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Sean Butler and Genevieve LeGal-Leblanc have been involved in farming for many years. Sean has worked on several small farms across Canada, while Genevieve ran her own urban-based organic vegetable CSA after studying agriculture and international development. But in 2012, the pair decided to purchase their 154-acre property, Ferme et Forêt (Farm and Forest), in the rolling hills near Wakefield, Quebec.
Owen and Neila Nelsen raise beef cattle on 840-acres of improved pasture at Full Nelsen Farms in Vegreville, Alberta. The couple both grew up on farms in Alberta: Neila on a federal cattle research center in the southern part of the province, and Owen on a family farm in the north.
Leonard Pigott was born and raised on a diversified farm. He went away to university and worked as livestock specialist with the government for many years, before beginning his own farm in 2002. Now he puts his knowledge as a trained educator in Holistic Management into practice on a 2,200-acre ranch in Dysart, Saskatchewan, that he calls Triple H Beef. Leonard explains that, “The ‘H’s’ refer to healthy bodies, holistic living, and healing the land,” and believes that these three objectives go hand-in-hand: “If the land isn’t healthy, we don’t have anything.”
In 1909, Don Ruzicka’s great-grandparents moved to Alberta from Fairdale, North Dakota, and purchased the land that would evolve into Ruzicka Sunrise Farm. Don and his wife, Marie, moved to the farm in 1983, and farmed conventionally until 1995. But after taking a course in holistic management they began to manage the farm using holistic principles, working in harmony with nature. The farm was certified organic in 2000. Marie suggested AWA certification after they began receiving the AWA Newsletter four years ago. “Since we were already doing some of the things that are required by AWA, we decided to take the next step,” Don explains. In the end, it was the certification of their good friends Colleen and Dylan at TK Ranch that gave them the nudge they needed to join the AWA program. Today, all of their AWA-certified beef cattle are raised on pasture and forage and dually certified as Animal Welfare Approved Grassfed—the first food label in Canada which guarantees that food products marked as grassfed come from animals that are fed a 100% grass and forage diet and raised outdoors on pasture or range for their entire lives. As Don puts it, “Rather than commodities, we now raise and grow ‘food.’”
Integrity Ranching is a family based operation originally founded in Patricia, Alberta. John Beasley grew up on an extensive family beef operation that encompassed 500 pure bred cows and 2,500 commercial cows. Adaptable and open minded in their approach to ranching, John and Kelsey originally purchased their first North Country Cheviot sheep to train stock dogs, but they soon recognized the opportunity in having a diversity of livestock and a high welfare, pasture-based management approach.
Yves Saint-Vincent’s father wanted him to follow in his own footsteps and become a firefighter. But instead, Yves chose to follow in his grandfather’s footprints and began a conventional dairy and beef operation, in 1958. However, after many years of conventional production, Yves woke one day and said, “Enough!” He sold his herd and spent two years traveling the world with his wife, Diane, visiting farms in many countries and, as Yves says, “learning from intelligent farmers, raising animals differently.”
For over 50 years, TK Ranch has been committed to taking care of the wild prairie and producing quality beef for Albertans. Situated about a three-hour drive southeast of Edmonton, 10,000-acre TK Ranch is located in the endangered northern fescue grasslands of east-central Alberta. Thomas Koehler Biggs established TK Ranch back in 1956; today, three generations live, work, and raise Animal Welfare Approved grassfed beef cattle on the ranch.
Hans Osthaus immigrated to Canada with his wife and children in 1985 from Germany where they had raised dairy cattle. The couple again established a dairy and raised their four children in Markdale, Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. The region isn’t suited to growing produce, but the steep, hilly and rocky landscape of Grey County lends itself well to pasture-grazing livestock.
Anna-Maria Nicolov raises Animal Welfare Approved laying hens at Pine Hill Farm in Hemmingford, Quebec. Over the last ten years organic egg production has been one of Pine Hill’s main focuses along with learning to make their own hay, a satisfying and cost saving activity for the farm.
Natalie Chartier and Justin Audet purchased Le Biscornu farm in October 2004. The 350-acre farm is situated about five miles south of Rimouski, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, and provides pasture and hay for their flock of purebred Icelandic sheep. “The land is very hilly, making it ideally suited for grazing livestock,” says Natalie.