One Degree Visits the Sage of Saskatchewan
Arnold Schmidt is a lifelong farmer with an inventive mind, a powerful creative imagination. There is one thing he hasn’t been able to imagine, though: slowing down.
“Even though he’s 82, he’s not ready to retire because life is just now beginning to get interesting,” says his wife Leora, whom he married last year.
One Degree traveled to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan last week to visit the couple and their incredibly efficient organic farm. We were treated to a wonderful veganic meal, walked the fields of white wheat, and discovered many new reasons to admire Arnold’s achievements.
Arnold hasn’t missed a harvest on the farm since he was 16. And that was a long, long time ago. This incredible work ethic is complemented by a joyful compulsion to invent and improve. Together with his assistants, Arnold designed the machinery that is used to mill the harvested wheat, and sells these inventions to other farming operations. As he puts it: “With Schmidt Mills you retain all of the nutritional goodness of the whole grain in a flour that has superior cooking and baking qualities. And the very same mill can also be used to process spices, seasonings, and who knows what else.”
Arnold is deeply involved in another creative enterprise: creating his own healthy seeds. “We feel our seed is higher in nutrients than anything that we could buy,” he says. It’s all part of a natural cycle: “If the soil is treated right, your soil gets better, your seed gets better and the people who eat that grain have more nutrients.”
It’s not surprising that soil is a subject that fully engages his creativity and natural curiosity. Arnold has refined a balanced approach to the land to maintain the richness of his fields. “The best method I’ve found is planting wheat and rye together, spring wheat and fall rye,” he explains. In this process, parcels are given time to lie fallow, allowing bacteria and enzymes to build nutrients.
“Good soil, that’s where it all starts.”
Farming is a creative challenge for Arnold, a great puzzle that he approaches with youthful vigor. “You learn about one thing and that teaches you something else,” he says, with a hint of wonder. “I’ve begun to realize I’m just scratching the surface.”