By Kristina Barnes, Communications Manager, Western Events & Agriculture, Calgary Stampede
Breathtaking views and perfect late summer weather greeted nearly 500 guests at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch during this August’s Open Farm Days. For the first time since the historic property was gifted to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012, the OH Ranch opened its doors to the public for this unique event.
“I wanted to see it in the worst way” said Calgary Stampede volunteer alumnus Kevin Doyle, after taking the tour. “This country is one and a quarter steps from heaven. It really is special.” Those sentiments were echoed by many who took the opportunity to stop in for a visit. Some, like Doyle, have ties to the Calgary Stampede as volunteers or employees. Others curious about the OH Ranch came from as close by as Longview, Alberta to as far away as the Netherlands to see it for themselves.
From the inside of the historic Ings Cabin, to the inner workings of the current cow-calf operation, there was a lot for guests to experience and learn about. OH Ranch manager Ken Pigeon and foreman Robert Lippert spent the day sharing their knowledge about cattle and land management. For men who often spend their days riding the rolling hills alone on horseback, all the attention was a bit unusual and unexpected. “I was surprised by the numbers,” Pigeon said following the event. He then grinned and added he’d also been given a few tips from visiting ranchers who weren’t shy about offering up new ideas. “I thought it was an awesome day with information going both ways.”
A high point for some visitors came mid-way though the afternoon when a bear ambled through a field not far from where everyone was gathered. Likely just heading back from a fishing trip at the river, the bear unknowing provided a perfect demonstration of how the land provides habitat for a wide variety of species. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) calls efforts at the OH Ranch a ‘great example of how conservation should happen.’ A representative from the NCC was on hand to talk about the care being taken to protect the native grass and rangeland. John Adset of Pincher Creek, Alberta says after learning all about the OH Ranch that’s what stood out the most to him. “I think it’s wonderful. I like the idea of sustaining the land.” He adds, “It’s nice to have pristine ranchland maintained, or grassland even as it was before the ranches started.”
Calgary Stampede volunteer Rosemary Stuart shared similar thoughts at the end of her visit.“It’s about the history and going back to the roots,” she said “I’m so pleased about the conservation idea behind the whole thing. I’m really impressed, and it’s very exciting to know it will be here forever.”