Seed World

Renee Hoyme is Bridging the Gap for New Seed Growers

From soil sampling at the CFIA to acting as the president of the Alberta Seed Growers, Renee Hoyme brings her knowledge back to her family farm and emerging seed growers.

As a third-generation commercial grain farmer and first-generation pedigree seed producer, Renee Hoyme never expected that her life would be where it is today.

Hoyme grew up on her family farm, DeWindt Farms, which is now run by Hoyme, her husband Geoff and her parents, Harry and Barb DeWindt. The farm was acquired in the 1960s by Harry’s parents, Cornelius and Dieuwke “Deet” DeWindt. Cornelius and Dieuwke had immigrated from the Netherlands to Edmonton, Alta. where they then bought the family farm outside of Thorhild, Alta. The farm previously had a dairy and pig operation, but the family decided to grow strictly grain when Hoyme was a teenager.

While Hoyme originally went to the University of Alberta to become a veterinarian, she ultimately decided to pursue a degree in agriculture and was hired by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) directly out of college for a term soil sampling position — she has worked at the CFIA for the past 15 years. Hoyme then accepted a permanent position as an animal programs inspector, where she did crop inspection during the summer months from 2009 to 2011 and potato inspection from 2012 to 2016.

Renee Hoyme, former Alberta Seed Growers president, stands next to a field at her family farm DeWindt Farms in Thorhild, Alta. Photo: Renee Hoyme

When Hoyme began inspecting seed, her family decided it was time to diversify the farm. The family utilized Hoyme’s background knowledge of crop inspection to start growing seed. Their first successful crop was in 2012, making 2022 the 10th year DeWindt Farms has grown seed.

After completing her three-year probation as a seed grower, Hoyme was quickly recruited for the Alberta Seed Growers (ASG) board eight years ago. Despite the excitement of being invited to join, she was overwhelmed with uncertainty, as she had no former board experience. Yet Hoyme believed this was the best move forward in the interest of the farm.

“I wanted to get my feet wet with the society and the industry because we were so new to it. Getting my foot in the door and gaining more background knowledge for our farm would help me by being on the board,” explains Hoyme in an interview with the Alberta Seed Guide.

The road was not easy for Hoyme. Since her background was in crop growing, she was unfamiliar with the storage aspect of the industry.

“Do you understand that once you become a seed grower, if you bring cleaned, graded seed back on farm, you need to have your bulk storage facility licensing? You need to have gone through the schooling and have the certification. That is something I didn’t know, going into being a seed grower. I didn’t know that was even an aspect of it. I was learning all of this stuff after the fact,” she explains.

Learning the ins and outs of the industry on the spot was challenging for Hoyme, but it prepared her to become an excellent president of ASG when the opportunity arose. After acting as co-vice president of the group in 2018, Hoyme was elected president in 2019 where she served for two years. Hoyme made it her mission to provide all of the means necessary for newer seed growers to excel in the industry, making sure no grower felt lost or unprepared as she once had.

“I wanted to be that voice for the new seed growers that are coming into the industry. When I first joined the board, most of the board members had experience in the bag. They didn’t have that point of view of first coming on, and what the new hurdles and roadblocks were for me starting out. That really helped the board understand some of the changes we could make because I was a new seed grower. I was just going through all of this stuff,” says Hoyme.

Her relatability and emphasis on connection with members made Hoyme a unique president that brought something different to the leadership role than many of her predecessors.

“It helped the other growers realize that there are these gaps in our education of seed growers. It’s not just growing a crop or getting a crop certification. There are all these other aspects that go into it. There are these other aspects to being a seed grower that I wasn’t aware of when I started, and I hope that bringing that knowledge forward has helped other new seed growers coming into the industry,” she adds.

While Hoyme was able to adapt, it wasn’t without the support of her family and various mentors in the industry.

Renee Hoyme, former Alberta Seed Growers president, takes her son Garrett Hoyme for a ride in the combine at DeWindt Farms in Thorhild, Alta. Photo: Renee Hoyme

“I have a great support system with my parents. Some days are more hectic than others, but some days, we just roll with it,” she confesses.

Two of the mentors and past ASG presidents that Hoyme gives recognition to for her success are Glenn Logan, national director of the Alberta-British Columbia Seed Growers (ABCSG), and Ward Oatway, owner of Oatway’s Seed Farm Ltd.

“She is an intelligent young woman, very capable, energetic and passionate about the seed industry. Renee proved I was right. In her term as a director — and eventually as president — she did an admirable job, and at the same time raised a family,” shares Logan in an email interview.

“Working with Renee while on the board was always a treat. She was open to new ideas, with a strong decisiveness that always kept things moving, both in the meetings and as an organization as a whole. Her energy is always infectious and makes it easy to keep focus on what’s important in the industry. It’s not a wonder she is liked and respected by seed growers across the country,” adds Oatway in an interview.

What’s Next for Renee Hoyme?

Since joining the board, Hoyme has had three children and is now working towards completing her probation plot status. The process takes two to three years to become a certified plot grower and allows growers to grow the highest generation of seed available, providing them early access to new genetics. Hoyme will achieve plot grower status this year.

Hoyme and her husband are gearing up to take over the family farm in the next year or two to allow Hoyme’s parents to retire — Geoff has been mentoring under Renee’s father for the last five to six years. While the DeWindt’s will pass the torch to their daughter and son-in-law, just like Renee, the family farm will always be an imperative part of their lives.

“My parents will never leave the farm. It’s in their blood. It’s in their genetics. I don’t think you’ll ever get my mom and dad off the farm. They’ll always be there to help us, which we’re so grateful for — to have that support and knowledge to fall back on,” says Hoyme.

While Hoyme’s path wasn’t always clear, it led her to gaining a breadth of experience, a successful family and respect within in the Canadian agriculture industry.

Header image — Combines lined up in a freshly harvested field at DeWindt Farms in Thorhild, Alta. Photo: Renee Hoyme