Just six weeks after nabbing a provincial award from the Alberta Beef Producers, the Wray Ranch near Irricana has another accolade to boast of, after receiving the 2023 Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA).
The award is given out annually by the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) and has been given to beef producers since 1996 in recognition of their stewardship efforts.
Owners of the ranch, Doug and Linda Wray, alongside their nephew Tim Wray and his wife Joanne, received the award through their work on enhancing soil health and reducing erosion. The Wray Ranch was one of seven regional nominees scattered throughout Canada.
Doug said he has been paying attention to the award for the past 27 years, and feels it highlights the positive impact certain ranches are having on the environment. He added receiving the award shows the Wray Ranch is moving in the right direction.
“It’s a program that really is a vector for the beef industry to tell a very positive story and to now be included in that positive story is pretty gratifying and quite an honour,” he said. “It’s great to have your industry’s confirmation that you were doing the right thing for the environment. Kind of received a stamp of approval.”
According to a CCA press release, the Rocky View County-based ranch had major changes done back in 1998, when 1,000 acres of cropland were adapted into high-legume perennial pastures that allowed for grazing to take place year-round.
The Wray family is committed to sustainable practices, often checking levels of soil organic matter to make sure their land remains healthy. The press release states the ranch will adjust herd sizes and rent or custom graze extra pastures as a means to maintain the health of their pastureland.
“The Wrays’ commitment to soil health is evident through conservation tillage, pasture management, bale grazing, and swath grazing, resulting in significant improvements such as increased soil organic matter and reduced erosion,” the press release stated. Their dedication extends beyond the ranch, as they actively share their expertise and experience with the broader community through mentoring programs, speaking engagements, on-farm trials, and volunteering efforts.”
After hearing the news they had won the award, Doug said he thought about all the people who helped the family get to this point. He said the knowledge they received from others allowed them to implement sustainable practices on their land.
“The conversations, the mentors, the workshops, all those people who have contributed in some way along the way to our learning and sharing and started developing the skills we needed and the knowledge we needed to get this done,” he said. “We share this with quite a group of associates and peers that have all been contributing to our efforts in their own way.”
According to the CCA, the award was presented in person by CCA Environment Committee Co-Chair Mike Duguid, and Livestock and Poultry with MNP National Leader Kelleen Tait. The award was handed out at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC).
“The Wrays fully embrace what it means to be stewards of the land and set a strong example of the care that cattle producers from across Canada take to ensure that the land is left in better condition for the next generation,” said Duguid in a statement. “Wray Ranch is a testament to how responsible farming practices can go hand in hand with success and their importance to navigating challenging drought years. Congratulations to all nominees for their outstanding dedication to environmental stewardship and setting a remarkable example for sustainable farming practices across Canada.”