This year’s Bill Lenton Memorial Award went to a bison ranch a bit further afield.
Brad and Carmen Ramstead of Fort McMurray, Alta., added their names to the award during the annual Manitoba Bison Association Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale March 30.
“We were pretty humbled,” Carmen Ramstead said. “We’ve been through a lot in the last two years… with the fire here and everything. The Manitoba family has always been special to our hearts because we’ve grown to become a big family and they’ve always been there to support and (have) us support them. We weren’t expecting it at all, so when we found out, it was very humbling to know that your peers think that much of you.”
The Ramsteads are one of several out-of-province members of the Manitoba Bison Association, with other members ranging from Alberta to Ontario and into the United States.
Brad Ramstead is the longtime manager of the Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch, a joint project between Syncrude Canada and the Fort McKay First Nation that houses 300 head of wood bison on over 450 hectares of reclaimed grassland, formerly the site of Syncrude mining operations.
The pair was drawn to Manitoba after meeting fellow industry members from the province, eventually buying land and joining the Manitoba producers’ group, while the bulk of their business remains in the West.
MBA president Nolan Miller says the award was in recognition of the Ramsteads’ longtime support of the MBA. The pair has consistently turned out for the annual Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale, despite the distance, Miller said, while Carmen Ramstead has been a steady guiding hand for the annual MBA conference for the last decade.
“Really, we felt that they’ve gone quite a bit out of their way to keep supporting our province’s event, so that’s kind of the main reason why (they got the award),” he said.
The Bill Lenton Memorial Award is given to, “Manitoba Bison Association members who have shown dedication and commitment as well as given of their time to promote the bison industry and the MBA,” the organization states.
The MBA gives out the award each year in honour of one of their founders, Bill Lenton. Lenton ran one of the first commercial bison herds near Miami, and later, Moosomin, Sask. Commonly called a pioneer of the industry, Lenton was a driving force in both the provincial and national bison associations and is credited for helping open the gate to shipping bison internationally.
The MBA introduced the award in 2004, after Lenton’s death.
“To follow in the steps of Bill Lenton, he was an amazing man who had a passion for bison and the industry and did a lot for the industry, so for us to be recognized under that umbrella is pretty amazing,” Ramstead said.