Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sheri Grant: A rancher’s photo album

at the Grant Ranch (all images copyrighted by and with
permission of Sherri Grant)
I spend a lot of time--some would say too much--talking about the forces that threaten the survival of Canada’s remaining native grassland, and a fair bit of my concern is based on a fear that those forces will make it harder for private ranching stewards to continue protecting the prairie.

(Not everyone would agree on what those forces are but here are the ones I would list: 1. the oil and gas industry, 2. agricultural policy that does not recognize the heritage and ecological values of native grassland, 3. economic pressures driving increased stocking rates; 4. ranchette development; 5. Privatization of public grasslands, 6. Miscommunication and division between rancher-stewards and scientists and conservationists, 7. the development of new crops that can be grown on marginal and sub-marginal lands, and 8. Lack of government funding for retaining range management specialists.)

The best cure for that worry is to talk to a rancher who pays attention to the birds and the plants on his ranch. These folks, and their culture of protecting the grass, form the linchpin of prairie conservation. If we expect the grass and its rare creatures to remain, the first job of our public policy on native grassland conservation should be to find ways to protect and support the kind of private management our best stewards provide. Government agencies and conservation groups simply do not have and will never have the resources to replace the stewardship role played by the many private cattle producers who know their land intimately and when and where and how much to graze.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Sherri Grant, who, with her husband Lynn and brother-in-law Dean, raises 1,600 head of cattle on more than 11,000 hectares of land near Val Marie, Saskatchewan. She had taken a couple of bird photos and wanted to confirm the identifications she had made. I replied and mentioned that I had interviewed Lynn many years ago for a CBC Ideas radio documentary I wrote on grassland birds.

Then, a week later this lovely shot of a grasshopper sparrow landed in my in-basket.
one of my favourite grassland birds--Sheri managed to catch the bit of green at the bend of its wing

This photo was clearly of a different order so I checked on Google and found her website . Turns out Sherri is a serious photographer and has a gallery of impressive images of flowers, landscapes and wildlife, all available for purchase online. That was when I wrote her again and asked if she would let me show some of her photos here on Grass Notes.

“First and foremost I am a rancher,” Sherri wrote in an email she sent, along with permission to borrow a few photos from her gallery, after returning from the Saskatchewan Stockgrowers Meeting in Swift Current earlier this week.

She says her passion for agriculture led her to become involved in agricultural education. She created a website of beef industry resources for teachers as well as the photographs and design for a children’s book, “Where Beef Comes From”.

Sherri took up photography when she heard complaints about the lack of beauty in her part of the province. She started by photographing local flowers on the native pastures where she lives and soon had a photographic collection of more than 70 species.

Here is a sampling of the photos she takes (click on any of them to see a larger version), but please pay a visit to Sherri’s website where she shares her images:

Calving time: Lynn out in the winter dawn light to help a calf in trouble

A bull snake, one of the reptiles found on native prairie

Gumbo evening-primrose (Oenothera caespitosa Nutt.), a flower that transforms
 from pink to white as it blooms by day

Smooth blue beardtongue (Pentstemon nitidus) one of the showiest of blooms
in the Frenchman River Valley

the future of prairie stewardship, heading for the buttes


  1. Hello Trevor
    Thank you for sharing Sherri’s beautiful images. They remind me of words that you wrote a while ago, that we have two different worlds in our prairie landscapes: a world of wide open spaces and endless horizons and the often neglected world of humble plants and critters that lay low above the ground. Sherri’s images bring us this hidden world in its full glory.


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