Claire, Jack and Owen MacDermid are part of the fifth generation growing up on the MacDermid family farm in Starland County, Alta. (Photo courtesy of Steph MacDermid)

‘We started farming in 1954’: A look at multi-generation farm wives in Alberta

The MacDermid family

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail

Farming is often a multi-generational family endeavour, and farm wives play an integral role in the smooth operation of farm life – from raising children, tending animals, making sure the family is fed, and helping out in the fields alongside their husbands.

The MacDermid family are no exception. The family farm north of Drumheller in Starland County is currently being operated by the fourth generation of MacDermid farmers while the fifth generation is growing up and learning the ways of farm life.

Muriel MacDermid, the family matriarch, told the Mail, “We started farming in 1954 on a half section of land.”

When she and her husband Dan first moved onto the land, the original homestead, which is a few kilometres north of their present home, had no electricity, no storm windows, and no insulation. Instead, they used gas lamps for light, coal to heat their home, and a coal oil fridge and stove.

Operations on the farm started small at first.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, they raised chickens and pigs. Muriel recounted how Dan took orders from restaurants and shops in Drumheller.

“Every Friday was chicken day,” Muriel recounted fondly.

Muriel would boil water on the coal oil stove to pluck the chickens while the water boiled Dan would get the chickens ready. Then they would pile into the car and make their deliveries.

Once deliveries were done and they had cleaned up, they would treat themselves by going out for waffles, Muriel recalled fondly.

Muriel grew up in the Livingston district, between Verdant Valley and Drumheller, and was familiar with farming operations. She was a member of the Munson branch of the Alberta Women’s Institute for Home and Country, which ran from 1912 until 1999, and helped provide local women obtain skills in management and leadership and provided a community and social networking.

Though Muriel says she did not work in the fields, she helped keep the farm running in other ways, keeping a garden and sewing clothes for the family.

Muriel remembers many trips to the field to make sure Dan and other hired workers were kept fed during harvest and seeding. At one time they bought a camper which Muriel then used to bring meals to the field.

“I really enjoyed taking meals out in the camper, it was much more sophisticated,” she reminisced. She said the camper allowed workers to wash up before eating, and Muriel recalls how Dan would sometimes “stretch out” before returning to work.

Both Dan and Muriel are retired from the farming side of things, but Muriel likes to keep active around their homestead. She mows the grass around the property and raises a garden as she did in the 1950s. “No animals, though,” she chuckled.

Dan and Muriel moved out of their original homestead in 1981, and their son Brian and his wife Kathy took it over at that point.

Kathy MacDermid grew up on a cattle and grain farm in the Rumsey area and was involved with the Rumsey-Rowley 4-H beef and sewing clubs.

Being part of the clubs helped Kathy learn a number of important skills, from operating heavy equipment such as tractors and combines, to working the land with cultivators and seeders. Although she says the equipment and practices of farming have changed over the years, one thing has remained the same.

“Whether you farm 160 acres or 10,000 acres, the most important component of the family farm is the people,” Kathy told the Mail. “Everyone has many roles that are integral to the success of the farm, from field work to bringing meals at harvest and seeding. We all support each other. For five generations the family has farmed in the Munson area alongside other great farm families.”

Kathy remembers when she was younger, more than half of Canadians either lived and worked on farms or came from farming backgrounds. The number of farming operations in Canada has decreased significantly over the years, though the size of each farm operation has increased.

While the industry of farming and agriculture have undergone numerous changes, the values of “farmers working together to feed families and the world,” remains the same.

“There are many people working everyday in the agriculture industry that support our farm. Just thinking about them makes me very grateful to be part of this community,” Kathy said. She adds that a career in agriculture is “choosing a job with a purpose and working with a lot of great people.”

Brian MacDermid passed away in 2009.

Since then, two of Kathy and Brian’s children, Brandin and Daniel, along with their wives and children, have since taken over operations on the family farm. Brandin’s wife Stephanie, who grew up on a grain farm on the south side of Drumheller, is bringing the MacDermid farm into the modern age through her Instagram account, themacfarmpack, by sharing photos and videos of what life is like on the farm.

“I’ve always used my Instagram account as a kind of `life diary’ for my family. I want to have my kids look back on it one day and see a snapshot of our most important memories, especially our farm life,” she told the Mail.

Stephanie says Instagram gave her an outlet to “promote agriculture” and allow others an intimate, behind the scenes look at life on the farm and the role of the modern farm wife and mother. Recently she has started to collaborate with another local farm Instagrammer, thecouleecrossing, to create Tailgate Talk.

“Here we share a sort of behind the scenes look at what it all entails to be a farm wife—balancing kids, feeding the crew, helping in the field, relationships and everything in between,” Stephanie says.

According to Stephanie, when it comes to harvest, there are often more women than men working in the field. “My mother-in-law, two sister-in-laws, as well as myself all help to take the crop off along with my husband and his brother, it’s teamwork!” she says.

Stephanie and Brandin, along with their three children, Claire, Owen, and Jack, are returning to their roots and are raising chickens just like Dan and Muriel nearly 60 years ago.

Muriel says, “It’s wonderful seeing the progress the grandchildren have made (on the farm).”

Farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read