Sask. family honours 3 sons killed in farming accidents with agriculture bursary

The Arnal family lost three of their sons in fatal accidents on the farm, and now honour their memory by awarding bursaries to aspiring farmers between the ages of eight and 18.

The Arnals have given out $130K in bursaries over 3 years

Sean, Blake and Lyndon Arnal pose with a rugby ball in this undated family photo. The three were all killed in farm accidents, but are now remembered with annual bursaries. (The Canadian Press)

The farm at Ravenscrag, in southwestern Saskatchewan, carries some of the brightest and darkest memories for the Arnal family.

They lost three of their sons in fatal accidents on the farm. First, 14-year-old Blake died in 2008 while riding an ATV. Six years later, 10-year-old Lyndon and 16-year-old Sean died in a tractor accident. 

"It's one of those situations in the world that there is no fixing," said the late boys' mother, Anne Arnal.

"To try to make something good come of it is a driving force for all of us, to try to somehow squeeze a little bit of good out of a bad situation."

A prize fit for 'keen farm boys'

The family found its way to honour the boys by awarding bursaries to local kids between the ages of eight and 18 who have an interest in agriculture.

Anne Arnal said her three sons were all "very, very keen farm boys" who were interested in the machinery and animals, and who were free to try their own enterprises on the farm. 

"They had rabbits at one time, and they had chickens, and they had a pig operation of their own. [And we thought that] maybe we could encourage others in that and help other kids who had the same drive," Arnal told CBC's Stefani Langenegger on The Morning Edition.

The money for the bursaries comes from donations and fundraisers, including an annual hockey tournament organized by the family. Applicants for the prize must live in the Chinook School Division area, and outline a plan for an agribusiness-related venture.

The family has handed out around $130,000 to 41 recipients in three years. 

'They're great people': bursary recipient

For Anne Arnal, the day the family chooses its annual bursary recipients is a bright spot on her calendar. 

"It's just one of the most uplifting days in my year," she said. "It helps me because some of them have such amazing, amazing ideas."

From machinery to mould beeswax into a more profitable brick, to irrigation systems, to upgrades to animal pens and equipment, kids have pitched all kinds of ideas to the Arnals.

"We had a little fella that wanted to raise geese. I think it was because 'geese taste better than turkey anyway,'" she said with a chuckle.

"And there was another who wanted to put cement in his chicken-house floor because the dogs and weasels and things were getting his chickens."

Tiara Armstrong, 15, and Ariana Richardson, 14, each received bursary money to buy purebred heifers two years ago.

"You had to do some research to figure out how much it would cost, or how much you wanted or think you would need for the animal you were buying," Armstrong said. 

"I started with one animal and now she's had a couple of calves that are growing up. Now I have a bigger herd. It just helps a lot," Richardson said.

"It was really nice and I'm thankful for it. I love the Arnals. They're great people." 

Recipients remember friends and neighbours

Anne Arnal takes pride in knowing some kids find agribusiness success after receiving the prize, and some have even donated part of their earnings back to the bursary.

She's also glad to see it helps Blake, Sean and Lyndon's friends and neighbours remember the boys. 

"To some extent, I think the greatest fear for a mother is that the people that they love will be forgotten. When a child has been denied a chance to make their own name in this world and build their own things, it's nice that they could be remembered in that way."

Richardson and Armstrong each found special meaning in receiving the prize, because of their own friendships with the Arnal brothers.

"They lived right down the road from me. We were a minute apart pretty much," said Armstrong. "They're missed by everyone." 

"They were one of our best friends," added Richardson. "They're great people. Everyone knew them. They're just people you can't forget."


Tory Gillis


Tory Gillis began work as a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan in 2012. You can hear her deliver the afternoon news on weekdays on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. She has also worked as a reporter, and as an associate producer on CBC Saskatchewan's radio shows, The Morning Edition, Bluesky and The Afternoon Edition.

With files from CBC's The Morning Edition