By Connor Lynch
NORFOLK COUNTY — This year’s winner of the Beef Farmers of Ontario environmental stewardship award didn’t always have a hand in sustainable beef production. Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy of YU Ranch in Norfolk County were originally tobacco farmers.
“We had the luxury of being crushed by the tobacco industry, which gave us the chance to reinvent ourselves,” Bryan Gilvesy said.
The ranch, which they’ve owned for 37 years, made the transition from tobacco farming in 1993. Since then, they’ve built up a herd of 220 Texas Longhorns, raised on 350 acres. They’ve also been involved with the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program since 2008, allocating 150 acres for environmental protections such as nesting for wildlife, habitats for pollinators and cultivation of native grasses. Gilvesy became the ALUS executive director last May, when it separated from the Delta Waterfowl Foundation and went independent.
Gilvesy raises cattle on grass, relying “as much as possible on the sun for energy” (to grow the grass, although they also have a couple of solar panels).
The Gilvesy’s participate in sustainable agriculture in a number of ways, but Gilvesy said the No. 1 priority is protecting the water. “Everything is buffered back. We graze the cattle on the woodlot and pump water to them, keeping the vegetative cover between them and the water core,” said Gilvesy.