TK Ranch is located in the endangered Northern Fescue Grasslands of east-central Alberta, 26 kilometers south of Coronation and 55 kilometers north east of Hanna. It was started by Thomas Koehler Biggs in 1956 and today three generations live and work on TK Ranch.
For over 50 years TK Ranch has been committed to taking care of the wild prairie and producing quality beef for Albertans. But a lot of things have changed with our food system since TK Biggs moved to the remote grasslands of east-central Alberta. For a long time we had been aware of the problems created with the industrialization of agriculture and its effects on animal welfare, wildlife, water and health. But in the early 1990s the realities of a globally focused food system forced us to make some hard decisions. We had done everything we could to decrease our costs of production but we were still losing money. Just like many other farm families, we were faced with getting off-farm jobs to make ends meet. At that time we had three small children at home and Dylan was working 14 hour days managing the ranch. The only option was for me to get a job — and minimum wage was all that was offered locally. I could have gone to Calgary or Edmonton to get a high paying job in environmental management, but that would mean leaving my family — or worse, moving the family altogether. The only other option was to add value to what we were already doing and take control of our own marketing. Instead of being defeated by the conventional commodity-based system, we decided to create an alternative to the mainstream. It didn't take us long to fully understand that the only way to make change in agriculture was to become the change itself.
In 1995 direct marketing beef in Alberta was almost unheard of. A few ranchers would keep a steer or two for family and friends, but selling direct? Isn't that what grocery stores are for? When we called Alberta Agriculture for information about selling direct they told us we would fail — that selling grass-fed beef in Alberta beef country would never be successful. We decided to take the risk and invest our time, energy and limited resources into creating a grass-fed program that would have far reaching benefits for the land, the animals and our customers. That is when we began implementing a business plan that would see TK Ranch become a vertically integrated pasture to plate model. We evolved from just producing clean humanely raised livestock to organizing processing, developing our brand and product lines, meeting with retailers, building warehousing and storage facilities, coordinating deliveries and dealing direct with consumers. Under our TK Ranch brand we began selling natural dry-aged grass-fed beef and expanded our program to include grass-fed lamb, heritage pasture raised pork and free-range chicken. All of this did not happen overnight, it took years of hard work and determination when the odds of succeeding were against us. We truly were pioneers in the cattle industry and act as a sustainable model for others to follow.
Building both sustainability and profitability into the TK Ranch model has been integral in setting the stage for other farmers to follow. Every year the number of farm families that contact us for information and mentoring increases and this is a sign that people are looking for alternatives to the mainstream. We openly provide these families with the information they need to begin direct marketing their products. It is only in our best interest to see as many farm families succeed as possible if we are to create a food system that is secure for the future.
In 2009 we also began offering internships on TK Ranch as a way to encourage young people to become involved in agriculture. Since that time we have had several interns and over 30 wwoofers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) make TK Ranch their temporary home.
Thank You to Our Customers
We want to take this opportunity to thank our customers whose support made our success possible. By supporting TK Ranch you are contributing to a healthier and more sustainable future. By purchasing TK Ranch beef, lamb, pork and chicken consumers are voting for change with their dollars one bite at a time.
All the best,
Dylan and Colleen Biggs, TK Ranch