Bob Lowe believes it’s Canada’s young people who will lead an innovative and sustainable cattle industry in the future. That’s why the chair of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Foundation and his fellow board members are excited for the foundation to be the founding donor of a new youth program at W.A. Ranches at the University of Calgary.
A founding gift of $150,000 from the Canadian Cattlemen's Foundation will be used to launch a new youth development and outreach program at W.A. Ranches, to help attract bright young minds to an industry that is a key economic driver for Alberta and Canada.
“This partnership will help grow awareness and understanding of what is required to sustainably grow and raise food. We want young people to experience first-hand how our food finds its way to a supermarket, a restaurant, or a plate," says Lowe.
Bridging the urban/rural divide
W.A. Ranches was donated to the University of Calgary in 2018 by the Anderson and Chisholm families, along with the ranch’s 1,000 head of Angus cows. Located near Cochrane, Alberta, the ranch is home to the university’s beef research and extension program and provides hands-on experience to the university’s veterinary students.
“This is a wonderful donation. It brings together one of the key visions of the donours of W.A. Ranches, Wynne Chisholm and her father Jack Anderson,” says Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD, director of W.A. Ranches and the Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. “That is to work with youth and bridge the urban/rural divide that exists, where people from the city may not understand where their food comes from or how it’s produced or just how much care and effort goes into raising animals.”
“W.A. Ranches is a very special place,” adds Lowe. “I think it was Ed (Pajor) who coined the phrase ‘a ranch of opportunities’, and the opportunity here is absolutely huge for us to work together to showcase the cattle industry and the importance to the environment to have grazing animals on the grasslands.”
Lowe wants to start a conversation among young people that challenges global movements to eliminate animal agriculture. “You can’t paint the whole world with one brush. Canada’s grasslands wouldn’t be grasslands without the cattle industry. Converting resources into something that people can eat is a very important thing in the world and this program is one link that will really help us move the whole thing forward.”
Quality time at the ranch
The first step for Pajor will be hiring a coordinator to develop University of Calgary youth-based programs and opportunities in areas such as animal health and welfare, wildlife interactions, regenerative agriculture, biodiversity and emerging technologies.
“We’ll be able to create a wide range of hands-on and virtual experiences that will develop future industry leaders and educate young people about where their food comes from. This is an exciting opportunity to encourage urban and rural youth who are interested in the ag sector – from elementary through university, attracting and encouraging a new generation to the beef industry.”
Along with shorter visits and workshops, Pajor envisions developing more immersive experiences, where young people from across Canada spend extended periods of time at the ranch.
“It’s not just ‘I went for a field trip to the ranch one day.’ I would like some of our programs to be a much deeper experience,” says Pajor. “This may involve multiple visits, so youth can appreciate the care involved with raising animals, understand the complexities of the beef production cycle, and see the career opportunities available in the beef industry and agriculture.”