Connection to agriculture continues in retirement

A retired farmer remains an active member of the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan

Don Connick planned to write fiction and non-fiction when he retired. He retired about seven years ago, but still hasn’t found the time to write.

Instead, the Gull Lake, Saskatchewan farmer tends his garden, chairs his local United Church council, repairs fences around the remaining pasture, and sits on the Agricultural Board of Directors. Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

“We live on the farm and we have a nice house and a very nice yard and the yard takes a lot of work and that’s where we’re happy. We plan to stay here until our health permits. In summer, we breed a few heifers on the native pastures. It helps maintain our interest in the land, ”said Connick.

Staying connected to agriculture and the local community before and after retirement is a key part of a good retirement plan, Connick said.

“I think it’s important. It keeps you involved, to stay active, to keep the mind active, but also in the rural community we need all the hands we can get. It’s a opportunity to do your part, but it works both ways. It gives you satisfaction and something to look forward to, “said Connick.

“When I get a form that says profession, I write retired because I don’t know what else to write. “

His wife, Norma, works in the yard, is a member of a quilting club and prayer shawl knitting company, and the couple spend time with their three grandchildren. Norma retired from her RN career a few years before Don.

The couple had no plans to lease their grain land and sell their cattle, but a battle with colon cancer seven years ago has accelerated their retirement plans. They rented their land from two neighbors and sold their cattle. Luckily, Don’s cancer was caught early and he doesn’t dwell on it.

“I had a deadline for retirement. But it happened before that time. It was a push and it was OK. We are doing well. We live in a big community, we have great neighbors, and the people who rent out our land are really great. We are happy with the way things have turned out for us.

After graduating in agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan, Connick worked as an agricultural representative with Manitoba Agriculture in Boissevain, as well as the Turtle Mountain Conservation District.

“It is a beautiful country and we both have a great affection for the Turtle Mountains.”

With his first paycheck after graduation, Connick bought a Minolta SLR camera and photography has been a passion ever since.

Connick did not take pictures of the grain elevators and other prairie icons. Instead, he focused his lens on wildflowers, native grasses, and animals. Through his love of photography, he learned to love the smallest flowers and herbs.

“I learned to identify them and have a deep appreciation for them,” he said.

“I got fed up with people saying ‘you drive through the meadows and there is nothing to see’. I said there was plenty to see. Not 100 km / h, but if you slow down and look at things like the wildflowers that there are.

His rarest wildflower finds were a blue gentian and a fringed gentian. An amateur botanist from Manitoba has reported the flower. Later, while walking through his native Saskatchewan pasture, he found it there too.

“I was there one day and spotted a blue gentian here. I was surprised and it was an incredible discovery.

After 12 years in Boissevain, the family returned to the Gull Lake farm when his father announced his retirement.

“My dad thought he had the idea to retire and we got the opportunity to come home to the family farm and that’s what we did. After his retirement he came to the farm almost every day during the summer and was certainly a great help to me. Even in the winter, for the first few winters, I would work off the farm trying to make ends meet and he would go out and do the chores. The farm was his life. His heart was truly on the farm.

For the past 20 years, Connick has been with the Saskatchewan Farmers Association, an agricultural advocacy group. He was the representative of the RM of Carmichael Rural Municipality and later elected to the Board of Directors. The 20-year association with APAS has been an important part of his life.

“I really believe in the work they do and I’m happy to be a part of it. They do a great job of advocating for the interests of farmers and ranchers in the community. The best thing about my time with APAS is that I have had the opportunity to meet and engage with so many great people, not only from Saskatchewan but from all over this great country. It’s something that has been part of my life for 20 years.

“You really get an appreciation for the people and the country. “

As colon cancer hastened his retirement from active grain farming, Connick said the slow transition from other parts of their farm to more volunteer activities has been a good process.

“Some people have a plan. It is part of their retirement. Some people are content to withdraw gradually. This is what I did here. It still takes a bit of planning and goal setting. I hate to see people forced to retire for reasons of health or economic hardship. It happens all the time. Some people hang on until they have an accident or health problems. I think it’s much better if you can write your own story and be happy with what you’re doing.

This winter, the family is working on a basement revamp project that includes creating an office for Don where he can focus on writing. He dabbles in cowboy poetry and has written family stories and stories of interesting local characters.

With dedicated office space, the next step in retirement will be to write a comprehensive family history.

“It’s about disciplining myself and getting down to it. “

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