TheRegional / South Peace News
Blackhurst Ranch in the High Prairie region has received the 2022 BMO Farm Family Award for Big Lakes County.
George Blackhurst and his brother, Ted Blackhurst, accepted the award Nov. 11 in Edmonton at the Farm Fair International Conference.
Both brothers and their families have been committed to agriculture, the community and the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo for decades.
Located in the Prairie Echo community north of High Prairie, the ranch features 1,800 head of commercial beef mother cows on 31 quarters and nine quarters of lease land.
“It is great to be recognized for something you put your heart into every day,” George and Ted write in a joint statement.
The Blackhurst family has been ranching since 1980 when they started with 100 head of cows.
The family has fulfilled their hopes to expand their cattle operation and handing it down to George and Kathy’s three sons: Taylor, Chase and Brett, who are now working full time on the ranch.
Ted and Leigh Blackhurt’s daughter, Gillian, also likes to be involved as much as possible, riding over the summer and helping with cattle when not at school.
“As our children were born and raised here, it is important to plant roots and support the community,” George and Ted say.
“We have made this our home and it’s important that we support it, especially youth programs.”
They say ranching is not a job.
“It is truly a way of life, not just for the Blackhurst family, but for all ranch families,” George and Ted say.
“Caring for the land, as well as the livestock, is always important as it ensures it will be there for generations to come.”
Both families dug roots in the community by getting active as long-standing volunteers in the local rodeo and in the High Prairie provincial grazing reserve, the nomination states.
For 50 years, farm families from northern and central Alberta communities have been recognized as the recipients of the Farm Family Award.
Agricultural Service Boards in northern and central Alberta select outstanding families who best represent values of the family farm within their rural community.
The award honours both their farming business practices and community involvement.
Each recipient receives a commemorative gate sign and are honoured at the Farm Family Awards Gala.
The Blackhurst Ranch family farm was established in 1980 by Robert and Annie Blackhurst and their six children: George, Ted, Kathy, Bette, Rose, and Joy, the nomination states.
The family moved north from the Alder Flats area looking to expand the scope of their ranching operations. George and Ted, with the guiding hand of their father, established Blackhurst Ranch Ltd. in 1993.
The two sons started families of their own. George met Kathy Robinson and Ted met Leigh Turcotte and the two families took over the Blackhurst Ranch. They run their operation firmly from the saddle having oriented their operation to keep as much of the management as possible on horseback.
Their rotational strategies, calving timing, winter feeding, and sales strategies all seek to trim out as much mechanical dependency as possible and to utilize their family strength in the saddle.
In time, both couples further put in roots with all their children born in the county.
With children added to the mix, both couples expanded their community involvement into minor sports and 4-H activities.
The ranch also contributes to local governance through involvement with the Big Lakes County agricultural advisory committee.
In addition to their working and volunteer contributions to the community as ranchers, both Kathy and Leigh contribute their personal skill sets into the workforce of High Prairie. Kathy works in materials management at the High Prairie Health Complex and Leigh works as the librarian at St. Andrew’s school.
The Blackhurst Ranch was one of 15 farms in northern and central Alberta recognized.
Gerrit and Laurelle Monster, of the Grimshaw area, won the award for the County of Northern Lights.
Michael and Melody Vavrek won the award for the County of Grande Prairie.
Original Published December 2, 2022