The brother and sister advantage: Jake and Sarah Leguee of Leguee Farms

Off-farm work and a five-year plan helped this brother and sister team prepare for the non-stop challenges of farming

Leguee Farms has also found a balance that allows it to grow and succeed in Saskatchewan in grains and oilseeds. Communication and defined roles enable the family to run a large business together, and also to live nearby and have harmony during family get togethers.

Unlike Misty Glen, Jake and Sarah Leguee’s father Russ is still heavily involved in the everyday operation of the farm. That means they have the advantage of his years of experience and operations knowledge, while allowing Russ, who is still in his 50s, to grow his hobbies, including tractor pulling.

Jake and Sarah never really went through a decision process to determine if they would farm — they both say they always knew they would be back home farming, as long as the farm business was large enough to sustain them and their families.

The farm has continued to grow, topping out at the current 12,000 acres. “I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to farm,” says Sarah. “Mom and Dad and I talked about it quite a bit, and we came up with a five-year plan.”

Sarah, the eldest, was the first to exercise the family plan of working off the farm. She got her education at Old’s College in Alberta, studying egg production and egg business. Livestock was her first farming choice, but she got hired on at a John Deere dealership and a truck shop, working in service and parts.

“I learned how to deal with customers, how systems work,” she says, and she also learned to see the value of bringing those skills back to the farm.

Sarah, 31, encourages other young women, including those she’s coached in basketball, to expand their horizons before they come back to the farm.

Jake, 28, also worked off the farm for a while after completing his agronomy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, becoming an agronomist for a local crop retail company. He also continued to work at the farm and “I decided I couldn’t do two full-time jobs,” he says.

photo: William DeKay/The Western Producer

By that point the farm was growing enough for him to return home and continue his focus on agronomy. Jake has recently added a DuPont Pioneer dealership to his work.

There was never much question that Sarah would take an active role in the farm. She always been encouraged by her parents, and her mother and grandmother had played active roles in the farm before her. She also always had the same roles available and responsibilities given to her as her brother. “When we were growing up, Dad didn’t treat me any different. Mom drove the combine and drove the truck. Dad never made me do something because I’m a girl,” she says.

Their younger sister Amber Nikolejsin is a nurse, but she will help on the farm and run a grain cart when needed.

As with the Pettits, the fact that Sarah and Jake have different skill sets has helped them find roles on the farm where they can have some control.

Sarah, with her Class 1A truck licence, spends more time managing the shop and keeping the hired help busy. She helps with maintenance including creating record-keeping systems for the farm that now includes multiple units of similar equipment such as combines.

Their father was trained as a heavy equipment mechanic, and Sarah says she continues to learn from him.

“If there’s a way to do something that seems impossible, he’ll probably find it,” she says.

Sarah was heavily involved with cattle when the farm was more diversified. The cattle were sold around the time she graduated. She says she’s learned to appreciate the grain farm, but still manages to get her cattle fix by helping friends.

“I spend more time in the office than Sarah does,” says Jake, who looks after marketing and finances, examining cost of production and financial ratios. As the family agronomist, he’s also in charge of creating cropping and nutrient plans.

Their dad is the day-to-day manager, with years of experience in the logistics of seeding, harvesting and getting the grain to market. He’s the glue that brings Sarah and Jake together and he continues to help make strategic decisions on the farm.

“He’s very involved,” says Jake.

Communication and input are important on the farm, with regular meetings planned for discussion, although Jake admits it is hard to get those in during seeding and harvest. The family gets together every Friday evening at their parents’ house for pizza. That includes Jake’s family, wife Stephanie and year-old son Asher, as well as their sister Amber, her husband Erik and son Dax who come in from town.

“We can sit around and have a drink and have some pizza,” says Sarah. “We don’t have to hang out because we have to, we hang out because we want to.”

The family also all enjoys curling, including playing together on the same teams.

Sarah lives on the same quarter section as her mom and dad and Jake lives on the next quarter over, so they live close together, along with working close together.

Decision-making

When decisions need to be made, it is important to get everyone’s input.

“We’re in contact with each other a lot to decide what the right plan is,” says Jake. “We let each other know that we’re not happy about something. If someone is left out of decisions, we bring it up. If you let it simmer it creates resentment, then it comes out in a not-so-nice a way.”

“Of course everyone wants to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows,” says Sarah. “We do argue here and there… When we work up to 14 to 15 hours, tempers can get a little higher, but I think we get along fairly well.”

Jake and Sarah say they don’t know if working with a sibling of the same sex would be different. “I’ve never had a brother,” says Jake. “It is what it is. I’ve never really had anything different.”

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