2017 Farm Woman of the Year

Biography – Margaret Zachoda

Margaret Zachoda was chosen as the 2017 Farm Woman of the Year for staying dedicated to raising three children, supporting family members and creating a way of life on a family farm located in the Forfar area.

Married in 1963 she and her husband moved to a farm that had no running water in the home for the first few years. Water had to be carried in and boiled on a wood stove.

Margaret became pregnant soon after marrying and she gave birth to a son who passed away at 10 months old. Three children followed closely afterwards and they all became a big part of her rural life. While caring for the young children, she also helped care for two family members of her husband who lived on the farm with them.

Involvement in the Family Farm

A shortfall of money from the family farm required extra work to make ends meet for both Margaret and her husband. Initially her husband worked away to bring money back to the farm and while he was away Margaret worked to establish and grow the farm by cooking, doing the housework and caring for the children and the two family members who lived with them.

With hopes of expanding the farming operation, her husband decided to come back and work on the farm full-time. An operation that started out small with 20 cows, eventually grew to include 200 cows, 100 pigs and chickens, geese and ducks.

Margaret switched roles with her husband and soon she began working off the farm for pay. She began catering meals for many weddings, large reunions, and political events. She also made perogies and cabbage rolls which were sold to a loyal list of customers. Margaret also accepted contracts to cook at fly-in bush camps, the Junior Forest Warden Camp and cleaning an office building in Athabasca.

When that work subsided, she began driving a school bus. She took the bus of students to school in the morning and while they attended classes she cleaned houses until it was time to drive them home again at the end of the learning day.

Once her children left home, the animals were sold off and crops became the focus for income along with mom’s employment. Eventually the hard work caught up with the couple and the land was rented out.

Contribution to Community

Margaret has always been involved in the community. She prepared food and donated to 4H meetings, she cleaned the church after funerals, services and meetings, and help host events for the election of district representation.

She was also a concession volunteer at hockey tournaments, helped at agricultural car bingos, fairs and picnics in Athabasca and Rochester. She was also a volunteer bus driver for some field trips and volunteer supervisor of school children.

She also helped prepare the Junior Forest Warden Camp for summer camps with cleaning of facilities prior to being employed there.

Dedication and perseverance through many personal and physical challenges in the past and present demonstrate that Margaret had incredible strength to bring her through it all while successfully raising a family.

Personal Effort Made

While her husband worked away from home one week at a time, all farm work and the care of the children was left in her hands. There was a lack of equipment so much of the work had to be done by hand. Square bales were carried and spread to feed cattle in the deep snow and also for bedding straw. This work meant there was no choice but to pack up her young children to come out in very cold weather so they could be under her watchful eye. It meant multiple trips to house to warm up before chores could be completed.

Her husband contracted rheumatic fever and at times could not perform heavy work so she took his place pitched bundles with a fork and later stooking them to stay dry. The work continued throughout pregnancy due to necessity when her husband was not home.

Raising cattle meant checking on expectant mothers’ day and night during calving season when her husband was away working. Later in life this work continued despite living with debilitating arthritis.

Throughout it all she ensured the children were fed, clothed, attended school and were participating in the community. She also ensured the family had a Christmas tree each year, even though it meant drudging though waist high snow across the field and dragging it home in harsh winters.

Margaret always assisted family when the call came. She travelled into Edmonton four days per week to look after her grandson, who due to health issues, wasn’t able to be in the care of others. During this time her husband also became sick and she returned home to be a caregiver and look after things at home.

Her husband passed away in 2013 and since that time she is enjoying her retirement living on the family farm keeping up with her beautiful yard and farm life.

Her daughter Caroline in her nomination of her mother says her mother would give anyone the shirt off her back if required and often puts the needs of others before her own. She served as a great role model for her children by never giving up even when it gets tough. Caroline feels blessed and honoured to have a mother like Margaret in her life.