Alberta Bound – The Crozier Family

August 9th, 2017

In 1896, David Crozier ventured to what is now Sturgeon County, just north of Edmonton, where he purchased Cutbank Farm from William Cust. This land, which lies on the shores of Cutbank Lake, has remained in the Crozier family for 120 years. Today, David’s great grandson Lenard owns and operates Cheslen Dairies with his sons, Jason and Brett.

The original farming operation was comprised of horses, hogs, chickens, and enough cows to be considered a small dairy farm. All work was labour intensive. In the beginning, the Crozier’s sold their farm products locally.

Tending to livestock, milking cows by hand, separating cream, and transporting milk cans to Woodland Dairy in north Edmonton with a Model T Ford compounded the workload. Woodland was established in 1908 and the Croziers were one of their early suppliers of raw milk. Lenard remembers Woodland’s workers removing each lid, checking that the can was full and doing the “sniff test” to ensure the milk was good.

In approximately 1940, when rural electricity became available in Alberta, the Croziers’ milking operation advanced to electric milking machines, bringing about the expansion of the herd. This ultimately led to the splitting of the herd of 60 milking cows between John and Kenneth Crozier in 1954.

Kenneth and his sons, remained on the original location, operating under the name Crozier Dairies. Lenard’s father, Chester Crozier, moved with his father John to an adjacent property on the original farm, operating under the name Cutbank Farms.

In the late 1960s, the supply management system was adopted, and brought a level of stability to the dairy industry that earlier generations could never have imagined. By this time, Lenard had decided to become a fourth generation dairy farmer. He saw this as an opportunity for expansion and modernization, building a barn that accommodated up to 150 milking cows for the next 40 years. In the late 1990s, Jason and Brett became fifth generation dairymen, operating Cheslen Dairies in the old barn until it was replaced in 2012 with an ultra-modern milking facility.

The Croziers were among the first farms in the province to adopt robotic milking technology. The new barn focuses on cow comfort, natural ventilation, high efficiency motors and lights, and is heated by harnessing the body heat of the animals it houses. Water used to pre-cool the milk is ultimately used to water the herd. In other words, the barn is energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

In recognition of Lenard’s involvement in the dairy industry for over 20 years, representing milk producers on various milk boards and committees, he was awarded the Alberta Dairy Achievement Award in 2012.

Lenard’s dairying days have taken him from riding on a “stone boat” loaded with milk cans and multiple Crozier kids to robot milking and cell phone alerts from the milking barn. His passion for dairying continues as he passes the torch to his sons, Jason and Brett, with the hope that someday Cheslen Dairies may continue through one of his eight grandchildren. The Crozier family is proud of its’ dairy farming heritage and would welcome a sixth generation.

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