Cattle ranching is in the blood of the Marr family. The third-generation ranchers manage 300 head of cattle across 2,500 acres two miles from Twin Butte, Alberta, just a stone’s throw from Waterton Lakes National Park.
Third generation ranchers Blaine and Mary-Ann manage the day-to-day business of the ranch. Their two children, Wacey and Gina, represent the hopeful fourth generation. For Blaine, he’s as excited about the future as he is about the ranch’s storied 118-year history.
“To me, that’s a real accomplishment—that our family’s been able to go this long and hang onto the land and keep doing what we’re doing,” he says. The biggest change he’s seen, and benefited from, is the mechanization of cattle ranching. “I think of the work that my father and grandfather did, how hard it was with cattle and horses [without] mechanized machinery. The hours they put in to get [things] done, only takes us a couple hours to do. It’s unbelievable.”
A changing landscape
Today, Blaine labels urban growth, rising land values and various environmental regulations as the biggest pressures YU faces and will likely need to monitor. However, the family takes it as a positive challenge to rise up and be the best ranchers they can be each day.
“Our work is about putting food on the table, but really, it’s also about looking after animals. I always think the number one thing is first, our family, and then our cows, horses, and the landscape and really preserving what’s here. We leave it pretty natural,” says Mary-Ann, adding that visitors’ interactions with the ranch underscore the industry’s positive reputation. “People love to come down here and look at it, and I’m glad they do, because I think that’s a really important thing.”
Blaine confirms his wife’s sentiments and adds in how the cows play a role in the ranch’s success and routinely contribute to area conservation.
“With livestock grazing, it’s pretty important to keep the fuel load down in fire-prone areas. With the Kenow fire, there was a lot of old brush and the area was never logged. When the fire got onto agricultural land, it slowed down because it is routinely grazed. Once the fire left the national park, firefighters were able to get ahead of it,” he says.
As they maintain the ranch and continue to raise healthy, sustainable beef for hungry consumers, the Marrs believe that their operation is part and parcel of the Alberta story, the same way that ATB has been integral to the Marrs’ story for more than 30 years.
A bank that “gets” agriculture
Always daring to be different, ATB seeks out and employs people who are passionate about banking, and combine that passion with a love of agriculture. For Blaine, that was evident from the start.
“ATB found managers who understand what a bred cow is versus a bred heifer. There was no need to sit down and explain that to them. They were with you. They knew exactly what you were talking about,” says Blaine, adding that the bank’s success is important from a local perspective, as well. “We see so much global buy up—conglomeration of monopolies—and it’s really nice to know [you can deal with] a bank like ATB … they’re very active and important to this province and our rural economy.”
Mary-Ann affirms ATB’s pivotal role in the province. “They really back the rural people and they give back to the rural communities. They’re very good about helping other Albertans.”
With the help ATB has provided to Blaine and Mary-Ann, the couple hope to help their children too, and pass the ranch on to them one day. It would spur on a fourth generation of Marrs to work and keep a pristine and important area of Alberta.
“Our son and daughter are both are very interested in agriculture and cattle ranching. They want to do it, and I think that’s a success—we’ve raised them to be partners, and they want to continue it.”
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