Story by Chloe Brown, Ontariofresh.ca Program Coordinator
“We’re not a value chain, we’re partners. We share the bounty.” – Bryan Gilvesy, Y U Ranch
Ontario’s first Local Food Week ran from June 2 to 8 this year, urging Ontarians to get to know where their food comes from and how important a sustainable local food system is to our health, communities, and environment. To celebrate, the Ontariofresh.ca team wanted to do more than just thank a farmer: we wanted to visit one! Enter Y U Ranch, a grass-fed beef farm located in picturesque Norfolk County.
Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy have owned their farm since 1979, starting off as conventional tobacco growers. In an effort to gain control of their lives and bring resilience to their home–and to their land–they decided to start raising grass-fed Texas Longhorn cattle. Fifteen years and two kids later, they have developed a truly inspirational model of a farm, incorporating environmental principles and community partnerships into their everyday life.
A river running through Y U Ranch's woods
Our tour started off with a walk through the forest on their property. As Bryan noted, “We look at the woods as part of the operation.” He explained that a healthy forest offers protection to pollinators and endangered species in the area. Conservation is a large part of the management of Y U Ranch, with the ranch being an official demonstration site for the Norfolk Alternative Land Use Service (ALUS) project. ALUS is a community-driven program that provides resources to farmers using environmental stewardship practices on their farm, recognizing farmers as significant environmental managers. As Bryan put it, “We’re developing a culture of care.” Walking around the woods and farmland, you can see the care the Gilvesy’s put into protecting forest, grassland (restoring native Tallgrass Prairie), pollinator habitats, biodiversity, and species at risk.
Y U Ranch's numerous accolades; Bryan Gilvesy explaining the diversity of grasses on site
Sustainability does not just mean environmental protection at Y U Ranch, but the enhanced economic viability and quality of life of farmers and society as a whole. When asked about the success of the farm, Bryan attributed it to hard work, changing consumer energy, and to the partnerships he has made along the way, specifically with ALUS and Sustain Ontario (of which he is Co-Chair). After the forest, we walked around the diverse fields of the farm–from Tallgrass Prairie to Alfalfa–and saw various conservation practices put into practice, like pollinator hedgerows and birdhouses. Last, but certainly not least, we saw the Texas Longhorns up close. You can check out our full Facebook album by clicking here!
A group of Texas Longhorns
Our day at Y U Ranch was a day to remember, filled with birds, fields, rivers, and magestic long-horned cows. It is amazing to see an example of holistic farming and how community partnerships can lead to environmental and economic sustainability. The cherry on top? Ending the day with a tasting of the Gilvesy’s delicious beef: I ate a full pound alone! If you want to try some yourself (which we highly recommend), you can buy their beef straight from the farm or at a local restaurant near you.
Delicious, grass-fed beef from the Ranch
Remember to make every week local food week and visit a local farm!