2022 Marj Atkins Award Presentation

Ev & Marylee Simanton

Simantons Receive Marj Atkins Award

By Bonnie Cooper

Earning the Marj Atkins Achievement Award at this year’s Alberta Holstein Branch Annual Meeting was Everett and Marylee Simanton of Crestomere Holsteins, Ponoka, AB, the down-to-earth, respected couple whose lifetime of work with youth and dedication to the Alberta Holstein industry has been a labour of love. 

Ev Simanton didn’t come from a family with a lot of purebred business knowledge. In fact, it wasn’t until Ev joined 4-H in 1963 that the farm’s first purebred Holsteins were purchased. But he loved the Holstein cow and dreamt of having a highly regarded purebred herd. Ev took over the family farm in 1971.

He and Marylee married in 1981. “Marj and Norm Atkins basically helped us start breeding better cattle by letting us purchase older cows from their Continental herd at Leduc for very reasonable prices,” says Marylee.

Through hard work and determination, the Simantons soon achieved success, both in the barn and at the shows. In 1993, they acquired the calf, ACME STAR LILY EX-2E-8*. Lily became a three-time Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion (1997-98-99), World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion (1998) and multiple All-Canadian and All-American winner for Simantons and later partners Continental Holsteins and Alta Genetics. “Not being raised around dairy cattle or belonging to 4-H,” says Marylee, “I remember sitting at cow shows and watching fitters so I could learn and then help Ev fit our cattle. I’m humbly proud to say I fit Lily at the first shows she won!”

A long line of other animals have garnered show ribbons and/or become brood cows for the Simantons like CRESTOMERE BROKER LISA VG-87-2* (Reserve All-Canadian 4-H Heifer Calf and Reserve All-American Winter Calf in 1995); the three-generation line of WEEBERLAC TRIUMPH VICKI VG-88, CRASDALE DUNDEE VICTORY EX-92-3E-12* and CRESTOMERE LOU VICTORIA EX-94-2E-4*; CRESTOMERE GIBSON LOTTERY EX-90-3E; and daughters of RIETBEN BAXTER CECELIA EX-94-15*.

Named Alberta Holstein Breeder of the Year three times, Ev and Marylee were joined on this journey by their three children: Jessica (husband Michael Lovich, Lovholm Holsteins, SK); Sandra (husband Jon Kingdon, Charlyn Farms, ON); and Lee (wife Lisa), now part of Crestomere where they milk 100 cows with two robots in a free-stall barn. “Seeing our kids achieve in 4-H was very special to us, especially to Ev for whom seeing his kids’ names engraved on the Provincial Dairy 4-H Trophy meant a lot. And now to see them all involved and contributing to the dairy business is gratifying,” comments Marylee.

Both Ev and Marylee have given generously of their time to the Holstein industry, community and church. They are active members of the Central Alberta Holstein Club where Ev was a Director and President. He has also been an Alberta Branch Director and member of the Westerner Dairy Showcase Dairy Committee.

But it is with youth that the Simantons have made their greatest contributions. They both coached baseball and hockey. Marylee was very involved in the Ponoka Figure Skating Club and one year sewed 132 costumes. They have hosted over 30 Agricultural International Exchange students on their farm.

“I love the 4-H motto, ‘Learn to Do by Doing’, and the 4-H pledge,” says Marylee, a 4-H leader for many years. “The best way to exemplify that pledge, as a leader, was to teach kids everything we had learned and then help and encourage them. I look at people like Andrew Wildeboer, Markus Hehli, Sarah Congdon and Nancy Friesen and their accomplishments in the dairy industry and maybe in some small way it started through our local 4-H clubs.” She continues, “I don’t know how many years I volunteered in 4-H, that wasn’t important. I just wanted to contribute to a world and industry that afforded Ev and I a decent living to raise our family. And Ev was always there in the background too working his butt off. Once he hauled 21 calves to the Olds Show just so every 4-H member could have a Group of Three. We always had young people travelwith us to the various Holstein shows. We loved it.…the cattle, the work, the excitement, anticipation and the humour of the young.”

Marylee served on the Western Canadian Classic (WCC) Board for 17 years. “Great memories were made, and not always to do with the cattle,” she laughs. “It is gratifying though to think that as leaders we may have had a positive influence on someone participating in WCC. Achieving, failing, trying again and then finally achieving are confidence builders. Confidence builds character and strength. As leaders, our job is to be there to pick them upand give them the support to try again.”

The Simantons are the seventh recipient of the Marj Atkins Award established in 2013. As Ev gratefully says, “We appreciate this award, perhaps more than any other, because it was a surprise to be recognized for something we loved doing…helping others, particularly youth…in honour of a lady, mentor and friend Marj Atkins. We are humbled.”

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