead quarter through the generations.
With files from Lee Griffi