Bison, breathtaking backdrops, and wide open spaces.
Butcher Shop Manager Tyler Riddell and True Local Coordinator Nadine BenRabha recently had the pleasure of touring J2 Ranch in Canal Flats, BC. As part of our commitment to visit all of our True Local meat suppliers first hand, we were happy to talk with owner Susan Scott and manager, Richard Larson, and learn more about what they do. It was apparent that this cohesive team cares deeply about their ranch and their animals. Learn more in an interview with Susan and Richard below.
Who are the ranchers at J2?
Owner, Susan Scott, and manager, Richard Larson.
Where are you located?
In Canal Flats. Our ranch is bordered by the beautiful Kootenay River.
What do you grow?
We raise local humane meat. We supply the Kootenay Co-op with Bison and Wagyu Beef.
We are one of the only places in the Kootenays who raise full size Bison. They are far less domesticated than cattle and have to be managed under a game license. The Wagyu breed is also very unique, and is known for its highly marbled and tender meat.
We also raise Angus cattle for our farm shop and direct customers.
How would you describe your ranch?
We are a ranch that prides itself in raising our animals from the beginning to the end. All our animals are born and raised and finished on the ranch.
A lot of beef begins its life on a ranch, but then gets finished at a separate large feedlot operation. We really want our animals to have a good life, and by holding ourselves accountable for every stage of their lives we can ensure that they are always treated how we intend.
How long have you been ranching at J2?
Susan has owned J2 since 2000, and Richard has been the ranch manager for most of that time. Richard’s son also works for J2. Susan, Richard and Richard’s son’s family all have homes on the property.
Susan: “We joke that Richard is never allowed to leave. But in all seriousness, he and his family are indispensable and integral to this ranch.”
What motivated you to begin ranching?
Richard: “Ranching is in my blood. My Dad was a rancher too, and now my son works with me. We are a ranching family. I think the diversity and challenge drew me to this work. It is a knowledge filled profession; you have to know about so many different things and develop a wide variety of skills. I think everyone should be versatile, but not everyone’s job facilitates that. I certainly never get bored.”
Susan, laughing: “ You also never much of a break!”
Susan: “I was motivated to own a ranch because, agriculture has always been in my life. I grew up on a dairy farm, and during the time that I worked away from agriculture I really missed it. I just really love this lifestyle. I love being around the animals. I love the quiet. I’m also lucky that Richard does most of the hard work!”
What are some of your greatest joys?
Susan:” I could watch the animals all day. I love watching the young buffalo running laps. Cows just have so much character.”
Richard: “The animals are a joy for me too. They are so smart and interesting. People don’t realize that cows have friends, but they do. They have a whole society with hierarchy and generations of knowledge. When the cows go out on range they will head straight to their favourite grazing spots, showing their calves the same prime spots that their moms showed them.”
Susan: “We also both really enjoy the horse work. Most of the work, especially off the home farm, is done on horseback. We breed and raise our own horses.”
Richard: “Its true, I enjoy all of this,” motioning at the home farm paddocks, “but, being on the range on horseback is really golden. I love bringing the bulls home in the fall. They have to come home first, and we have to collect them from large open ranges. It is a challenging adventure.”
What are some of your greatest challenges?
Richard: “Finding enough time! Sometimes wearing so many hats can be challenging.”
Susan: “Also educating consumers. Helping them understand the difference of how our meat is raised.”
What is your vision for your ranch?
Susan: “Everything we raise we keep and sell from here. We want to keep that closed system of stewardship over our animals and our process.”
Richard: “We would also like to look at doing more processing here. We have added a farm shop and would like to get into curing and smoking meat. It is also a dream to have our own abattoir one day, so the animals never leave the ranch at all. Right now the animals do have to leave the ranch for their final ride to the nearest government inspected abattoir, but if we could build one here, the animals would never even have to make that journey.”
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
Susan: “I think it is better for the environment, both in terms of food miles and farming practices. Smaller producers tend to be more in-tune with their environment.”
Richard: “It’s true, we see global warming in real time. We experience drought and flooding first hand.”
Susan: “I also think that some people take for granted what it takes to raise their food…local helps connect people. When you buy things locally you can know your producers and know how your food was raised.”
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
Thank you for buying our products!