Owning and operating an 11,000-acre grain farm while raising a family is no small feat, yet Jason and Jenna Ranger do that, and more. Their willingness to go above and beyond in all ventures family-and-farm related, along with the incredibly high quality of their products, renders the Ranger family well-deserving of their recent Saskatchewan Outstanding Young Farmers Award.
This award was a long time in the making for the Ranger family, who farm in the Shellbrook area. It is the product of over a decade of grain farming after the farm's inauguration back in 2006. The innovative processes and methods that the Rangers have implemented over the years are a testament to their commitment to the industry.
"It is a real honour to receive this sort of recognition," Jason said. "I've been to this event once before, but to actually be up on the stage is a wonderful feeling. All of our hard-work is being recognized here and we couldn't be more thankful. Not only is this an excellent program to acknowledge up-and-coming farmers, but the community is a tight-knit group, so of course it is great to see many familiar faces again and to reconnect with old friends."
Back in 2005, Jason enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan to pursue a degree in agriculture. In the spring of 2006, shortly after he began, an opportunity arose to begin farming approximately 2,400 acres – an opportunity Jason couldn't pass up. From there, Jason's love for farming was evident. The farm quickly became his key focus as it grew and increased in quality.
In 2008, Jason met Jenna, who grew up on a farm near Manyberries in southern Alberta and relocated to Saskatoon to pursue her Doctor of Dental Medicine. Jenna currently works as Chief of Dentistry at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert.
With their diverse backgrounds and experiences at their disposal, the Rangers' farm has grown exponentially; they currently farm 11,000 acres of primarily canola, oats, wheat, lentils and peas.
"Growing the farm over the years required vision, commitment and a solid business plan," Jason said. "I set aggressive targets for the farm's expansion, which pushed me to achieve them. I remember buying inputs for land that I hadn't secured yet many years ago, but I told myself it would work out, and it did. That was the first time I realized the power of intention."
That same drive and effort is still seen in Jason and his family today, which is in part why the farm has been so successful. Jason and Jenna both see continuous innovation as key to their success, and often seek constructive feedback from others to improve.
"Continuous innovation is crucial to the success of any business," Jason said. "Every year we track and analyze a number of metrics that we use to understand where we need to improve. Outperforming last year is always high on our priority list."
A valuable asset that aids Jason and his family with this sort of analysis is the farm benchmarking group Jason belongs to, which aids local producers as they fine-tune the business-side of their operation. This means that Jason and 10 other farmers across the province meet twice a year to learn more about business management and how to successfully grow their farms.
Using a program called AgMpower, the group pours over each other's financials and offers one another advice and feedback, which, for Jason, takes a lot of the guesswork out of an important expansion or purchasing decision.
"Being an active member of the benchmarking group exposed me to an array of business models and measures of success, which helped me immensely in shaping my own business," Jason said. "Benchmarking my margins, financials and overhead with the group gives me confidence to make important business decisions. This is a really important aspect to farming that not everyone is aware of."
Along with running their own farm, the Rangers are involved with community work and fundraising for the town of Shellbrook. Jason, along with several other local farmers, volunteers to seed, spray and harvest land that is owned by the town, to raise funds for the community rink.
Jason attributes a large part of his family's success to the local community. From lending each other supplies or offering help in the field when needed, the sense of community around Shellbrook is apparent.
In 2017, Jason and Jenna welcomed their first child, Bridget Sloane. Raising and caring for their child was added to Jason and Jenna's priority list as they adapted to parenthood for the first time. These young parents successfully fostered a healthy family environment by bringing in extra help to ensure that the farm still operates as usual when they are spending time with each other.
"Putting work on hold isn't always easy," Jenna said, "but for Bridget, it is so entirely worth it. We've learned a lot about ourselves over the last few years, and it is so rewarding to know that our efforts haven't gone unnoticed. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without the tremendous support from our friends and family."
Above all, Jason and Jenna value the time they share together and with their daughter, and want more than anything for Bridget to learn to be kind, accepting and hard-working as she grows older. It is this same care and thoughtfulness that is on display in Jason and Jenna’s professional lives, too. Both, in all of their personal and professional endeavours, show the utmost care and humility – farming is no exception.
It is for these reasons, along with many others, that this young, hard-working family has been awarded this year's Outstanding Young Farmers Award.
This article was originally published in Agriview.