Grow Your Future
Cultivating an Agricultural Future for Tomorrow's Youth
4C Farms is a mixed cattle and grain farm on Cowessess First Nation land located in the RM of Grayson. It has been incorporated since December 2010. This operation consists of 125 Angus cows, 2500 acres of pasture and hay land, and 2000 acres of grain land. 4C Farms presently has two employees and both are Cowessess citizens. Cowessess First Nation manages the business entity and is focused on expanding the grain acres and rebuilding the cattle herd in 2021 and beyond.
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History - Cow Calf Operation
Cowessess First Nation settled its Treaty Land Entitlement claim in March 1996. The Cowessess First Nation, under the TLE agreement, was required to purchase a minimum of 21,575.9 hectares (53,312 acres) of land and had the option to purchase up to 76,638.7 hectares (189,367 acres). Under the original terms of the agreement, once the minimum acreage was achieved, the remaining funds were allowed for economic development purposes. Cowessess reached shortfall in 2008.
Following the TLE settlement, the Nation began purchasing key tracts of land throughout southern Saskatchewan. One of the first areas of interest was the land north of the home reserve in the RM of Grayson, on the North side of the Qu’Appelle Valley. The land in the RM of Grayson is hilly, treed land with light soil and rocky terrain, which made it ideal cattle country. One of the yard sites purchased through the TLE process was centrally located in the land base and included a house, workshop and corrals. This yardsite became the home base for 4C Farms Ltd.
4C Farms Ltd. Originally stood for Cowessess – Community – Cattle- Cooperative. The vision was to create a community cooperative for Cowessess citizens to buy into overtime and build small herds of their own. The concept was a means to create food security for the community. Over the early years of 4C operations, the cooperative concept did not materialize as originally planned. It turned out that management of the herd as one cohesive herd was the best fit for the community so today 4C stands for Cowessess – Community – Cattle – Company.
History - Grain Farming
In 2016, much of the pasture land was coming to the end of its useful life as pasture. Management at the time took on the task of breaking up and rejuvenating the pasture stands through cultivation and grain crop rotations. From 2016 to 2020, a couple pasture quarters were broke each year and added into the grain rotation. During this time, 4C seeded canola, wheat, flax and oats as part of the rotation. We found that cattle country land makes for difficult grain farming as the breaking process, rocks and low yields were not achieving the profitability results we were looking for. As such, in 2020 we set out to expand our grain operation to more productive land holdings owned by Cowessess and as such seeded the land around the 4C yardsite back down to pasture.
Cowessess has long had a desire to become more engaged in agriculture and expanding our grain farming footprint seemed like a natural growth progression. Meyers Norris Penny was hired in 2019 to prepare a Grain Farming business plan for the Nation. The plan envisioned starting with 2000 acres and over the course of five years growing to 5000 acres +. 2020 was the first year of enacting the grain farming business plan. Instead of 2000 acres, 4C seeded 1300 acres in 2020 which included the highly fertile and productive lands on the South side of the Qu’Appelle Valley in the RM of Elcapo. 4C is excited to take on land in the RM of Elcapo as it is a high soil class, very flat and level and has been well cared for by neighboring renters for many years. In 2020 4C planted 760 acres of canola and 650 acres of barley. This is a good mix between cash crops and feed stock for our cattle.
4C looks forward to growing our land base for grain farming in the RM of Elcapo, while maintaining our existing landbase in the RM of Grayson for our cattle operation.
Over the years, 4C has been manage both under the oversight of community citizens hired as managers and at times under outsourced management.
Currently, 4C Farms is managed by Terry Lerat who is an experienced cattleman from Cowessess who has his own cattle herd and has worked his entire 50 year career in the agriculture sector. Terry was part of the team in 2010 who set up 4C Farms, after some years away he cam back in 2019 as the Ranch Manager. In Terry’s position he is responsible for over all herd health and feeding programs, equipment and facility maintenance and mentorship and supervision of staff. Terry attends the farm on a daily basis and provides workplans to the staff members and works along side them to execute the work. Terry and the CEO work closely together on cash management, large purchasing decision and future planning for the farm.
Without a full fleet of grain farming equipment, 4C Farms sought a Custom Grain Farm Manager to start the 2020 season as part of our growth plan. We were fortunate to have a young neighboring farmer who is a registered Agrologist and starting his own farming operation take interest in 4C Farms. As such we have a contract relationship, whereby the Custom Grain Manager provides custom seeding, spraying and agronomy services on a per acre basis. The 4C staff help along with input delivery coordination, rock picking and harrowing to ready the fields. 4C has its own harvesting equipment and as such we are able to deploy our own staff and equipment to harvest under the direction of the Grain Manager. 4C is happy to have an energetic young farmer guiding our staff and helping to grow our operation.
Prior to 2019, there was little involvement of Cowessess community members involved in the operation while it was under outsourced management. As part of the transition under Cowessess Ventures Ltd. oversight and under the overall corporate vision of “enhancing Nation employment” 4C Farms moved to a mandate of employing community members in 2019.
4C has implemented a herd health program in consultation with the Animal Health Centre of Melville. The cow herd is provided with an annual preventive vaccination program to prevent undesirable illness. The goal is to have a cohesive herd of healthy, fertile cows who raise quality calves for the market. As we work to enhance our financial health, 4C intends to rebuild our herd numbers back up to a 200 head herd.
4C works closely with the Broadview Coop Agro Centre and Grenfell Nutrien location for our fuel, mineral and crop input seeds. 4C utilizes agronomy services from our crop input provider as part of our crop rotation planning. We have been pleased to work with these local dealers, and appreciate their patience as we start up. In addition, 4C has an active lending relationship with FCC who provides crop input financing and equipment financing for our farm.
The crops grown by 4C are used for feed stock and sold on the open market. Our marketing strategy is similar to industry where we market to the local buyers at the best street price or in futures contracts.
4C Farms has a working relationship with the Cowessess First Nation Lands Department. 4C Farms does not retain ownership of any of the Nations land on our balance sheet. All land farmed by 4C Farms is under permit with the First Nation, whereby 4C pays an annual permit fee for use of the land. This model has its pros and cons, from a financing its difficult to use the value of the land as equity for growth.
The existing fleet of equipment at 4C farms is limited and aged; over the coming years we will look to a) improve our overall financial health and b) take on additional equipment so that our management and staff have a full line of equipment needed to carry out all aspects of farming.
4C Farms Ltd. intends to build a profitable farming venture that provides training and employment for Cowessess citizens while utilizing the Nations land based for high economic value that the historical method of leasing out the land.