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The Successors, Ep 6: Gaining respect at the table, joining a family farm, and singing in the tractor

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November 26, 2021

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The Successors is a RealAgriculture podcast series hosted by Kara Oosterhuis focusing on agriculture from the perspective of the up-and-coming generation.

How do you separate business from personal when you live and work with your spouse? What are some of the things you can do when you’re the newcomer into an operation? Why is planning important to the future success of a company?

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Luke and Katie Grove, of Spring Grove Agri Ltd., at Blackstock, Ont., help us answer these questions (and more) in the latest episode of The Successors podcast.

Luke, of Blackstock, Ont., met his wife Katie while they attended post-secondary at Olds College in Alberta. Together, they both went back to Luke’s family farm, which is divided into three separate businesses: a sheep breeding operation, a construction operation, and a custom planting, spraying, and harvesting operation. The couple currently operate the custom company — Spring Grove Agri Ltd.

Luke and Katie Grove

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Part of the lifestyle of farming that we’re all well aware of is working where you live, and living where you work. Part of Spring Grove Agri’s success so far? Finding that separation from the business, at least once a week.

“We don’t run equipment on Sundays,” says Katie. “That’s our day, that’s family day. We can talk about our work plans Monday morning.”

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A part of keeping that business and personal life separation, adds Luke, is trying not to bring work-related disagreements home. “Most of the time if we have our differences when we’re harvesting, and Katie is running the buggy, for 95 per cent of the time they stay in the field, and don’t come home and get hashed out at the dinner table.”

The succession plan on the farm really started about five years ago, says Luke, between his parents, his siblings, and the three companies.

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“It’s been an ongoing process of sorting things out, what’s going to happen. What if this, what if that. And it’s something that’s always been top of mind, and we’ve kept talking about,” Luke explains. “It’s something that I don’t know if you ever get finished, but it’s something that we continue to work on as a family. And year in and year out, as things rapidly change.”

Katie, who came from a small beef operation in the interior of B.C., says becoming a full time employee at Spring Grove Agri wasn’t a quick process, but for the most part, has been a smooth and welcoming transition. Her advice for someone who may be entering into a significant others’ family operation, is to try to gain that respect as soon as you can.

“Respect is a huge thing. I’ve been lucky, my in-laws, and Luke’s siblings have always welcomed me into their family meetings and business planning. For a while I just listened — all the businesses intertwining can be complicated. Slowly as Luke and I were taking over, we’d put our own little spin on things, but I think just being respectful of everyone else and knowing that it’s not your business now, but one day it’s going to be, and you have a lot of learning to do.”

Listen on for a conversation with Luke and Katie Grove, and host Kara Oosterhuis on keeping your head straight through windshield time, looking forward to the future, and so much more: