Our Story

In 1995 we (Al & Diane) began farming, full of hope and ambition after a rewarding stint in the Canadian Air Force. Landing on the farm that was situated neatly between the farms of both of our parents in Shetland Ontario, we were able to get a healthy start in farming.

Our family grew along with the farm, and we were blessed with five boys (Levi, Dustin, Dalles, Jordan and Jesse) and then two girls (Charity and Brooklyn). We worked as a family to sacrifice and contribute to the success and the growth of our operation, and each of our children had their special skills of which they shared generously.

Dalles was our third son, and from early childhood he was determined to be on the farm full-time. From his first meagre flock of six laying hens, to buying his first farm on his eighteenth birthday, he was in with both feet and head first. He felt immensely blessed to marry his best friend and love of his life, Michelle, shortly after high school. They settled on the farm Dalles had purchased in a quaint little house with a neat pig barn. They expanded their operation to include more land and increased their hog production. Fiercely devoted to each other, they were also active members in their church and community and Dalles was a committed brother on the Dawn Euphemia Fire Department.

Everything was idyllic on the surface and no one anticipated how our family would be shattered in one devastating moment. In a split moment of utter despair, Dalles took his own life on November 23, 2020.

None of us comprehended the level of the gnawing stress Dalles felt in his farming occupation lurking under his bright smile; no one understood the weight of distress and disappointment he hid behind his humour; and no one was included in the silent anguish he shouldered over the trauma he witnessed in his first responder role with his quick verbal dismissal of its impact. We did not have knowledge of the compounding effect that farmers face while working in isolation and in dealing with more and more administration requirements from off-farm agencies. We were unaware of the lingering memories and images that can haunt those who put the lives of others first in their role of fire fighters and first responders.

In hindsight, we all can see the dots, and can even connect some of them, but while the dots were being placed on the day-to-day journey of farming and family life, no one recognized anything more than the stress and weight of that day. No one knew enough to add up the excess of everyday stress and turmoil to see the incremental mountain that was bearing down on Dalles’ shoulders.

Our Journey Forward

Our family was crushed with the reality of facing life without Dalles; without his tenacious love, without his endless devotion to others, his wit and dry humour, and his intentional listening ear. Yet over the past months God has given us clarity that this tragedy can be a catalyst to serve others in need and our loss can be partially filled by meeting others on their journey through life’s valleys. In our loss we discovered just how many people are affected with mental health struggles and the staggering statistics of anxiety and stress and suicide in the farming and first responder communities. We felt compelled to find a way to come along side those who are suffering in this way and to alleviate the risk of this type of tragedy striking other families. We are working on setting up a charity called Three Oaks Cabin which will provide free accommodations at the log cabin we plan to build in a woodlot on our property. A safe place surrounded by nature where guests have opportunity to reorient and refocus on relationships and life goals. The charity will also facilitate access to various forms of mental health care for guests while at the cabin and follow up care.

Our mental and emotional dimensions are beautiful, intricate and dynamic segments of what makes us human. Caring intentionally for those parts of ourselves is a precious gift we can give ourselves to live well, and a gift which ripples out to benefit the lives of our loved ones and our communities. If others can be blessed in this way, our family’s ashes will contain beauty and our ruins offer hope, and that will be our joy and healing.

Thank you to Diane Bergsma for sharing her family’s story.
To learn more about Three Oaks Cabin and how you can contribute, visit:
Web: www.threeoakscabin.com
Instagram: @3oakscabin
Facebook: Three Oaks Cabin
🌍🌱 "On Earth Day and every day, let's remember: nurturing the land also nurtures the soul. Farming isn't just about crops; it's about cultivating mental well-being, one seed at a time." 🌾💚 #EarthDay #FarmersMentalHealth #GrowWithCare #nfmha #farmermentalhealth #agmentalhealth ... See MoreSee Less
🌱🤝As you may have noticed, on our social media, April is National Volunteer Month! A big shoutout to all the volunteers supporting farmers' mental health and well-being. Your efforts make a difference, helping to cultivate resilience and community in agriculture. Let's continue to grow together and support one an#NationalVolunteerMonthn#farmersmentalhealthn#communitysupporti#nfmhalliancem#nationalfarmersmentalhealthalliancet#nfmhan#farmermentalhealthn#agmorethaneverr#AgMentalHealthntalhealth ... See MoreSee Less
Grande Prairie’s Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention and Northwestern Polytechnic’s office of Applied Research & Innovation are hosting a Mental Health Summit on May 6th & 7th! We are honoured to be leading some workshops at this summit:-Protecting Your Greatest Assets -Leadership (Becoming a level 5 leader/ Team Building and Morale Boosting)-Farm Succession and CommunicationWe would love to meet you there!@sprevent @northwestern_polytechnic#nfmha #nfmhalliance#farmersupportfarmers #farmstrong #farmermentalhealth #farmerwellness #agmentalhealth #farmfamily #agmorethanever #ruralrooted #ruralwellbeing #therapistsofinstagram #socialworkersofinstagram #supportoneanother ... See MoreSee Less
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