Toban Dyck, Writer and Farmer – Spring 2022 Pulse Beat
ALEX BURGESS IS a lawyer. He is also a farmer and Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers’ new director.
He and his father — who is also a lawyer and a farmer — operate a small law firm in Brandon and a sizeable farm in Minnedosa, where Alex and his family have lived since 2012.
His story is unique. It’s not every day you meet a lawyer/farmer. It was a first for me. And it’s not every day you meet a lawyer who likes to just “go with the flow.” Alex’s words, not mine.
He exhibited the casualness of someone who has control over the things in which he’s involved with capacity to spare. Whatever the case, his outlook was refreshing and genuine.
Law seemed to be in Alex’s cards. His father was a lawyer and becoming one himself was almost something he was predisposed to accomplish. But here is where the story gets quite unique.
Alex’s father, scratching an itch he had for growing food and working the land, started a farm. From scratch. While practicing law. “He started farming by himself,” said Alex. “He didn’t grow up on a farm, either. He just started dabbling in it. I think I was four or five when dad bought his first parcel of land.”
Alex grew up helping out on the farm in the evenings and on weekends. It is at this point where the typical farmer profile segues to a colourful description of Alex’s lifelong passion for farming.
That is not the direction this portrayal goes. Alex enjoys farming, and he moved onto the farm in 2012, not as an expression of his lifelong passion, but rather to fill a void left by the departure of the long-serving farm manager.
“Was the plan always to come back to the farm?” I asked.
“To be honest, I didn’t have drawn-out plans for the rest of my life,” said Alex. “Things can just kind of happen. I’m not really someone that has 10-year plans. Life takes you in weird directions. You just kind of got to go with the flow. There was somebody that was managing the farm, and he moved on. So there was a need, and I said I’d help out. That was how it started. I’ve been doing it since.”
His operation has grown exponentially since his father started “dabbling.” The Burgess farm has full-time employees and contracts seasonal help for the busy times.
This year, he’s growing peas, barley, canola and fall rye. Peas, though, are a notable crop for Alex. Roquette and Merit Foods have created strong domestic markets for the crop, and they’ve also been able to provide the expertise needed to grow peas well.
Market demand for peas is strong. The growing conditions in his area are well suited for them, and the relative newness of the crop in Manitoba is something that Alex finds intriguing.
“Peas just seem to fit with the weather patterns here,” said Alex. “There’s very little knowledge on peas, you know, compared to many other crops, so learning about it is quite interesting.”
Alex was elected to MPSG’s Board of Directors by acclamation after observing its operations in a director-intern capacity over the past year.
“As an MPSG board member, I look forward to meeting new people,” said Alex. “It’s interesting to, you know, interact with farmers from all over. You learn things and I enjoy that. I also look forward to advancing ag policy that is favourable for farmers.’
I couldn’t help but mention how exciting it would be for any board to have a lawyer in its ranks. Alex chuckled, saying that he doesn’t have a predetermined idea of what he’d like to do as an MPSG board member and that he’s happy to just do what is needed.
He remembers having hobbies and interests, but it appeared as though he had to think quite far back to retrieve for me what they actually are. His family is young. Alex and his wife have three children, ages five, three and one. “Skiing, boating, stuff like that,” he said, after giving the question some thought. ■