A couple from Kleefeld has been named Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers for Manitoba.

Marcus and Paige Dueck of Four Oak Farms, say they are flattered, calling it an honour to be recognized.

Marcus explains that Four Oak Farms was established in 1958 by his grandparents who came to Canada from Germany. His parents then ran it as second-generation farmers, before Marcus and Paige began taking over after their marriage in 2009. The Duecks have two young girls, representing the fourth generation. Marcus' 94-year-old grandmother still lives on the farm.

Four Oak Farms milks 50 registered Brown Swiss cows, using a tie stall robot which is the first of its kind in western Canada. Paige says the tie stall robot was installed four years ago.

"We have not regretted the decision," she says. "It's given us freedom for more family time. We can milk three times a day to increase production."

Paige notes Brown Swiss cows are not prevalent. They are docile animals. She notes the switch to these cows was made years ago by Marcus' parents and they have never looked back, noting they are so easy to handle. 

In addition to the dairy operation, Marcus says they also farm about 800 acres of cropland. They supply all their forages and grains from their land. Other cash crops include corn and soybeans.

While Marcus learned to farm from his parents, Paige's farming background is a little different. She says she was born to "city slicker" parents who eventually moved to the country to fulfill her dream of having a horse. Paige would earn money by milking cows, gathering eggs, or washing barns to support her horse addiction. This eventually led to studying for her animal science degree at the University of Manitoba. It was there that she met Marcus.

"He had a farm, which was a bonus," she says. 

According to Marcus, Four Oak Farms had been without hired help for about two decades. Then, two years ago they hired a part-time employee and have also added a mechanic. Paige says the young girl they hired is actually the granddaughter of the farmer who she used to gather eggs for, years ago. 

"She has been the best thing ever to allow me to have a little more freedom with breeding cows and kind of management side without always being in the barn doing the everyday grind," says Paige. "She's been pretty cool."

Meanwhile, Paige says earlier this month they left for Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park, not sure whether the judges would consider them worthy of the title, 'Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers' for Manitoba. The three-day event saw nominees present their stories to a panel of judges before a winner was finally announced. Paige says winning this award has been a growing experience.

"We really enjoy the process of going back and looking over our operations, reflecting, thinking of the future and it just helps us to grow within our own farm," she says. "So flattered and also challenged."

Marcus says he thinks their community involvement and their connection in the industry helped them achieve this recognition. Marcus is an 18-year member of the Hanover Fire Department and currently sits on the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba Advisory Committee. Paige worked for Dairy Farmers of Manitoba as Producer Relations Coordinator and a Canadian Quality Milk validator. 

The Duecks are now invited to the Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers national event in Alberta in November.