The Johnson family of East Sexsmith is the recipient of a Heritage Homestead Award.   

Family members were recognized during an award presentation on June 21 by the County of Grande Prairie’s Agricultural Services Board for their contributions to agriculture and the County’s heritage. 

“The agriculture sector continues to be a vital industry and important way of life in the County of Grande Prairie,” says Councillor Bob Chrenek, Chair of the Agricultural Service Board. “These long-time families have contributed greatly to our heritage, and we’re pleased to honour them.” 

The original homestead was established in September 1911 by Soren and Marie Johnson, great grandparents of the current landowner, Jamie Johnson. Throughout the generations, the farm changed hands with Soren passing it on to his son, James Johnson, in 1919. He handed it down to his son, Jim, in 1958 who then passed it on to his son, Jamie, in 1986. Located at SW2-74-5-W6M, what started as a 160-acre operation and has since grown to three quarter sections. 

“There’s a great feeling of pride in this legacy,” says family spokesperson Doug Spry, whose wife Shirley is Jamie’s cousin. “The original family members came here looking for land to establish a new life. The country was opening up and it was a great deal for them,” he says. 

Soren and Marie emigrated from Denmark, first living in the USA before moving to Saskatchewan and then making their way to Alberta. 

Travel to the area in 1911 was not for the faint of heart. The couple spent 30 days in pouring rain on the Edson Trail in September of that year, traveling with one saddle horse, 20 head of cattle and four wagons, each pulled by teams of four oxen. Adding to their discomfort, the rain continued for four more days after they arrived in the County of Grande Prairie.  

Spry says this adventurous spirit continued as innovations were introduced to farming. 

“The family was right into the newest advancements as they moved from oxen to steam-powered tractors to gas models.” 

As a member of the Peace District Historical Society, Spry has observed the number of family farms decreasing in recent generations, making this recognition significant. 

“There’s a sense of accomplishment to carry on over the years, through the good years and those with poor crops.” 

Spry says in addition to the oxen at the beginning, the early farm featured crops along with horses, cattle, and poultry. Today, the focus is completely on wheat, barley, canola, and oats. 

The Heritage Homestead Award recognizes farm/ranch families who homesteaded and continuously farmed/ranched the same land for 100 years or more. The County provides a sign for their property in recognition of maintaining and farming the homestead quarter through the generations.  

Applications for the 100 Years of Farming Awards are accepted throughout the year. For more information about the Heritage Homestead Award and the Pioneer Farming Family Award, and to apply or nominate a family, visit www.countygp.ab.ca/100years.  

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Media Contact:  
Doug Spry 
Family Spokesperson 
780-568-3415  

Councillor Bob Chrenek 
Chair, Agricultural Service Board 
County of Grande Prairie 
780-897-3577