Falling in love is everyone’s favourite story. At Valentines’ all sweethearts reflect on ‘that moment’ that changed their lives forever. My favourite love story? — one of them has to be that of Cowgirl meets Cowboy: Jill and Cole Harvie of Harvie Ranching in Olds Alberta. With only 2% of the Canadian population growing food for us all, it’s a bit of a mystery of how farm kids actually ‘get farming’. Being committed to the land and farm-life is typically based on a love-story – after all, farming is a life’s work and a career for a whole family, not an individual.
Here’s Jill and Cole’s story, as told by Jill during our on-ranch Canadian Living tour. And of course, with my scope on cooking, I always gravitate back to Love in the Kitchen – Spoiler Alert: Cole loves to cook.
Once upon a time, Jill was a tomboy growing up on a purebred Hereford farm east of Ottawa. She went to an urban school and had a keen interest in horses and beef 4-H. She dreamed of living ‘out West’ someday with a picture in her mind of cattle country – Alberta, where large herds were moved on horseback with a Rocky Mountain backdrop.
Jill and her family exhibited cattle all over Canada including the Toronto Royal Agricultural Winter fair every November. When Jill was 17 she met her future husband Cole at an annual junior cattle show called Bonanza that was held in PEI that year. Jill came home with a belt buckle for the Reserve Champion Bull but better yet, a crush on a red headed cowboy from Alberta.
First Impressions Jill had her eye on Cole being that he was a ‘real’ cowboy: good looking and wearing wrangler jeans and a cowboy hat with an air of confidence. Cole was busy socializing, working with his cattle and had not noticed Jill. (Joyce’s comment: Isn’t that always the way girls?)
In the Beginning A year later, Jill and Cole met up again at the Bonanza cattle show competition. Cole finally noticed Jill who had changed in the year since he had met her for the first time. ‘She had bloomed’ Cole recalls. They decided to stay in touch.
Love Grows Cole went to school in Dodge City Kansas and Jill to the University of Guelph for Animal Sciences. In 2004, Jill made a big move to the West to continue education at Olds Agricultural College for an Applied Degree in Agricultural Science and Business. Cole had graduated and Cole went back to manage the farm with his family. Jill and her sister looked Cole up and dropped into the ranch for a visit on their first day in the Olds area. Jill was moved by the kind hospitality of Cole and his family. And as farm kids do, they ‘farm toured’ in the pick-up truck, going through the fields of cattle. (Footnote: Jill was impressed with the cattle quality and impressive pedigrees – it’s how your smarts are judged ‘on farm’).
Moment of Truth One sunny day, Cole invited Jill out to help move cattle to new pasture for better grazing – on horseback of course. Jill recounts, ‘Cole was wearing a charming smile, blue plaid shirt and cowboy hat riding a stunning black horse named Rocky.’ They rode to the first pasture, brought together a group of 50 cows and calves who walked so peacefully up the side of the field. The moment Cole knocked Jill off her feet was when he took off like a lightning bolt across the field to go open the pasture gate. Jill had never seen anyone ride so fast through a big open field…’This was the West’, she thought, ‘big open blue sky and a fearless cowboy and his herd. ‘ Jill fell for him big time.
Love Story Continued There’s a reason Jill’s Twitter handle is @Brightpasture – from that day forward, Cole and Jill began their journey in life together, one pasture at a time. Ten years of marriage later, the Harvies have 2 young girls and a growing ranch that specializes in cattle breed stock that they sell world-wide. They’ve travelled to many countries including Australia and many parts of the USA, marketing their cattle and sharing learnings with other ranchers. They’ve even been asked to judge notable cattle shows in Sweden 2016!
Epilogue: Jill reflects: ‘Life on a ranch is hard work and takes incredible dedication but it is filled with moments that literally take your breath away – like seeing a new baby calf stand up moments after it’s born, to watching your child ride a horse for the first time.’
Jill’s Valentines note to Cole: ‘Every love story is beautiful and ours is my favorite.’ – Jill xoxox
Love in the Kitchen with Jill and Cole:
JOYCE: Can you remember the first beef meal you shared together (or that Cole or you cooked for one another). JILL: Cole is the cook in our home and I do remember that he made a New York Strip steak (a.k.a. Strip Loin) with steamed green beans and alfredo pasta. Delish!
JOYCE: Can you look through the recipes on our new website: www.canadabeef.ca and let me know what might be the first recipe that you (or Cole) want to try. JILL: The site looks amazing. We want to try this one!!
THE END: Have you got a on-farm Valentines love story to share? A short one can go in our comment box, or send a longer one to me (Joyce) at firstname.lastname@example.org