Shelley Johnson talks fitness, family and farming.
Shelley Johnson has a degree from the University of Alberta in Kinesiology, she became a fitness consultant teaching all sorts of fitness classes including cycling. But for the most part, this fitness buff gets her best workouts handling cattle. Shelley, together with her husband, Greg, and his family, own and operate Anchor J Ranches. This multi-generational farming operation has been around for over a hundred years and dates back to settlers from Nebraska.
“More than a hundred years ago, the Johnsons settled around Scandia and my husband’s great grandfather bought land and started the family farm. Greg’s grandfather eventually took over the family business; years later, Greg’s dad and brother took over, farming together before branching off to begin their own operations. We joined in the family business and today we continue the legacy that Greg’s great grandfather started.”
Shelley admits that as a young woman, she never planned to farm; however, it didn’t take long being away to realize that’s exactly what she wanted to do.
“I went to University, got my degree and lived in the city for a few years but then I quickly realized, nope, this isn’t for me,” she says. “It was just me and my sister growing up on our small family farm, after those brief years in the city, I made the decision to come back and take over, and to continuing farming with my parents.”
But then she says she met Greg, and plans changed. The couple work on his family’s ranch, with Greg’s parents, near the locality of Hemaruka, in southeastern Alberta, about 60 kilometres from Consort. They also work closely with Greg’s brother and his family who farm and ranch in the Brooks and Bassano areas. The couple are very involved in cattle businesses from buying and selling to feedlot operations.
Speaking of being involved, Shelley also hopes that their boys, Lane and Cole also come back to continue the family farm. “They boys are very involved with roping and riding and are a huge help, especially during calving and branding seasons,” she says. “We would love for them to eventually take over the farm but having said that they also have their individual passions and talents and who knows where those will take them.” Both boys are active in a variety of sports and currently son, Cole, 12, is very interested in carpentry and has a real talent for wood working; Lane, 14, was playing hockey in Kelowna, staying with billets, up until this past March when the pandemic hit.
Despite plans changing with all that’s going on in the world, Shelley is enjoying every minute of having her family together. “It’s during times like these that you really appreciate family, after all, being with family is one of the reasons we wanted to farm in the first place,” she says. And despite not being able to teach her local community fitness classes, she hasn’t lost her sense of humour. “I have much more time for cookies and wine these days,” she laughs. “I’m in shape. I mean, round, is a shape, right?”
Shelley adds that the sense of community that comes along with farming is another reason why the lifestyle is so special. “In rural communities, people are connected in a very special way. We all support each other like extended family.” She adds that UFA has also been a part of that family for years and why they continue to come back. “I think rural communities often feel like the forgotten child. What’s brilliant with UFA is that they have chosen to invest back into the communities they serve, and as community members we appreciate that. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”
“We shop UFA because they are big enough to have the buying power, ensuring the supplies we need at competitive prices, but it still feels like a small-town shop that understands it’s members. We also need access to innovation and new technology and UFA provides that. We have a trusting relationship with our customer account manager, Julia Vold, who also happens to be our neighbor. Just like your radio ad says, we do share a fence line,” Shelley laughs. “She goes above and beyond for us providing excellent customer service but also sharing cutting-edge initiatives and new products. As farmers, we need to stay on top of new technology. For us, UFA is essential to our farming operation and we are so proud to be long-time members.”
Shelley fondly remembers Farmer’s Day as the weekend her family would organize a camping trip, and this Farmer’s Day, her family will continue the tradition of enjoying their time together, despite it being one of the busiest seasons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of shape you’re in, and what’s going on around you, the work still needs to get done. And thanks to farmers like the Johnsons, it does.
Happy Farmer’s Day!