A part of the region’s long and proud ranching tradition was honoured on August 20, when Scotty Creek Ranch north of Cache Creek was presented with the provincial Century Farm Award.
The awards honour agricultural organizations that have been active for 100 years or more, and celebrate the rich heritage of farming and ranching families throughout the province.
“We had heard about other ranches getting the award,” says Marilyn Campbell, the ranch’s co-owner, “and thought we should look into it. My sister Iva is pretty good at keeping things together, and when we applied in the spring of 2016 we were told we had all the paperwork necessary.”
Campbell thought the process would take forever, but it was just a few weeks before they were told they would receive the award. Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart presented it to the family on behalf of Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, saying that it was “an honour to present the Century Farm Award to one of our area’s pioneer ranching families”.
The ranch was founded by Campbell’s grandfather, Archibald Hunter, in 1916, when he acquired 145 acres of land. Campbell says that it has always been a beef ranch. “It’s never been a big operation,” she adds, “but it’s always been a family thing.”
Archibald Hunter at Scotty Creek Ranch. Photo by Elsie Hunter/Virtual Museum of Canada.
She also notes that while ranching is a good lifestyle, it’s not an easy one. She and her husband Ken are both retired now, and able to run the ranch as their main business, but they had to work other jobs in addition to looking after the ranch for much of their lives. That can make it difficult to attract younger people to the business. “The next generation is out trying to make money. There are very few family farms anymore.”
Campbell’s father, Michie Thomas Hunter, went to the Bonaparte Valley School at Maiden Creek and then to the Lady Byng School in Ashcroft. “He worked at the Lady Minto Hospital and had a cot in the basement during the winter. He looked after the furnace and did odd jobs around the hospital for room and board.”
When World War II started, Michie applied for entry to the Air Force as a pilot, but poor eyesight prevented that. However, his hospital experience allowed him to work as a medic, and he was stationed at CFB Trenton, where he met Campbell’s mother, Elsie.
The couple found themselves in Prince Rupert before the war was over, where Campbell’s sister Iva was born. The family spent some time on Vancouver Island before buying the ranch at Scotty Creek from Campbell’s grandfather.
While running the ranch, Michie worked in bush sawmills in the area, and then for the Department of Highways operating a grader. Campbell and her brother Jim were born at the Lady Minto hospital, and the three children attended school in Ashcroft. She chuckles as she remembers cold winter mornings waiting for the school bus.
“Fred Robertson was our driver, and we were at the end of the bus run, so he would have a cigarette after turning the bus around. It meant we could all wait before trotting out to the bus.
“Back then we had really cold winters; -20° F. The other buses wouldn’t be running because it was so cold, but Fred was the bus mechanic for the district, so he knew how to get the bus running.
“No other kids had to go to school, but we did. But the bus was as cold inside as outside, because the heaters couldn’t keep up.”
Campbell says that the Century Farm Award was presented during a reunion that saw 51 family members—most from around the province, but one from as far away as the Cayman Islands—at the ranch. She says that they’re proud to accept the award.
“Our grandparents and parents made a huge commitment to ranch and farm back when life was not easy. We appreciate all their efforts, so now the third and fourth generation has the opportunity to run this family farm 100 years later.”