FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Bouffioux family of Fort St. John was presented with a Century Farm Award from MLA Dan Davies on behalf of the province on Monday to recognize its contribution to agriculture in British Columbia since 1916.
Over the past 100 years, the farm has received multiple awards, including Best in B.C. at the AgAware B.C. competition and Wildrose Bison Show.
The story started in 1913, when the family patriarch, George Bouffioux, travelled through Fort St. John on his way to the Klondike near Dawson City, Yukon, from Wisconsin.
“Anyone can see there is a gold mine in farmland here,” George is reportedly known to have said back then, according to the province.
The government of B.C. said in 1916, he bought a quarter of land, 65 hectares, for $10 and began raising cattle. By trading and borrowing, he acquired 14 more quarters, equaling around 910 hectares, of land in the Peace River region.
George made ends meet by trapping and using the money he earned to improve his farm.
George married Elaine in 1939 and raised four children: Betty Anne, George (Bill), Joyce and John.
Bill knew at a young age that he wanted to become a rancher like his father. After he received a diploma in farm mechanics at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and another at the University of British Columbia in agriculture, he and his wife Fayette purchased the farm from his father in 1965.
The couple struggled to pay the farm credit loan, but they still raised Hereford cattle, hogs, chickens and grew grain. They also sold milk, cream, butter and eggs to support the family, which grew again in 1964 and 1965 with daughters Cyndy and Sandy.
In 1984, Bill acquired 530 more hectares of land, and he shifted the focus from cattle to bison, which required less labour, created less waste and were more disease-resistant, according to the B.C. government.
Because of his knowledge and leadership skills, he was elected to the executive committee of the Canadian Bison Association, where he was president for two years.
He was also vital in uniting the Peace Country Bison Association, B.C. Southern Bison Association and B.C. Interior Bison Association to create the provincial B.C. Bison Association.
In addition, he contributed to the original Bison Code of Practice Manual.
Bill’s daughter Sandy and her husband Cole Busche bought 160 hectares from him to begin their own farming business while still serving as the ranch’s bookkeeper, technician, and ranch hands.
Sandy’s sister, Cyndy and her husband, Monty Donally, joined them in 2009 as landowners and ranch hands.
“My father truly exemplified hard work and entrepreneurship,” said Bill Bouffioux.
“I am grateful to him for struggling through the lean, mean Depression era to build something for himself and for the legacy of our family. I am proud of all we have accomplished, but my proudest achievement is having four generations continuing to live and work on the ranch, which I hope will continue for another 100 years.”
The Bouffiouxs hope the ranch will stay in the family with their grandchildren at the helm.
“British Columbia’s agriculture industry is built upon the foundation of hard-working farming families,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food, in a release.
“Congratulations to the Bouffiouxs on over 100 years of farming and ranching and for being pillars in the community. My sincere thank you goes to the family for all they have done to feed our province, and I wish them many more years of success.”
The provincial government said the Century Farm Awards honour farms, ranches and agricultural organizations that have been active for 100 years or longer, as well as farms and ranches that have been in families for 100 years or more.