Nestled on the eastern edge of the Brandon Hills, Howpark Farms has been in the family since 1879. That’s a really long time in terms of farming in this part of the world. At the end of our lane is a sign acknowledging our status as a Heritage/Century Farm.
Howpark Farms was started by Ian’s Great Grandfather William Bertram in 1879. The name Howpark comes from the farm William Bertram grew up on in Scotland. He chose this particular location because the hills reminded him of Scotland. William Bertram homesteaded the NE ¼ of 34-8-18W and when he had met the requirement was able to pre-empt the SE ¼ of 34-8-18, which is still referred to by us as the “Pre-emption”.
The most obvious distinguishing feature at Howpark is the western edge of our property which rises steeply into the natural wilderness-like setting of the Brandon Hills. This area is popular with nature-lovers and people who love the recreational features of the terrain. An esker formed from the last ice age, this long set of hills is a welcome contrast to the otherwise mostly flat prairie landscape.
The farm has always been home to both livestock and grain, given the topography that it contains. William Bertram originally fenced the farm for sheep, but the coyotes won the battle and the losses were too high. Some of the original wire fencing that he wove for the sheep is still used on some of our fencing.
We began our transition to an organic farm back in 1999, first growing Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower) known for its medicinal properties. As we have an abundance of native prairie plants and wildflowers growing on our property, we gathered seed from our own native plants and planted a few acres of Echinacea. We soon found that growing medicinal crops was not our forte as we were accustomed to growing grain crops and raising cattle. We then made the decision to transition our grain land to organic and began producing certified organic grains and slowly transitioned all land to organic so that our cattle could also be certified organic with all organic diet in pastures, hay and bedding.
The farm has been passed down through the generations to Ian and Linda. We are located just a few minutes drive from the thriving agricultural city of Brandon, Manitoba. The south eastern edge of the city limits transition sharply to agricultural land, without the typical sprawling housing developments and acreages present around many cities. Howpark seems far from city atmosphere.