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Talk about a 180.

Bill Uruski went from being an RCMP officer stationed in a busy Windsor, Ontario detachment to settling on a noisy gobble of a turkey farm in his home province of Manitoba.

Uruski’s career in the RCMP began in April 1962 when he left for training at the Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan. After nine months of rigorous training, the RCMP flew him to Windsor. And after just six weeks of uniformed general duties, he began working in plain clothes investigations.

He and another senior member, one of his mentors, worked on catching smugglers bringing cheap American goods across the border from Detroit, Michigan and not declaring them with Canadian customs. They also caught drug and car smugglers.

The transition to turkey farming, in 1967, was prompted by his mother and father in law’s offer for Uruski and his wife Elaine to become partners in their turkey farm near Arborg, 120 kilmetres north of Winnipeg.

After just three years of service, Uruski had been interviewed to become part of the RCMP’s Security and Intelligence Service. He says he knew that meant a transfer before he reached his fifth year of service. He was not keen on the prospect of perhaps moving to Toronto or Ottawa, especially since their daughter, Teresa was a busy toddler.

It was then that Bill and Elaine decided to take her parents up on their offer.

“Having decided to come back to the farm and become a turkey farmer meant that we would have to move our own belongings so we bought a corn truck from a farmer near Leamington, packed up whatever would fit in the truck and moved back to Manitoba,” he said.
“It was a big transition and quite a change. The camaraderie and contact with my co-workers, I did miss.”

“I felt a little lonely, but the farm kept us busy as we were also building a new home. Before I knew it, a year had gone by and the transition was complete.”

Life became even more busy with the arrival of two more children, a son, Barclay in 1968 and a second daughter, Angela, in 1972.

Uruski also pivoted again ,this time he ran for public office. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1969 and served as an MLA until 1990. During that time, he was a New Democratic cabinet minister for many portfolios including Auto Insurance, Municipal Affairs and Agriculture in the governments under Edward Schreyer and Howard Pawley.

“I would be in the legislature all week then home on the weekends cleaning turkey nests or helping with whatever needed to be done,” he said with a laugh.

“The kids were a great help around the farm. We were taking turns picking turkey eggs for the hatchery six times each day. Elaine would pack up the kids and their toys and bring them the quarter mile up the road to the barn. No daycare on the farm then.”
Soon their farm grew to produce 25,000 turkeys a year.

After his retirement from public life, Uruski served as a director and chair of the Manitoba Turkey Producers as well as a director with Turkey Farmers of Canada. In 2003, he represented the Poultry Welfare Coalition in a presentation to the Senate of Canada.

Now on the farm they are busy all year. Birds are raised to not only meet the market needs at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter but also further processed and fresh cut year round.

Sadly, last February, Uruski’s 400-foot turkey barn burnt to the ground when an electric “brooder” (a heated space to keep the young turkeys warm, dry and contained) short-circuited.

As they work to rebuild their farm, other producers have stepped forward to raise their quota of birds.

“We will be ready for full production this summer. By the end of July we will put some little birds in the new barn,” Uruski said optimistically.

He says policing and farming are similar in that you have to go with the flow as things change.

“What I learned is that in looking after your farm and flock, situations arise that set you back – weather, markets, losses of birds – but you persevere and don’t quit when you encounter a setback,” he said.

“As in investigations, you encounter misleading or missing information but you double down and keep digging to get at the facts. (It’s about) staying focused, being determined in dealing with changing situations.”

So this year, as you tuck into your Christmas dinner, you can thank a turkey farmer like Const. (Ret’d) Bill Uruski.

Are you looking for information about transition from service and thinking of a new career?

VAC can help.

Date published: 2023-12-21

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