By Graham Isador

David Fu grew up on a half-acre farm in China. His family worked the state-owned land, cultivating crops with hand tools in order to feed themselves. While everyone put in their best effort, there were still many lean days. Fu’s upbringing was punctuated by hunger and discomfort, and he dreamed of a better life for himself and his loved ones. Part of that dream was owning a large piece of land to work and grow on — something he was able to fulfil after immigrating to Canada.

Today, Fu owns and operates a farm in Coronach, Sask. His first time seeing the land was a revelation. “I was shocked when I saw the big, flat, endless area,” Fu says in My Farmland, a documentary from CBC Docs POV. “I got emotional. Why wasn’t I born here, in this area? I struggled so many years to get here. To own a large piece of farmland is my dream.”

Fu purchased the land after he experienced a health scare while living in Vancouver. The investment in the farm served a few purposes: buying the operation at a reasonable rate meant that one day it would appreciate in value, but, more importantly, Fu had the intention of establishing a more balanced life for his wife and three sons. 

“It’s a family-involved living style,” said Fu of farming. “You’re all helping out. It can be all-consuming — when you’re busy, you’re busy — but when you’re not, like in the winter, you have more freedom to do something else.”
The choice to move from the West Coast to the Prairies was not without growing pains. The skills Fu had learned when farming as a child didn’t transfer to the scale and scope of his new venture. Getting to the point where he was comfortable farming on his own took time.

The first year in Coronach, Fu rented his land to a neighbour and learned by observing. The next year, Fu’s son Tony donated his services to a local farmer in exchange for hands-on experience. By the third year, the Fus began working the farm as a family unit but still leaned heavily on support from the local community.    

“The local farmers have a couple of generations of experience,” said Fu. “Our neighbours are very helpful and friendly to me and my family. Whenever we run into any kind of difficulties, if we ask for help, they are always there. There has never, ever been any hesitation.”

There have been times when that community support was much needed. The 2017 growing season was plagued with drought —  the driest year on record for many of the province's communities — which meant huge losses for many Saskatchewan farmers. For Fu, it meant selling off some equipment and, once again, renting out portions of his land to cover costs. 

“The drought hit the farming business — and hit my family — really hard,” said Fu. “We’re just entering the recovery phase now. But 2018 was a better year, and we’re hoping this year is even better than that.”

Through Fu’s ownership of the farm, he has gotten to know members of his community, working with other families who have owned their land for generations. Their lineage and history in the rural area is something he is aware of and respects.

Settlers have come to work the land, passing down their property and knowledge through their children, since before Canada was officially declared a country. This tradition is ingrained in the fabric of Canada’s story and is something people in Coronach are extremely proud of. Fu would like to be a part of that legacy with his own farm. He has the hope that one day his son Tony will carry things on like the locals, with farming becoming the family business. 

Regardless of whether or not that happens, Fu is still extremely grateful for all that they’ve been able to accomplish in their Prairie home. “I’m proud of my family and all of the ways we support each other on the farm. I hope we can continually work and expand.”

For more, watch My Farmland on CBC Docs POV.