There is a ranch just west of the Canyonview Bridge that may be redefining agri-tourism with their side hill field of pigs next to the highway. Travellers get a great view of piglets racing across the hillside.
“You don’t see pigs outside nowadays,” Brandon “Pete” Blaine explained. “You will never see baby pigs outside. They are always in a controlled environment and not out in Mother Nature.”
Pete and Shauna Blaine run Phoenix Cattle Company from their 36-hectare (88-acre) homestead.
They moved onto the property in 2009 with 40 head of cattle. Since then they’ve brought 36 ewes and 15 sows into production. Those sows produce up to 250 babies a year to bring income to the family farm and amusement to those passing by on the highway.
“I keep saying we’d be rich if we could just put a drop box by the highway for all the people who stop to watch the pigs,” said Shauna.
Out of necessity they use a lot more land these days than the 36 hectares.
“We’ve recently bought another cow herd so we’ve got 130,” said Pete. So they rent pasture, mostly private, from other landowners to range the cattle.
They also lease 150 acres of irrigated hay land down in Kettle Valley and another 140 acres by the Kettle River Provincial Park that they are putting into grain.
They put in a large greenhouse beside the house a few years ago. Work done in the greenhouse during calving and lambing season helps bring in some cash flow later in the year.
“It’s just another thing to add to the farm that makes a little bit of money,” says Shauna. “We try to produce our own feed.”.
This is exactly what they are doing with the grain crop too. “We are doing it for our own use,” explains Pete. “Because it takes a lot of grain to feed those pigs for a year.” Any surplus that they can sell will be a little bit more of that little bit more Shauna was talking about.
Phoenix Cattle Company sells at the farm gate – eggs, lamb, pork and some beef.
There aren’t many young families in farming these days. “Jobs nowadays are more directed to the computer or indoors. Our society seems to have gotten away from ‘farm’ work.”
But these folks have it in their blood. Pete grew up on a farm – the son of Lincoln and Patsy Blaine. Shauna grew up in Grand Forks but loved to visit her grandparents farm in Christian Valley. Both Pete and Shauna were in 4-H – Shauna in the horse club and Pete did 11 years of beef 4-H.
Which brings us to the other prize-winning crop that is produced on this hillside – the kids.
Brendyn, the eldest, has just finished his second year of agricultural management at Olds College in Alberta. Brianna is next in line. She completed her grad requirements at BCSS a semester early and, after working at CVS in Rock Creek for a few months, she’s off to Alberta for a summer job before she follows Brendyn to Olds this fall – again studying agricultural management.
Alec and Rylonn are the next two. Rylonn wrote to Santa last year and asked for a farm and he seems to have it in his head that Santa came through for him, because he recently informed everyone that he’s never moving out.
“Alec – we are not sure about him – what his niche is yet,” says Shauna. “He is definitely an outdoor enthusiast. Loves camping, fishing, hunting, trying to make anything out of sticks and such. He is also really great with kids younger than himself. He may not end up being a rancher but definitely something to do with the outdoors.”
The youngest is Savanna, who like any girl in Grade 3 loves horses. She’s blessed because, if she keeps wits about her and her eyes open, she’ll be able to benefit from the experience, wisdom and mistakes of her siblings who’ve come before her.
The 4-H program is huge on the ranch. Though Savanna is not quite old enough, she’s taking on an open lamb and a heifer this year. “So she’s still doing stuff even though she’s not quite old enough to be in the club,” her mother said proudly.
Alec and Rylonn each have a steer and a heifer this year – following in the footsteps of Brendyn and Brianna who both participated to the max in 4-H.
Phoenix Cattle Company is a modern day family farm – where traditional values like hard work and doing the job right are making the operation better every year.
You can connect with them at 250-446-2070.
Leave a message, they’re probably out doing chores.