Pair using regenerative organic practices crowned as outstanding young farmers in Sask.

A pair of Saskatchewan farmers who got married and bought a farm have earned the title for outstanding young farmers for their operations.

Farmers say their approach helped them improve soil, survive drought for 2 years

Cody Straza and Allison Squires with their family kneeling in a field.
Cody Straza, left, and Allison Squires, right, were crowned outstanding young farmers this year for their work at Upland Organics, a farm they own in southwest Saskatchewan. (Upland Organics/Instagram)

A family of Saskatchewan producers have been crowned the province's most outstanding young farmers this year for their innovative practices. 

Allison Squires and Cody Straza own Upland Organics in Wood Mountain, a village about 170 kilometres southwest of Regina.

The two earned their regional awards in a recent farm show in June by Canada's Outstanding Young Farmer's program, which recognizes excellent adult farmers under 40.

"It means quite a lot actually, it came as a bit of surprise," Squires told Shauna Powers, host of CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend.

"Being nominated by your peers and then recognized in such a way is pretty special and we're very excited about it."

A news release from the program said through "innovation and outreach, Upland Organics Ltd. have become leaders in organic agriculture."

Most importantly, their farm operations helped them survive a pair of back-to-back droughts that have devastated or hindered southern prairie farmers this year and last.

Squires said the farm operates as a regenerative organic farm, and that's improved their soil and helped them weather the drought. 

"Things are much better this year, although that is a pretty low bar," Straza said.

"We do still need to restore all the soil moisture .... it's in deficit right now, and we're always working on improving our soils."

LISTEN | Married couple named outstanding young farmers for organic produce farm talk about their practices:

Allison Squires and Cody Straza do things a little differently at their farm in Wood Mountain. Upland Organics works hard to build soil health and it's paying off: with their crops and their recognition. Recently they've been awarded the title of Saskatchewan's outstanding young farmers. Host Shauna Powers learns more about what that recognition means to them.

The two met at the University of Saskatchewan. Straza was an engineer who grew up on a farm in the Wood Mountain area, and Squires was a toxicologist from Newfoundland. 

They got married and a few years later in 2010, and chose to buy the first parcel of land that would lead to Upland Organics.

"Learning from others and through their own on-farm experimentation Cody [and] Allison have successfully adopted farming techniques that include reduced tillage, intercropping, cover cropping, pollinator strips and rotational grazing," the release said.

"Using these practices, they have shown it is possible to improve their soil and be excellent stewards of the environment while also realizing financial benefits."

A national program event for 2022 is set to be held in Saskatoon in late November, where they'll learn if they've earned the national title as well.

"We show very well in the categories across the [nomination] application," Straza said.

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend