Alberta Barley

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Apr 3

Innovative farmer keeps up with applied research

Posted on Apr 3 By: Evan Wingrove

David Eaton is one busy farmer. In addition to being president of the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) and treasurer of the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA), he is also an Alberta Barley (ABC) region two delegate. Eaton’s interests are just as diverse—he has been flying private planes for more than 20 years.

“Flying planes has been a lifelong interest for me,” said Eaton. “I grew up with my uncle Robert who wasn’t just a pilot, but built planes, as well.”

A farmer for more than 30 years, Eaton credits his knowledge of the industry and involvement in applied research associations as key to his success.

“It’s an expensive industry and we have to stay ahead of the curve,” he said. “It’s a changing world and we, as farmers, must at least stay educated to be successful.”

Looking toward the upcoming growing season, Eaton sees no out-of-the ordinary difficulties on the horizon. He is, however, concerned about the Fiscal Cliff scenario in the United States, particularly the sharp decline in budget spending and increasing automatic taxes.

“The price of commodities has been really good, but there are a lot of worries in the world, and it could be a repeat of 1929,” said Eaton, referencing the market crash leading to the Great Depression.

Eaton’s 3,700-acre farm—where he farms grains, oilseeds, pulses and a small herd of cattle—has been in the family for 102 years. With this long farming legacy, he recognizes not all change is good.

“We were hog farmers, and there was a time when the small hog farmer had to get out of the business, and they were encouraging you to become a big hog farmer,” said Eaton. “Involvement with the commissions and applied research associations keeps you educated, informed and, hopefully, you can choose a course that works for you.”

Eaton is one of the longest-running delegates for the ABC, going on 18 years. He started with the Commission by winning a yield competition.

“After I won the yield competition back in the early 1990s, I started doing demonstration plots for the Commission through CARA,” he said. “They needed a delegate, and I went to Drumheller and never really quit going. I very much enjoy the position, and I see the Commission as a leader in the industry in Canada.”

CARA Manager Dianne Westerlund, who also happens to be Eaton’s neighbour and friend of more than 30 years, believes Eaton’s success stems from his approach to life.

“David is quite open-minded and has a good sense for the big picture,” she said. “David is an early adopter and will take risks after extensive research and thought.”

Westerlund also appreciates what Eaton has done for CARA.

“David’s put a lot of effort into being the chairman and a member of the board for CARA. He doesn’t run off with an idea just because it’s new, he does his homework,” she said. “He’s grounded, a good judge of character and has the ability to see a situation from multiple perspectives, which is very important in the work we do.”

Looking to the future, Eaton remains optimistic about the industry.

“It’s always a hit or miss thing,” he said. “For me, it was looking like a banner year and then on September 1, I had a huge hailstorm that turned it into a rather poor year. There are no guarantees in this business.”

Despite the volatility of farming, Eaton remains committed to the cause.

“I have a few good crops left in me.”

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