Airfield Agriculture: Meet the YWG Farmer

Situated alongside an open field inside the city, Winnipeg Richardson International Airport is surrounded by a sea of gold. Hundreds of acres of flowers line the aprons, taxiways and runways, providing a picturesque prairie perspective for passengers waiting to board their plane. For Aaron Elskamp, those canola plants are more than lovely to look at – it’s his livelihood.

The Woodlands-based farmer is in his sixth year of working the fields at the airport. As planes take off and land on the opposite end of the airfield, Elskamp busily tends to his 700 acres of crop. The airport land is rented out by YWG as a way to enhance and diversify its revenue streams as well as to fully utilize the property to further serve the community.

WATCH: Aaron Elskamp explains the unique situation of farming in an active airfield

Several special safety precautions need to be followed when farming on an airport campus. The machinery must stay away from buffer zones around runways, taxiways, aprons and critical airport infrastructure. Crops also can’t be planted in these areas and are limited in type so they don’t attract wildlife.

Each fall, when the canola is ready to be harvested, Elskamp’s team grows significantly. It takes three combines, a grain cart and five semis to pick the plants – a process that fills two days. For those watching from inside the airport terminal, it’s a busy scene and one that adds to the unique prairie landscape of YWG.

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