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Cows and Fish has launched something we call REAL Beef - Ranchers Enhancing Alberta’s Landscapes. The stories below are those of Alberta producers who meet the test of landscape health, often exceed the bar for stewardship and of consumers who value the actions, intents and commitments of producers to both feed them and sustain their farms and ranches with stewardship actions.

Out of the Shadows - By John Ross

John Ross, with his family, ranches in the dry mixed grass prairie east of Milk River. John is of a multi-generational ranching family whose roots precede the formation of the province of Alberta. Ranching sustainably in the arid grasslands of Alberta is habit, a function of years of experience and of survival. It is also about stewardship of water and of riparian areas, valuable assets in a dry land. "I fully believe in the whole environment and grassroots approach. We continue to ranch the old fashioned way - grazing the native prairie grass, using horses and raising cattle basically the way my great grandfather did. "

Home Sweet Home - By Wade Nelson
Highwood Valley Ranch is a fourth generation family ranch situated alonside the Highwood River in Alberta raising Red and Black Angus cattle. Wade and Jaimie Nelson and family work together stewarding the land and water, and producing high quality beef, with a strong connection to both the health of their land and community. "We go back to the basics. Provide good, well raised cattle field to plate. Run less cattle. Sell directly to the consumer. Provide specific cuts of beef. Control the entire value chain, from the animal and the hoof to the steak in the frying pan. In a phrase, make more from less."

Down South - By Vance Barritt
Vance and Brenda Barritt are working on a new venture, Earth Works Farm. And like any new venture, it comes with some big hopes and dreams, in this case centred around sustainability, the land and water, and community. "I can help - I want to preserve what is original and make better what is not; help trees and grasses of all sorts hold back the soil and wind, keeping the moisture from sinking through the sand; feeding the birds and the bees and the pigs and the chickens; feeding the cows and the geese and us."

Just Walk - By Leanne Elias
Language, ecological literacy and understanding can challenge sustainability. Communities of people, those in agriculture, science and even art, can come together to build their understanding by the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. "There's no problem so big that a good walk won't help to fix".

Solar Powered - By Lyle Voegtlin
Gramineae Red Angus, located near Tofield, Alberta is a 4th generation ranching operation set amid copses of aspen, pothole sloughs and Amisk Creek, which flows through the heart of the ranch. But Gramineae Red Angus is also set atop a source of energy desired by industry. Lyle's humour and wit encourages some thoughtful contemplation of agriculture as a way of life, and the connection to land that often ties us to place.

"It is true I don't have the power to keep a forced sale from changing my life, but I don't have to let the threat of it change how I care for the land."

How do I meet a farmer? - By Jill Cairns
Big or small, urban or rural, we are all part of a community. But is there a growing disconnect between urban and rural? Jill's story, along with her work in community development, past and present farm life and involvement in the local sustainable farming scene provide the right mix to address this question and the lack of understanding in our communities of agriculture. “After successfully developing a career in community development, it occurred to me, a better plan might be to move to a community and be a part of it.”

Legacy - By Bob Kidd
Kidd Bros. ranch, originally homesteaded in 1913, and located near Mayerthorpe, Alberta is home to Bob Kidd and his family. Bob tells the story of ranching as a business of generations. How his family before him carved out a living, called agriculture, when stewardship was just common sense. The challenges of agriculture have changed over the years, but stewardship of the land has not.

"My farming experience began with helping my father and two uncles. From them I learned a respect for the land and the value of working together. They opened my eyes to stewardship, they called it common sense."

How Will You Remember Me? - By Erin Butters
Butters Ranching Ltd is a commercial cow-calf ranch located northwest of Cochrane, alongside the Rocky Mountains and astride Robinson Creek which flows through the ranch. The ranch philosophy is to manage the land for the legacy to their children and grandchildren and the responsibility to maintain healthy, productive lands for society over economic considerations.

“I can't remember when I first felt connected to the land but I know that the close relationship we share with land, and water, cows and horses is something at the core of who I am. Caring for the land like my parents do translate into a fair bit of extra work, when more work was maybe not what we needed most.”

The Gift of the Grass - By Sean McGrath
Round Rock Ranching is a family-run cow-calf and yearling cattle ranch located in the Vermillion area. The McGrath family is dedicated to improving their local environment, to their benefit, the benefit of the community at large, and the benefit of future generations. The McGraths believe that they have a responsibility to engage the local and the global community and that they have a responsibility to work with the public to provide educational opportunities.

“I don’t know when or even how the grass became a part of me. There was no specific day that it happened, cows and life and everything else seem to revolve around grass at our place. People don’t notice grass like they do a tree or a mountain, but it is a visceral part of me. Grass is part of my guts.”

God’s Country - By Tony Bruder
Twin Butte Simmentals is a family-run purebred cattle ranch situated in south west corner of Alberta approximately 15 minutes away Waterton Lakes National Park. The Bruders are very active in the Drywood-Yarrow Conservation Partnership a local stewardship group focusing on watershed management and educational activities.

“What I’d like moving forward is for the consumer to be involved in the partnership on the land. This would mean the consumer being able to understand that for us to take good care of the animals, their food… I need to take good care of the land and all His creatures. Together the consumer and I would have an understanding – a commitment to seeing the bigger plan, being a partner with the land.”

I Want to Be Your Farmer - By Don Ruzicka
Sunrise Farm is an 800 acre mixed-farm in the Killam area that is holistically and organically managed by Don & Marie Ruzicka. The Ruzicka’s believe if the land is managed well, it will reflect on the health of the plant communities, resulting in healthy, nutritious and great tasting meats. The Ruzicka’s feel that “stewardship,” when practiced in partnership with organic farming methods, goes a long way toward satisfying the concern for the environment.

“With the knowledge, wisdom and patience of a number of people, I began the long journey back to restoring health to the land. With the same knowledge and wisdom, I believe the consumer is just as critical in sustaining the health of the land – and ultimately our rural communities.”

Sometimes Less is More…. - By Raymond and Diane Nadeau
The Nadeau Ranch is a cow-calf, back grounding ranch nestled in the foothills of the southern Porcupine Hills near Fort McLeod. The Nadeau’s have been managing their grass and water resources responsibly for several decades producing high quality beef and healthy landscapes.

“As we began to slow down our pace, use fewer inputs and improve water and pasture quality, we found that we had more, not less of everything. Now our family is rewarded with better health & quality of life, while producing wholesome natural food. We experience great fulfillment in working with nature, not against it.”

Call Me Crazy - By Holly LaBrie
Difficulty Ranch is a family-run cow-calf ranch located in Mountain View County. The La Brie’s have been growing as a family with Difficulty Ranch for over 5 years now. At the heart of the ranch and the family is Dogpound Creek, providing the LaBrie’s with a good place to enact their stewardship ethic.

“I am raising my children to grow up like I did… riding horses, chasing cows, playing in the creek and eating dirt. I don’t think this is crazy. The crazy part is hoping that my children can grow up to be small cow-calf producers too and not succumb to the big production farms and urban sprawl. The crazy part is hoping that the way we raise our beef and take care of our land has value to you.”

Swiss Chard & Shoes - By Brenda Schroeder
Brenda Schroeder tells a story from the consumer perspective. Brenda is a bright and caring individual who is committed to positive change at the community level. Brenda’s focus has continuously been on supporting leadership to allow for stronger relationships between individuals, communities, organisations and the environment.

“I used to be vegetarian but since moving home, the best meals I have had are beef roasts and pork loin. I have eaten them with an unrestrained appetite, with complete joy. The meal was an act of investment and not consumption. Why? Because I’ve met the people who grew the greens and have walked the farm where the pigs played. I trust the food, the farmers and I know that I am not taking from the environment and community, but supporting it. “

What People Are Saying About REAL Beef Stories:

“Although I practice buying local, as much as possible, I have never looked at it from the perspective of the producer. The digital stories made me want to support local food production because of the care and value these families placed on the land. I wanted to pay them for their stewardship of the land.”
-Monique Dietrich

Funding For REAL Beef by:

Government of Alberta's, Rural Community
Adaptation Grant Program,
W. Garfield Weston Foundation

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