“Raising the kids on the farm and working with the kids, that was the best experience you can have – to watch them grow, like a plant,” said Hartley of his favourite moments while farming.
Currently Hartley farms about 1,800 acres, but thanks to advances in modern technology “there’s very little physical labour anymore, it’s all machinery.”
Hartley recalls 30 years ago when it took an entire crew of men just to get bales out of the field and on to a flat-deck wagon, all by hand.
“We don’t lift a bale of hay anymore and we couldn’t begin to produce the hay we do now because we didn’t have the equipment 30 years ago,” he said.
Third in line to a generational farming family Hartley said his grandfather was not only a farmer, but a miner as well and owned a coal mine by Skiff. For years the Hartley family has worked hard at producing the best wheat, cattle, barley and hay they could.
Back in the 80s the Hartleys also used to export one-inch Alfalfa cubes to Japan, but due to shipping costs weren’t able to continue doing so and haven’t for the past 14 years.
“We moved out here in February 1964 – the year after we got married,” said Barbara, who was originally from California. “We raised six children out here; Brenda, Elizabeth, Wendy, Christine, Margaret and Paul.”
“The kids helped farm while they were growing up. They ran balers and swathed grain and drove truck,” Hartley added.
“And they irrigated with hand-move and wheel lines. They would move the pipe three to four times a day and it was a lot of hard work, there were 33 pieces of pipe altogether,” Barbara said of her children. “They would do it in the morning, come in for breakfast and then go back out and work and come in for dinner and go out for work and they would go out after supper, just before dark too.”
Over the years many things challenged and tested the Hartley’s patience, but most trying moments were caused by weather and workers.
“There’s a flexibility that’s necessary (to being a farmer) to flow with the punches, kind of,” Barbara said of the challenges over the years. “But the most rewarding was raising our family.”
“And to produce good quality stuff and have the bins full at the end of harvest,” Hartley added.
Of the couple’s six children only four still live in the area, much like their father who was born and raised in the area.
Elizabeth married Todd Nelson and they live in Stirling, Christine married John McKee and they farm outside of Stirling, with the help of youngest sibling Paul. Brenda lives in Cardston and married Doug Sheen while Wendy married Rob Mylroie near Spokane and Margaret married Keith Richards and lives in Wisconsin.