Maple Creek News
The Hepfner homestead has stood for over a hundred years — and now has been recognized with an ISC Century Family Farm Award.
“In the beginning with the pioneers, the first thing was to build a church and school,” said Andrew Hepfner, about the homestead located just northwest of Fox Valley, and his family’s roots to the area. “It was real community-like, every four miles.”
“Grandpa donated a school’s yard acre and a half.”
The history of the homestead, and of being a farmer means a lot to Andrew and his wife Tannis.
“We’re growing food for the whole world. And when it rains, we can get 40-50 bushels per acres,” he said.
The Hepfer family originally hail from Baden, Germany along the Rhine River between the French and German border. They left, making their way to Odessa, Russia, and settled in Baden, Russia in 1872.
Anton, the first born son of Bernard Hepfner, married Catherine Weist in 1896. The family decided to immigrate to America, landing at the port of New York in 1899, and settling in North Dakota. Alongside one child born before coming to the U.S., they had six children.
The family spent 15 years in North Dakota, before the homestead deals Canada was offering became irresistible.
So in 1914, they headed north, setting up their homestead seven miles northeast of Fox Valley.
Catherine died in 1915 in childbirth, and this child died eight months later. Anton remarried in 1916, to Margaretta Bachmer. Margaretta’s previous husband had died in an accident, and she had lost five of her six children from this marriage to the flu. Margarettadied in 1921.
Anton passed away on May 14, 1930, with his youngest son Michael taking over the farm.
Michael married Catherine Volk in 1930. They retired to Fox Valley in 1963, which is when Andrew took over the reins at the farm from his father.
The family doesn’t live on the farm anymore — Andrew and Tannis moved to Maple Creek several years ago — but the land remains worked by the neighbours.
Some of the original buildings still stand, said Andrew, the old barn is leaning down, there’s a few granaries, the farmhouse, as well as the ice cellar and smoke house.
When his grandfather started out, all the land was worked with horses.
The late 30s is when the farm got its first tractor and threshing machine, with the first combine — a 10 foot one — being purchased in the 40s. This was followed by a 15 and 30 foot one combine.
“Everything got bigger,” said Andrew, with farmers now being able to do more in one day what it would take weeks to accomplish years ago.
Another change is the crops — the fields now have peas and lentils growing in them, he explained. Some 30 or 40 years ago, this would have been dismissed as being too short of a crop to grow.
“There’s very few people who have ducks, chickens, have the complete ‘Old McDonald’s Farm,’” said Andrew, reflecting on the changes that have taken place over the century. “That’s all in the past now.”
No one in his own family will be continuing with the farming tradition, he said, adding that it would be meaningful to him if a young man could take over the farm, and “have it be a real family farm.”
NEWS PHOTO DOMINIQUE LIBOIRON
In recognition of their farm being in the family for 100 years, Andrew and Tannis Hepfner were honoured July 22 during a ceremony at Maple Creek’s Heritage Festival. They received a plaque and a gift bag. The presentations were made by the MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands, David Anderson (left), and town councillor Kevin Rittinger (right).