Boulet retires after nearly 15 years as ag fieldman

Shayne Steffen
Norm Boulet

Lucie Mercier

South Peace News

There’s been some changes at the M.D. of Smoky River building in Falher, as the staff welcomed their new ag fieldman Dec. 13.
Shayne Steffen, having grown up in the Edmonton area, has a lot of experience under his belt, when it comes to his line of work. Having studied at Olds College, he worked for a number of different municipalities, starting at Red Deer County as their conservation coordinator. He also worked at Lacombe County, doing assistant ag fieldman duties, along with conservation work for the Lacombe and Ponoka counties.
Later, he moved north, to work for the M.D. of Greenview to which, ironically, was to replaced Norm Boulet, who had found a different employment position in Falher back in December 2004.
After some time, Steffen was offered a position from the Ponoka County to be their fieldman. He accepted and moved back south for eight years. Later, he and his family headed north, where he worked in the Saddle Hills County, once again as ag fieldman, and also assistant CAO, for approximately five years.
In the past year, Steffen has been working in the Sturgeon County, and as fate would have it, the timing could not have been more perfect as the Falher position came up for availability. His contract in Sturgeon was ending so he and his family moved in the local area.
So now, 17 years later, history is repeating itself once again. The only difference is, Boulet has announced his retirement, and is moving on to greener pastures. He officially hands over the reins to Steffen Jan. 14.
For Boulet, the idea of going to Fairview College to study Agricultural Production, was for his dream of being a farmer. His plan was to work until he could afford to be a farmer. And 32 years later?
“Hey, I think I can afford to farm now!” says Boulet, chuckling at his comment.
Boulet began his fieldman journey in 1986, which was then called Improvement District #16, where he worked for three years as an assistant fieldman, and later became the ag fieldman. In 2004, Boulet saw an opportunity to work closer to his home roots, and found work in Falher. Since his children were already attending school at Routhier, it made more sense for the job change.
“It was mostly because my kids were going to school here in town, and we were living halfway to Valleyview. The kids would have something going on at school, like a half-hour presentation or whatever. And I would be working in Valleyview,” says Boulet.
With the decision made, Boulet got a job with Agricore United, selling fertilizer and herbicides, and later on he began to buy grain.
This made life a bit easier for Boulet, making for less traveling, and being able to attend more events involving family.
Boulet’s dream finally started to take seed, when his father approached him, and asked him if he wanted to take over the farm.
“And it was like, well, of course! That would be my dream, right?” says Boulet, recalling the moment.
“But I knew that there was no way working at Agricore, that I could turn around and farm at the same time,” he added.
Even then, while juggling farming along with his job, Boulet explains. “I was even farming three quarters across the river. And I was putting everything in alfalfa, and only seeding a few acres, because come spring time, I just didn’t have the time.”
With the job demand, Boulet had to be at work during the spring and harvest season, to be there for the customers.
The timing could not have been more perfect for Boulet, as the position for ag fieldman came up at the M.D. of Smoky River. Boulet was grateful to get the job. Now, years later, working as fieldman has worked really well for him, as the staff were willing to accommodate him along with his farming, by having certain co-workers train and cover for him during seeding and harvest time.
“I cannot complain,” says Boulet.
“As far as an employer goes, they said, ‘We’ll make it work,” and they made it work.”
But at some point, change becomes inevitable, and Boulet was ready to begin a new chapter in his career, by announcing two years prior that he would be retiring at the end of 2021.
“It’s unbelievable that we were able to get someone with such qualifications,” says Boulet, regarding the M.D.’s luck at having Steffen on board as their new fieldman. With Steffen’s qualifications, it has made the transition much easier, and giving Boulet the chance to move forward, knowing that the M.D. will be in good hands.
It quickly became obvious, that the word “retire” for Boulet, might not be quite the same as one would think. And although “retiring” from his job at the M.D. will free up some time for he and his family, it sounded like he wasn’t planning on hanging his hat anytime soon.
Having been farming this whole time, he has also decided to explore try his hand in other fields, like being on the board for the hemp decortication project, and becoming councillor for the Village of Donnelly, where he and his wife Rita live.
“And with any kind of luck, once the world normalizes a little bit more, we definitely would like to do more traveling.”

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