As a young boy growing up amongst fields of canola, barley, and wheat, Edwin Wieler was energized by the smells of the earth and fascinated with tractors and combines. He dreamed of being a farmer just like his dad.
By the late 1980s, Edwin’s dad grew concerned about the myriad of chemicals he was using—and the ill effects those harsh substances were having on his soil and on his own health. His concern prompted his journey toward growing organically.
Forty years ago, growing organically was barely heard of in that area. Edwin’s dad had to learn how to farm on his own all over again. But by the late 1990s, his self-directed learning had made him a pioneer as one of the first farms in the area to become certified organic.
Because he found that oats were a crop that responded very well to growing naturally, Edwin’s dad began growing more oats. Back then, there wasn’t really even an organic market, so he had to work hard to find people who were interested in his organic oats.
Edwin was getting a taste of adventure on his own, driving big trucks over ribbon-like highways stretching from the northern diamond mines and southward all across the US.
But it didn’t take long for the lure of the road to wear off, and Edwin headed back to the farm and the soil he loved.
In 2005 he staked his own claim on 640 acres. He laughs looking back at how he thought he knew a bit more than his dad when he started out growing both conventional and organic crops. But Edwin smiles wryly when he admits, “You know, Dad was right. Growing organically is better. Way better. And I’ve never looked back.”
In 2010, Edwin met Miriam at a family Thanksgiving gathering in Tennessee. Love drew her 2000 miles away from her family almost to the Northwest Territories, to brave the cold Northern Alberta winters and make a life together growing food for other families.
Today on Edwin and Miriam’s 2000 acres, oats are one of their main crops. They’ve deliberately chosen to leave significant portions of their land forested, so beavers and their other wildlife neighbors can thrive in lush habitats. They believe working together with the local wildlife helps to make the farm a sustainable ecosystem. For Edwin, caring for and building up his soil informs his choice to rotate portions of his land between oats, red clover, yellow peas, and alfalfa.
Asked why he loves farming, Edwin says, “Really being a farmer is hard to explain. It’s something that gets into your blood. You get to know the land. Even when there is a bad year, it is discouraging, but you want to stick with it.”
On a bright, cold March morning on Edwin and Miriam’s farm, their 6-year-old son, Darian could barely contain his exuberance as he bundled up to go outside and tromp through the snow with his dad to visit the oat silos. The cozy atmosphere in their kitchen, and the love that’s clear as their children play in their home is consistent with the values and care Edwin and Miriam pour into their farm as they grow their organic oats.