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Patrick, Bette and Philip Mitchell accept the Farm Family of the Year Award for Flint Rock Ranch.

Flint Rock Ranch wins Farm Family of the Year

The 2023 Farm Family of the Year is none other than the Mitchells of Flint Rock Ranch, a new addition to a long-trusted name in cattle ranching in our community.

“We were pretty shocked, the award was extremely unexpected,” stated Patrick Mitchell, Flint Rock’s head of hospitality.

“We thought, no way we are gonna win. Even if you don’t think you’re gonna win, be prepared just in case,” he said with a laugh.

Since the 1950s, Mitchell Bros. Beef has been raising high-quality, 100 per cent grass-fed cattle in southern Alberta. Recently, Flint Rock Ranch has expanded its business, hosting a variety of events with local musicians, including Frog Fest. In addition, the ranch offers unique accommodations in three different Airstream RVs and three cozy cabins.

“This award definitely gelled our spot. Feels good to know our hard work is getting noticed,” Patrick said.

“We could not have done it without Lori Holmes and her countless hours of volunteering this summer. I’d also like to shout-out Marie Everts who has been a huge resource for us. She’s in our corner. It’s helpful to have locals that are so supportive,” Patrick mentioned.

As a family, the Mitchells have been working together on their business, spending more time together on the ranch, growing together. From construction to networking, each brother has his own niche skills to help out.

To have a successful business in Pincher Creek, Patrick said, “Be persistent and patient, and don’t leave anything outside that can get blown around by the wind.”

In the coming seasons, the Mitchells plan to shift their focus from beef more to hospitality, with great success in rentals this past summer. There is a potential for more community events like ranch dinners and dances.

Flint Rock Ranch extends a kind thanks to whomever nominated them and to the community for continued support.

The Mitchells accepted the Farm Family of the Year Award at the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce’s 28th annual Awards of Excellence, held Oct. 20.

Five other families were also nominated in this category. Read the nominations here.

See all Awards of Excellence category winners here.


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Patrick, Bette and Philip Mitchell accept the Farm Family of the Year Award for Flint Rock Ranch.

Flint Rock Ranch won the award for Farm Family of the Year. Pictured from left are son Patrick with parents Bette and Philip Mitchell. | Photo by William Cockerell


Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.



Tanya Du Plessis, wearing a sparkling red dress, stands in front of the Awards of Excellence backdrop with her trophy and certificate.

Tanya Du Plessis secures Young Business award with sweet lemonade stand

During August’s rodeo weekend, young entrepreneurs set up lemonade stands and other treats for residents and visitors to enjoy in the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce Lemonade Day competition. This year’s overall winner was nine-year-old entrepreneur Tanya Du Plessis of Tanya’s Lemonade.

Posted on Main Street under a brightly painted stand, Tanya sold scrumptious snacks and three flavours of lemonade: original lemon, raspberry and blueberry-apple. She also became a vendor at the farmers market this year, and said her secret ingredient is lots of sugar.

Although she started off shy, Tanya persevered.

“I thought that if I tried and worked hard, I could win,” she said.

Setting an example for upcoming entrepreneurs, this young lady demonstrated how a little customer service, creativity, courage and effort can go a long way. When asked to share tips to other young entrepreneurs, Tanya said to work hard and be patient.


Tanya DuPlesis and her Lemonade Day stand

Tanya DuPlessis and her mother Christine pose at her cheerful lemonade stand outside Pincher Office Products on Lemonade Day in August. | Photo by Mia Parker

If Tanya could serve one celebrity her famous raspberry lemonade, it would be Taylor Swift.

Tanya said, “I feel really good” about winning the Young Business Award.

Her mother, Christine Du Plessis, said she is proud of her daughter’s courage to start up her business endeavours.

“Since her lemonade was so successful, we are working on getting her started with a handmade bracelet line as well,” Christine said.

Pincher Creek has seen only the beginning of what this little lady can do. You can find Tanya’s other creations on social media in the coming months!

Tanya received the Young Business of the Year award at the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce’s 28th annual Awards of Excellence, held Oct. 20.

Mallory Nelson was also nominated in this category. Read the nominations here.

See all category winners here.


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Tanya Du Plessis, wearing a sparkling red dress, stands in front of the Awards of Excellence backdrop with her trophy and certificate.

Tanya beams with pride at Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce’s 28th annual Awards of Excellence. | Photo by William Cockerell


Heading for Farm Family of the Year Award nominees in the Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce Awards of Excellence

Six nominated for Farm Family of the Year

Six families were nominated this year in the Farm Family of the Year category of the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce Awards of Excellence.

The category is open to a rancher, farmer, or agricultural producer who represents strong values and maintains a healthy environment with a positive approach to agriculture. The nominee can be a couple, an individual or a family with outstanding management skills and strong community spirit.

The 2023 Farm Family of the Year Award was presented to Flint Rock Ranch at the Awards of Excellence gala on Oct. 20.

Enjoy the nomination snippets provided by the Chamber of Commerce and read Flint Rock Ranch’s story here!

Brylor Ranch (Bryan and Sherry Mackenzie)

Bryan and Sherry are exceptional volunteers, and they have raised their children and mentored others to have a passion for volunteering in the community as well. Every year, they take on the huge task of organizing and running the 4-H concession at the Pincher Creek Pro Rodeo. They raise award-winning Red Angus cattle and are incredible stewards of the land and environment.

Flint Rock Ranch  (Mitchell family)

Flint Rock Ranch is a new addition to a long-trusted name in cattle ranching in our community. Mitchell Bros. Beef raises exceptional-quality, 100 per cent grass-fed cattle, and now they have diversified to offer unique ranch stays in their Airstream RVs and cabins. They also host a variety of events that often feature locally grown musicians.

Hy Country Ranch (Paul, Tanya Whipple and family)

Paul and Tanya Whipple are a dedicated family who work hard together on their cattle ranch, and they are very conscientious of how they raise and treat their animals. Despite the many demands of running Hy Country Ranch, they take the time to volunteer with the skating club and coach the school basketball team. They are kind and helpful to so many people, and they quietly support our community in many ways.

Mark and Jessica Maunsell

Mark and Jessica are incredibly positive and supportive in both agriculture and the community. They contribute a great deal through participation and donations, and they involve their family in agriculture and own businesses to support the community.

Rafter 6S Cattle Co. (Brooke Slade, Donavan Barr and family)

Brooke and Donavan started from a few head of cattle, and they have worked hard to grow their herd and follow the best practices possible in order to produce high-quality local beef. They are a hard-working family and young ranchers in the community, and Donavan also works for the Town of Pincher Creek and does some custom farming in the area.

Turnbull Charolais (Curtis, Nanette Turnbull and family)

The Turnbull family has been supplying high-end bulls to Pincher Creek and the surrounding area for decades, and they deliver them to the customer no matter the distance. Curtis and Nanette have top-notch customer service and a quality product that has served the southern Alberta community for decades.


See all Awards of Excellence category winners here.


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Fire Wise crew leader Chivez Smith walks toward orangish smoke from a ground fire

Fire Wise growth continues

After 20 years tackling environmental issues through her work with Alberta Parks, Jenny Vandersteen was inspired to create her own business in the forestry and wildlife industry.

With her team of four, the initial focus was on private wildfire prevention and education in the Pincher Creek area, which is Jenny’s home.

In two short years, Fire Wise Forest Solutions has grown to over 30 employees, with three full-time contract firefighting crews, wildfire professionals and a new Wildland Type 6 engine truck.

One of Jenny’s goals is to provide meaningful training experiences and stable employment while generating career opportunities for Indigenous people. Anyone, regardless of ethnicity or racial background, is welcome to apply for work with the company, and Jenny works in partnership with Treaty 7 nations, Indigenous employment centres and the Outland Youth Employment Program.

“National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is every day at Fire Wise,” Jenny says. “We strive to create strong, respectful relationships between the local wildfire community and Indigenous Nations of Alberta. We hope to empower them to reach their potential in the wildfire community, bringing pride, achievement, and honour back to their homes and families.”


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During the peak of wildfire season, shifts can be 14 to 21 days long, with workers putting in 10 to 14 hours per day and having only a tent for amenities. Eight-person wildfire crews travel wherever they are dispatched to assist in fighting fires and eventual extinguishment, which sometimes takes several months. 

“With the unprecedented wildfire season this year, our wildfire crews have successfully completed over 25 wildfire exports across the province,” Jenny says.

In the off-season, after wildfires are contained or extinguished, Fire Wise shifts into training and fire prevention. Fall and winter months are spent completing wildfire hazard assessments and risk-reduction plans for agencies, communities, ranchers and landowners.

Fire Wise follows up with vegetation management, such as pruning trees, removing diseased or hazardous trees, cleaning up debris, cutting usable wood into firewood and safely burning piles. This reduces risk to wildfires, simultaneously producing a healthier, more resilient forest.

As partners with the Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange come springtime, Fire Wise directs its efforts toward prescribed and controlled burning to reduce the chances of large, intense wildfires.

This tactic of wildfire management promotes biodiversity, stimulates native seed germination, controls invasive species, reduces tree and shrub encroachment, increases nutrient cycling, and improves wildlife habitats and livestock stocking rates.




Fire Wise firefighter team wearing yellow work shirts and dark pants.Fire Wise crew members JR Eagle Plume, back left, Kathy Mackinaw, Nikida Poucette and Duke Provost. In front are Jayden Rowan, Phillip Clarke, Justin Yellowhorn and Eric Boe. | Photo by Jenny Vandersteen




Kieran Larson, teenage boy with longish brown hair and wearing a red-and-white hat plays Dungeons and Dragons.

Experiential Learning Week candids

Students honed their skills through a variety of courses offered during Matthew Halton High School’s Experiential Learning Week last week. This semester’s options included photography, scrapbooking, mechanics, board games, sewing, painting and more.  | Photos by Jillanna Hammond

Emily Barclay experiments with watercolour paints and fine lines.
Anise Girard shows off her scrapbooking masterpiece.
Photography student Ava Hodge isn’t afraid to get her socks dirty to set up a photo of her cowgirl boots.
Shiny green and yellow John Deere tractor with steel wheels

Celebrate 100 years of John Deere Model D at Heritage Acres

Heritage Acres Farm Museum is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the John Deere Model D tractor at its Annual Show this weekend. The Model D, released in 1923, was the first piece of machinery to be built under the John Deere name. 

The museum is the home to around 10 Model Ds and Ken Harness, president of the Oldman River Antique Equipment and Threshing Club, has one of his own. 

“In 1939, my dad bought this tractor brand new and it’s been in the family ever since,” Ken said, tapping the hood. 


Man in sleeveless plaid shirt, jeans and a hat stands beside an old, green John Deere tractor
Ken Harness poses with his family tractor, a 1939 John Deere Model D, near the sawmill at Heritage Acres Farm Museum. Don’t judge a tractor by its paint job, because this beauty still runs like it’s 1960. Photo by Jillanna Hammond



In 1836, before the time of the tractor,  a humble blacksmith from Vermont named John Deere fabricated a hardy steel plow that made it easier for farmers to manoeuvre soil. A year later he started up his own business, Deere and Company, building plows for farmers near and far.

By 1892 another inventor, John Froelich, built the first gasoline-powered tractor, starting up the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company. In 1918 Deere and Company bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, and tinkered with Waterloo Boy designs until 1923.

Introduced  in 1923 and produced until 1953, the John Deere Model D tractor was a revolutionary machine in the agriculture industry. Based on the Waterloo Boy models, the Model D was a versatile, reliable and affordable two-cylinder row-crop tractor. It became one of the most successful tractors of its era, providing a foundation for the future triumphs of John Deere as a leader in agricultural equipment manufacturing. 

During its 30-year circuit, the Model D received numerous updates and improvements, with variations in features to suit different farming needs.

The development of tractors caused a shift from livestock-based power to mechanical, allowing farmers to increase their efficiency and productivity while reducing the need for manual labour. The John Deere Model D was a groundbreaking tractor in its time and remains an iconic piece of history at Heritage Acres Farm Museum.

Don’t miss your chance to check out these legendary tractors during this weekend’s Annual Show. Event information is available here.