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Finding balance in farm family life: Tiffany Martinka

4.5 min read

In northeastern Saskatchewan, Tiffany Martinka runs a busy broiler and grain farm with her husband Lane and his aunt and uncle. Amid their routine farm life, there's a delightful addition that contributes more than just a few dollars to the family budget: their small flock of English Southdown Baby Doll sheep. This recent expansion embodies the Martinkas' commitment to finding joy and balance in their lives.

“We love having them – they are here for our enjoyment and to teach our kids about responsibility and what it takes to raise an animal,” Tiffany says. The flock gives Tiffany a pleasant daily diversion from the other rigours of farm life. 

Changing demands, shifting roles

Living the life of a farmer, especially with young ones in tow, can be demanding. The Martinkas have three children. The days are long, the drives to extracurricular activities even longer, and schedules sway with the seasons. For Tiffany, the key to fulfilment has been striking the right balance between farm duties, pursuing her passions, nurturing her family and contributing to the community.

“I always knew I wanted to be part of agriculture,” she says. While working as an agronomy specialist for the Canola Council of Canada, and then as a territory manager for Monsanto, Tiffany’s career involved plenty of travel – and plenty of personal fulfilment.

When her third child was born with epilepsy, it became evident that her presence was needed at home and on the farm full time. “It's honestly the most challenging job I've ever had,” she says.

It’s a full-time job managing a family on the farm when you’re so remote.

With her husband's full-time responsibilities at the barns, the daily household duties fall squarely on her shoulders. “We have to drive half an hour for groceries, and it's the same for everything else,” she says. “It’s a full-time job managing a family on the farm when you’re so remote.”

Tiffany finds balance by maintaining her passion for industry involvement, farm advocacy and contributing to the agricultural community. 

Her roles as a representative for the Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan and Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan provide her with immense fulfilment. “I'm very much a people person," she says. “Attending meetings and connecting with like-minded individuals, where we discuss our passions, rejuvenates me – I come back recharged when I do that kind of work.”

Do your best, but acknowledge your limitations

In her pursuit of balance, Tiffany learned that "You can't do everything." 

She’s incorporated practical strategies into her daily routine to accommodate the demands of family farm life. “I have days in the office where I just sit down and plan out calendars so we can do everything as best as we can,” she says. 

Tiffany also nurtures a positive outlook, acknowledging the unique challenges of farm life. “There are times when we can accomplish a great deal and others when we struggle to meet the bare minimum, and that's perfectly OK. All we can do is our best,” she says. 

Communicate and coordinate

“The phrase I say almost every day is ‘Put it in the calendar.’ My husband and I have calendars on our phones that are synced. Any time there’s an extracurricular activity or I have a board meeting, we put it in the calendar,” Tiffany says. 

“Everyone says ‘Communication is key,’ but what if you don’t have time to see each other face to face all the time? If it’s in the calendar, we can chat about it when we have the chance and we all know what’s going on.”

A village helps

Tiffany is finding success with a modern spin on the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Investing in building community has practical advantages for a busy, thriving family. 

“I often chat with neighbours and find out what their kids are doing for extracurriculars,” Tiffany says. “If we can align together and carpool, it cuts the driving in half. It’s taken a lot of stress off.”

Simple is also good enough

While active on social media, showcasing the reality of farm life and connecting the public with the roots of their food, Tiffany tries not to let herself get caught up in the high expectations often showcased on those platforms.

“I feel like my generation of mothers see all these Pinterest and Instagram birthday parties and events and it’s just not my reality – and that’s OK,” she says. “We have to remember that our kids don’t see all that – all that matters to them is that they are acknowledged and loved. I think we put a lot of stress on ourselves as mothers and it’s OK to say no, to make our own paths and do what works for us. The kids will be OK.”

Find balance when demands are plenty

Tips to foster fulfilment and balance:

  • Engage friends and neighbours in a mutually helpful way to build your village.

  • Communicate schedules using calendars, chats, written notes or apps to aid with co-operation

  • Lean into your individualism. Learn from others and do what works best for you.

  • Be present. No matter what you’re doing, try to remain immersed.

  • Practice gratitude. Appreciating the little things adds up.

From an AgriSuccess article by Emily Leeson.