Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More on the PCES Conference: Good news amid the bad

photo of Dylan and Colleen Biggs from TK Ranch website

While the general tenor of the Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference in Winnipeg was “things are bad and we’ve got to do better,” there were plenty of stories about people finding ways to “do better” by the prairie. There were the farmers and ranchers who are sustaining grassland habitat while growing food for the rest of us—people like Alberta’s Dylan and Colleen Biggs, who received an award at the banquet for their conservation efforts as ranchers (here they are receiving another award from Wildlife Habitat Canada.

Dylan and Colleen were among the first in Alberta to go back to offering grass-fed beef and have been strong advocates of environmentally responsible, grassland-sustaining livestock production. Applying Allan Savory’s Holistic Management principles, TK Ranch is a model that deserves our attention. Here is a page with some history of their interesting family.

moving the chicken pens on Sunrise Farm (photo from

Don Ruzicka of Sunrise Farm near Killam, Alberta, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Like the Biggs, Don and his wife Marie follow Holistic Management to provide organic animal products (poultry, beef, eggs, and pork) to a local market. Don is involved in his local watershed group and told a wonderful story about one of his management goals. When they started farming there were no meadowlarks on the land. Working with proper grazing practices for his particular land, it took eleven years, but the meadowlarks came back. “Demonstrating to consumers the importance of taking care of the land has become our priority.” He spoke of “romancing the consumer” and said that “biodiversity gives spirit to the land.”

The example of these producers is invaluable in seeding the land with successful and sustainable ways of growing food. What the rest of us need to do is support them and others like them by purchasing their produce. If there is hope for the prairie, it is in transforming the marketplace and consumer-producer relationship so that it rewards this kind of agriculture and discourages the extractive, short-sighted model that has been making the land unfit for meadowlarks and many other birds.


  1. Hi Trevor,

    I was just talking to a friend, Helene (french - "a len")Tremblay Boyko who was at your "wonderful" presentation in Preeceville on Thursday! (I was at my Grandma's funeral and couldn't make it. :( )

    She mentioned that she gave you our name as "grass-fed beef producers". So I just wanted to conntact you personally and as we might have some common values!
    We take a holistic approach in pasture raising beef pork, chickens, turkeys, eggs and a little raw milk,cheese,butter, etc My parents have sold their farm and moved on to ours to jointly raise, process and market the best quality natural farm foods ever! Part of this plan is to have our own on-farm inspected butcher shop - we hope to be operational by June. Last fall a few of us locals formed a Weston A Price Foundation Chapter here. It sounds like we may be forming some good connections with the Regina Chapter as we will be doing Food Buying Clubs in the cities. So that's it in a nutshell!
    If you want to check out our "work-in-progress" website here it is and our email is

    I'd love to hear from you if you find time!

  2. Hello Janeen:

    Yes, we had a nice talk on Thursday night--terrif people in Preeceville and area. Sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    I try to keep and update a list of grass-fed livestock producers in the province to give out to people and when I get a chance I will update it with your contact info and website. I looked on your site and saw that you are realy committed to grass-based agriculture which is terrific, but couldn't tell what kind of pasture you have--is it all seeded land or is some of it native grass? And when you say "holistic" do you mean Allan Savory's Holistic Management approach? Glad to hear you are finding ways to connect with consumers--I will do the little bit I can by spreading the word when I speak to groups about the plight of grassland birds.

    Thanks for your message and keep up the good work!

    Trevor H


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