Randy Cannan. He loves his apple pie.
You won’t find long-time UFA Member Randy Cannan investing in stocks, bonds or RRSPs for retirement. What you will find in his portfolio is land. And lots of it. He took a conversation he had with his father some 40 years ago to heart. “I wouldn’t be where I am without my mother and father who really helped me to get my start in farming. My dad told me that the best investment I could make was to start buying land, and so that’s what I started doing at just 21 years old. I began buying land aggressively and I bought as much of it as I could,” he laughs. “I still do.”
The 4th generation farmer has grown and diversified his operation beyond his wildest dreams and more so than many, Randy knows what it means to make the most of every opportunity, and of every minute in the day. Forty years ago, Randy was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. “I have six children and when I was first diagnosed, my immediate worry was whether or not I was going to see my four-year-old graduate. Would I ever be able to farm with him? Would I be there to see him grow up?
“When you’re diagnosed with something like cancer, it has a profound way of putting things into perspective quickly and you can’t help but ask what yourself, what do you want your legacy to be?”
Randy was determined to fight cancer and fulfill his dream of helping his children be successful farmers. He underwent treatment which included a stem cell transplant and he hasn’t looked back, although he says he’s slowed down. As our conversation went on and I learned more about him and his farm, I had a hard time believing that he had “slowed down”.
Randy runs about 750 beef cows on several different farms. They grow their own feed, finish their own cows in their feedlot, and haul with their own trucks direct to market. Randy says his motto is that he wants more than just a piece of the pie. “Let’s say I love apple pie. I don’t just want one piece. I want the whole pie.
“We also own an elk farm with about 140 animals, we farm over 6,000 acres of grain, and have another 490 animals on community pastures.”
As his children have grown, Randy has helped them purchase farms to get started and to add to the family operation all while teaching them the value of hard work. “It’s a fine line as a parent trying to figure out how much to help before spoiling them, and when it’s time to step back. I’m still learning where that line is,” he says laughing.
Randy’s entire family is involved in farming in different ways. “My oldest daughter Pamela lives in Vermilion and is raising her two kids and loves helping out on the farm when she can. Our son Justin is the farm’s mechanic and together with his wife Kristen and their two children, farm with me; my son Aaron farms full-time with me, and is also the Mayor of Innisfree; my 21-year-old daughter Melissa has a farm and is attending the University of Saskatchewan, getting her Agronomy degree; our daughter Courtney is an honours student in Grade 11; and our 14-year-old son Dylan runs his own direct to market sheep and goat operation,” he says. “My wife Susan also runs her own egg operation and grading station with the same direct to market philosophy, not to mention having the hardest job of all, taking care of me.”
Randy says, “It’s an art to have a farm survive, you need to arm yourself with knowledge and change with the times, always be looking at new ways to do things, and surround yourself with people you trust.” He has spent much of his life doing all those things and one of the people that Randy trusts is his UFA Customer Account Manager, Shane Menzak.
“I’ve known Shane since he was a little kid. We have a long history and our family roots run deep. I have lots of stories I could share, but they probably aren’t for public consumption,” he laughs. “Shane looks after me and my business. I’m not totally dependent on one company, and I do shop around. I like to try new things and I’m learning everyday. Competition is a good thing in my books. But, history shows, I almost always rely on UFA to help me get the job done.
“Shane will call me with new information, he’s always keeping me informed of what’s happening and I know that if I need something, he’ll be there. I know that if I have a question, he’ll answer it and if he can’t, he’ll find the answer. I trust his advice and I know he’s also going to be honest with me.”
Randy says price and service are just one part of what influences his buying decisions. “Today, I’m also basing my buying decisions on whether my business and my purchases are helping to give back to the community. “Legacy” speaks to more than just my immediate family. Do the buying decisions I make help to support my community in the end? If I can’t check that box, then I’ll probably go somewhere else.”
Randy and his family are all very involved in the community, from being active in their local 4-H club to championing local business. “Part of why I choose to do business with UFA is that they give back to my community. They support local business and through things like 4-H they are putting their money where their mouth is, supporting farmers of tomorrow.”
“One thing I’ve learned since being diagnosed with cancer is that the goal in life is to do what you love, whether that be farming or not. The zeroes in your bank account are not what make you happy. Today, I continue to do what I love, and I don’t have time to waste on anything else. I’m not dead yet so I’m going to make the most of all the time I have.”
When Randy said this, I couldn’t help but feel very honoured. You see, our conversation took place while he was in the hospital waiting for a few tests. He could have chosen to talk to anyone and he chose to spend his time sharing his story with me. And over the course of an hour, I was able to make a new friend; one who loves family, community, farming, UFA and apple pie.