Summer students migrate home to battle weeds
Spraying weeds and speaking with residents all over Brazeau County. It’s all in a day’s work for the Agriculture summer students. But what does a day’s work look like, and who is doing the work?
After their 6:30 am briefing meeting, agriculture summer students Miranda Shannon and Cale Trenchuk perform pre-trip inspections on their truck and on their Utility Task Vehicle (UTV), a John Deer Gator. By 7:00 a.m. the sun has been rising for about an hour, and the agriculture crew is already on the road.
Weed inspectors have found a patch of Oxeye Daisy, a declared noxious weed by the Alberta Government, growing in a ditch along a Township Road. The two agriculture students have been sent out to deal with the noxious weeds this early morning.
Miranda is at Red Deer College (RDC) going into her second year of the nursing program and is working her third year with Brazeau County as an agriculture student. “I want to help people, I guess that’s just who I am,” says Miranda, who plays, referees and coaches ringette in the winter months. Cale will be heading into his first year of general science at RDC, and this is his first year working for the County as an agriculture student.
After a quick inspection of the ditch, Cale dons his disposable coveralls and turns on the chemical pump located in the back of the truck. Meanwhile, Miranda hops in the driver’s seat and lets the truck roll along the side of ditch as Cale sprays the weeds. Miranda explains that the reason they spray Oxeye Daisy is that it’s an aggressive non-native plant that competes with the native plants. It also provides poor quality hay and animals can’t put on enough weight when grazing on it.
Miranda also mentions that while working outdoors is fun and one of the reasons she loves her job, that “it’s the residents that make this job great.”
“Everyone wants to sit in the Gator,” she continues with a huge grin, as they head back to the shop to pick up the UTV and head out to a piece of land at a nearby hamlet to spray for Buttercup. As they get the UTV off of the trailer, Cale mentions that “driving this thing is awesome.” When asked if this is the best part of the job, he replied “probably.”
Cale begins spraying the field with the UTV, which has four nozzles attached to the back that cover an area of about 20 feet. While he sprays Cale talks about his past year, from finishing high school and working in the oil patch, to applying to go to school at RDC and working for the County. “They really treat you well here,” he says.
Miranda grew up between Easyford and Cynthia, while Cale grew up in the Berrymoor area. Both Cale and Miranda help out on their families' farms during the summer as well as working for the County. “I always watched my Dad get rid of weeds around the farm, so all the names were pretty familiar to me when I started spraying for the County,” says Miranda.
After spraying the field, they load up the UTV and head back to the shop so they can triple rinse the chemical tank. This is done in order to prevent any harm to vegetation with the old chemical residue built up in the tank. They load up a new chemical in order to spray brush on fence lines to limit their growth and keep a clear line of vision for vehicles on the road.
They drive across the North Saskatchewan River Bridge and pull up to a fence line on a Range Road to spray the shrubbery. After careful observation and consideration, Miranda and Cale decide to spray from in the farmer’s field out to the road in order to eliminate any possibility of damaging crops. “We’re not spraying just for fun, we spray to help make sure weeds and shrubs don’t cause any harm,” says Miranda. “We’re more than happy to work with people” she continues, and explains that she has called to schedule spraying with landowners so they can move any animals out of that field beforehand.
Miranda mentions that many people are excited to hear about the weed spraying programs for farms, such as the Hawkweed program, where the County will spray up to five acres of private property for Hawkweed at no charge. She also says that it is extremely important to keep weeds under control because they can have an effect on property value. “No one wants to buy a property only to spend $15,000 on weed spraying.”
They spray the shrubs and then head back to the shop for lunch. As they are eating, Cale watches X-games highlights, specifically motocross events. It turns out that Cale is an avid motocross racer and spends many of his weekends on tracks around Alberta.
After finishing up lunch they head back out in the County to spray more brush. All the while they talk about their plans for the weekend, and what they need to get done before they go back to school.
After spraying the last of the fence lines, Miranda speaks about the people in Brazeau County. “Most people are genuinely curious to what we are doing,” she says. “people are really good once they know what we are up to so communicating is a big part of it all.”
Both of them are now in school, studying for big tests and staying up late to finish papers. However, their experiences of coming back home and working all around the County they were born and raised in gives them an idea where they want to be once they have graduated.
“I want to work in a smaller town or a rural community” says Miranda. “I’d love to come back to work and live in Brazeau County once I’m done school if the opportunity presented itself.”
This story was researched and written by Communications Intern, Ryan McMillen. Ryan is attending Grant McEwan and spent a month with the County. We wish Ryan the best of luck and thank him for his valued work while with us. He has a great career ahead of him!