Bernadette’s Take #21

The Clintons of the Rolling Pastures

Erika Weder from Rycroft, Alberta

The Weder FamilyThe Weders twelve years after their wedding in 2001. The land up there must be very fertile. (Photo Erika Weder)

I envy Erika Weder. Not so much for her life on a cattle ranch.
I don’t do bulls. I do books.

Erika has achieved something that I never got around to.
She writes a monthly column in a Swiss magazine.
From Canada.

And she has been doing it for seven years!
Beside looking after 1000 cows.

Kudos to you, Erika. A farmer´s wife who writes. Maybe I should become a writer who farms.

For the readers of “Schweizer Bauer”, a magazine for Swiss farmers, she describes the joys and tribulations on the Spirit View Ranch in Rycroft. Erika (37), originally from Kriechenwil near Laupen, lives there with her husband Christoph and her three small sons and nestling daughter Luna.

You can read it all here.

Erika and Christoph Weder are a Swiss-Canadian power couple. The Clintons of the Rolling Pastures.

They managed to raise cattle for natural beef and they actually sell it to Europe! Together with some friends, they are the only ranchers in Canada who sell to Europe. You cannot imagine the red tape they went through.

Erika was a post mistress in Switzerland. “Nothing prepared me for a life on this ranch”, she says.
That is right. No cattle runs at Swiss Post. Only mail runs.

ERiakWeder - CopyCan you see Erika back there? No fear of cows, for sure. (Photo Erika Weder)

But Erika is a tough cookie. She and Christoph met when Erika was backpacking through South America. Alone.
They met in a coffee shop in Flores in Guatemala. It was sooo romantic.

You can read the long version of their fateful encounter here:

I give you the shortcut:
Christoph was born in Switzerland and emigrated with his parents Ivo and Irma Weder from the St. Galler Rheintal in 1975 to Canada at the age of four. He grew up in Camrose, Alberta, on a dairy and beef operation.

But I wanted to talk to Erika because she does what I would like to do: She writes a C.O.L.U.M.N.

She is almost a celebrity. Every Swiss farmer and farmeress knows her! I mean how many Swiss farmers/esses know the author Bernadette Calonego??? One, maybe two? Okay, three at the most.

The Spirit View Ranch has become a pilgrimage destination for European foodies. And journalists from places like Dubai.

These people travel a long way: The Spirit View Ranch is 5.5 hours Northwest of Edmonton or one hour from Dawson Creek in B.C.
Grande Prairie is the nearest town.

The head chef of the Hotel Kempinski in Geneva comes every now and then to the Weder’s Ranch in order to hunt.

Others just love the aura of a real ranch. Heartland meets cow dung.
Erika says: “People from Hong Kong, Russia, Europe and all over the place come for visits and want to learn about ranching.”

ERikaWeder1 - CopyDon’t you want to leave your computer right now, pack your bags and ride into the horizon? On a sunny summer day, of course. (Christoph Weder on his horse. Photo Erika Weder)

The head chef of the Hotel Hyatt in Zurich came to visit and then published a cook book together with the Weders: “The Cook and the Cowboy”. (Yummy! Braised Shank on the Bone for me, please! And a cowboy for dessert!)
Erika took the photos in the book. What an accomplished lady.

Even more reason to place an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Erika Weder in Rycroft:

Erika, am I wrong or do you lead a glamorous life?

A glamorous life – are you kidding? Do you know how it is to have 40 below in the winter? Do you know what can happen to water pipes and the hydraulics of farm machines in these low temperatures? You always have to work on a ranch, in the freezing cold and searing heat.

But your illustrious guests seem to enjoy ranch life!

Most people who come and visit here would not want to live like us. Many think we live in the middle of nowhere! They think our ranch is near the North Pole! And that’s okay.

How long did they last on your ranch?

We had people here who almost had a nervous breakdown after two days. They cannot cope with the silence! They were completely overwhelmed with the tranquility up here. There is no traffic, you hear only a dog or a grouse. Or the howling of a coyote or a woodpecker.

ErikaWeder3 - CopyErika Weder picks wild flowers with her children. She makes syrup from wild crimson beebalm (latin Monarda didyma, Goldmelisse in German, I had to look it up). Erikas comment: “Mmmmmmmmmmhhhhhh… so good!“ I dare not to disagree. (Photo Erika Weder)

Who are the people who flock to your ranch?

Let me see: Costumers who buy our meat, importers, journalists, chefs, people who have read my column, Swiss farmers and of course relatives and friends.

What about the people who come from as far as Dubai?

Oh, we started exporting our natural beef to Dubai four years ago. Two men turned up here and wanted the meat for their restaurants. A journalist from Dubai came here, too, she wrote an article for a magazine.
Our meat is also on the menu of a few 5-star-hotels. Some in Switzerland, of course. For a story in the Hyatt magazine, the head cook from the Hyatt in Zurich, a reporter and the hotel director stayed on our ranch.

Wow! This sounds so Hollywood!

It is exciting, for sure, but it is hard work, I can tell you. Our meat is now going to Hong Kong and China. Two weeks ago, we sent the first delivery to Russia. The hotel Kempinski in Moscow is testing it right now. It`s cool!

And you don’t call that glamorous?

Absolutely not! My husband is traveling for three months to help market our meat. I stay here on the ranch. Christoph sleeps in 5-star-hotels and meets the management and chefs there. He knows many star cooks personally. Some have become his friends.
For these people, the simple life on our ranch is a great adventure! Lots of people love the connection to nature and that fascinates them.

ErikaWeder - CopyThe Weder children are friendly with the breeding bull – which gives a whole new meaning to the term “play group”. (Photo Erika Weder)

And those guests who cannot deal with the simple life?

I have to admit, there were people here who were a pain in the neck. Complicated folks who did not want to put on rubber boots.
They take some pictures from the deck and then boast at home that they had been on a ranch. But most people are positive and interesting.

Who makes the meals on your ranch? The cook or the cowboy?

It has happened that the chef cook of the hotel Hyatt in Hawaii cooked a meal in my ranch kitchen! And there were other cooks here who were useful and handy, too.
But normally the cowgirl does the cooking – and that’s me.

P.S. If you have an interesting story to tell or if you know an interesting person, write to us:

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