Darrell Wiens didn’t begin his journey out in Bezanson. Prior to moving onto the land that his father had purchased in 1976, Darrell worked and lived in Laos. He was a project manager and country director for a development organization. Darrell had three social enterprises that he had managed which “had the goal of providing employment in rural communities.” He says, “One project was a handicraft company, the second project was a school, and the third project was an organic, fair trade silk company that had a farm with cattle, silkworms, and a mulberry tree orchard. It was during this time that I developed an interest in small scale agriculture and saw that you can do a lot on a small piece of land.”
Ed Wiens, Darrell’s father, purchased the quarter section of land in 1976. This land borders the hamlet of Bezanson. He farmed on it for a few years and kept some bees there, but they were still living in Grande Prairie. In 1980, the family travelled and moved to Malaysia. They later ventured off to Langley, British Colombia. The land in Bezanson was rented out to local farmers. This took place from 1980 until 2013. Many people made offers on the land, but Darrell had asked his father to keep it. Although he never saw farming in his future, Darrell found a connection to this land and had memories of going there with his father during the summertime. Through his social enterprises, he began to see the potential in what one could do with a piece of land and he remembered visiting his grandparents on their small mixed farms in Winkler, Manitoba and Dalmeny, Saskatchewan. Darrell returned to Canada and wanted to start a farm or an agricultural business, so he took on the land in Bezanson. He also purchased another quarter section of land beside Bob and Evelyn Vetsch. This land had a house, well, shop and fences. He says, “Bob and Evelyn were happy to have a younger family purchase their land and they continue to be mentors to us although they have moved to Telkwa, B.C.”
In 2013, Darrell and his family finally moved to Bezanson. He says they continue to add to the farm and “currently have sheep, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, bees, fruit trees, a grain field and a hay field.” He says, “[He sees] a far, as a great place to raise [their] kids and teach them about life and community. It also gives me plenty of opportunity to learn and try new projects. We are happy to be part of the great community of Bezanson.”
Darrell is also the Executive Director of the Grande Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning. The Council “provides literacy and adult learning programs for adults in Grande Prairie. The programming includes public education workshops, financial literacy, family literacy, English language classes for newcomers to Canada, basic computer classes, GED exam prep classes, volunteer tutoring opportunities and classes for persons with developmental disabilities.” They are located next to Dave Barr Arena and are based out of the Lions Learning Centre and 9625 Prairie road.
This year, the Grande Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning celebrated its 35th year in Grande Prairie.
“As the Executive Director of the Grande Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning, I am happy to say that we are still meeting the needs of adult foundational learners. The greatest success are the stories from past and present students who have achieved their personal learning goals through the programming that we offer. We were able to recognize and hear some of these stories at our 35 Year Anniversary Celebration on June 14th.”
We thank Darrell for all of the hard work and dedication he has put into this community and into the Grande Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning. And we wish the best of luck to him in his future in the community and with the council!
Written by Ally Pilgrim with information provided by Darrell Wiens.