South of Taber, Alberta is a place that farmer Roy Brewin likes to call “the California of Canada.” No surfers, gridlock, Botox or power outages, but rich soil, an extensive irrigation network, and lots of sunny days.
These natural benefits are one factor in the success of Roy and his company, Rowland Seeds, which operates a vast farm in this golden corner of the Canadian plains. The farm grows nearly 20 varieties of organic crops, including red wheat, oats, millet, sunflower seeds and hemp seeds, many of which are used in One Degree breads, flour and cereals.
Roy’s family has been farming land in the area since 1906, the year his grandfather arrived from England by boat, train and ultimately horse. When he saw that the grass grew as high as the belly of his saddle horse, he knew he had discovered land that was worth homesteading.
The pioneering grandfather soon established himself as a fur buyer in the region, providing needed income to local farmers who had trap lines and selling the pelts to the Hudson Bay Company. “There wasn’t much here then,” says Roy. “It was pretty wild, pretty open.”
The fruit of that historical seed, Roy’s farm, has been wholly organic since 1984. The growing dominance of chemical companies in the seed business was the catalyst. Aggressive conglomerates were offering farmers a choice of joining them in their genetically modified adventures, or doing without commercial seeds. Roy chose to do without their contracts and laboratory inventions, and began to develop his own seeds. And he decided he could live without the chemicals sold by these companies, too.
His own devotion to healthy living made the decision easy. “I believe we are what we eat,” he explains. “What the conventional farmer is doing with all the chemical and herbicide and everything else, it really scares me, and I think if the consumer knew what they were eating they wouldn’t eat it.”
Roy’s son and two daughters spend long days working in the fields, and, along with their mother, help to manage the thriving enterprise. Roy’s son also carries on an enduring tradition as the ninth Rowland Brewin in the family. Roy is the eighth in that line — his full name is Rowland Roy Brewin. “That’s how I came up with Rowland Seeds,” he says. “It’s an old, old name.”
In his spare time, Roy trains performance horses that he and his family enter in local and provincial rodeos. He equally enjoys being entertained by the many wild animals which travel through and over his land. Most of these furry or feathered visitors are not sampling veganic grains, but rather vacationing in the 200 acres Roy has set aside as a bird sanctuary and wildlife reserve. Lately even moose have been stopping by.
“I like working with the wildlife,” he says. “I just like to see it around. The birds, I enjoy watching them.”
Often even the tiniest creature provides a measure of inspiration and delight. As Roy surveys his healthy sunflowers, he notes the colorful ladybugs crawling on the leaves. It’s satisfying to know that these small contract workers do a more effective job than most any chemical.
What fascinates him even more is smaller still. It’s the foundation for all of his success — the creative power of a single seed. “It’s a feeling of accomplishment, just planting that tiny little seed and watching what it develops into,” he says. “It’s amazing the way it grows.”
Although he manages endless acres and an immensely sophisticated business, Roy still allows himself time to be awed by the incredible mysteries of the natural blueprint. More than most, he lives and breathes this true and elegant thought: “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
— Charlie Dodge