Dustin Williams admits he’s always scheming.
Williams, who was named Manitoba’s Outstanding Young Farmer in February with his wife Laura McDougald-Williams, spends his winters much the same way a mad scientist would, trying to concoct the perfect formula.
Williams’ formula, however, involves a proposition to maximize his farm’s potential while, at the same time, protecting the land that provides his family’s livelihood.
“Our farm is a big science experiment,” Williams said from his 4,000-acre farm southwest of Souris. “It’s what makes farming fun. Every year, you are planning and strategizing on what you want to do different and the summertime is all about trying those ideas and then comparing to previous years.”
Later this month, the couple along with their two daughters, Ardyn and Eva, will travel to Charlottetown to compete against six other farm families for the right to be called Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers.
“We’re excited and it doesn’t matter if we win, because we’ve already been rewarded by being a part of the organization,” Williams said.
A fifth-generation farmer, Williams returned to the farm in 2000 after graduating from the University of Manitoba’s agricultural diploma program.
After several years of working off the farm as a commercial pipefitter during the winter, he completed the purchase of the family farm from his father, Wayne, in 2010.
His experience as a pipefitter served him well when he decided to construct a grain-drying system that gives him the ability to control moisture content, ensuring the highest quality of grain and in turn the highest return on yields.
The family is also conscious of the environmental impact farming has in the area, something Williams said was instilled in him as a young boy watching his grandparents farm the land.
“We do our best to reduce the use of fertilizers and really try to focus on the overall soil and ecosystem health so that we can solve the problems before there is a need to turn to chemicals,” Williams said.
It’s also a big reason the family moved to zero-till farming in the 1990s while many producers at the time scoffed at the notion of not tilling suitable crop acres.
“It’s a work in progress, but we see merit in it and it’s one more thing that we can do to try to reduce our use of fertilizers,” Williams said.
The award also recognizes the contribution the family has made to their community. Laura, a lawyer by trade, has been a member of several charities in the Westman area, and currently chairs the Brandon University board of governors, while Dustin is an active member of the Elks.
“Souris is a great community and we enjoy it,” he said. “It makes us proud to support the community by farming the land that surrounds it.”