They are renowned for selling ‘Beef in a Bun’ and promoting the cattle industry but after 40 years, the Interlakes CattleBelles are rebranding themselves.
The group, one of the last of its kind in B.C., has changed its mandate in recent years to focus on promoting all forms of agriculture, including organic gardeners and non-ranching farmers in an effort to change with the times and boost its membership. It has even changed its logo: instead of the bow-wearing, flower-eating cow in the farmyard, the CattleBelles now represent everything from cows and chickens to pigs, grain and wheat.
“We’re still the CattleBelles. We just want people to know we’re promoting all forms of agriculture, not just beef,” said Pat Lytton, a recently retired Sheridan Lake rancher who has been with the group since 1986.
One of seven organizations founded in the province under the umbrella of the BC Cattlemen’s Association, the CattleBelles were formed to promote engagement, education and support of ranching and agriculture across the region. Over the years, they have done just that, thanks to a lot of great members over the years who cared and helped one another out, said Helen Horn, 94, of Lone Butte.
This includes Arla Bick, the founder of the Interlakes CattleBelles and a resident of 70 Mile House who had a passion for promoting the beef industry and led them in creating a Beef Recipe Round-Up cookbook. Lytton said the cookbook was by far the biggest and most well-known projects they ever worked on. They compiled it in 1986, using recipes they tested from across B.C. The book included a meat-cooking chart, tips on how to prepare and store it and the best cuts for specific dishes. “We did a lot of eating,” Lytton joked.
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One of Horn’s favourite projects was the CattleBelle’s wreath, which they made for the B.C. Cattlemen’s Conference in Smithers. Made out of cow horns, haywire and other ranching knick-knacks, the wreath was auctioned off multiple years in a row and earned over $9,000 until it was retired just a few years ago.
“You want to know our favourite moments?” Horn asked. “There’s too many to tell. I think my best memory was when I was under pressure and had no good background for this sort of thing and people came to me and said ‘what can I do to help you’ instead of sitting back and waiting for something to happen.”
Horn’s roots in the Cariboo stem back to 1912 when her mother came with her family to homestead here and eventually met Horn’s father.
Horn followed in their farming footsteps and ranched for many years. “It’s always been part of my life to, as they say, be bums up, head down and get to work,” she said.
Lytton said the group has stuck around for so long because they have diversified so much over the years. The CattleBelles are involved with the community, working with local schools, holding poster contests, supporting the 4-H groups, creating quilts, holding an annual social for people to meet-and-greet and even lobbying the government from time to time, among a wide range of other agriculture-focused activities. They also provide an annual $250 bursary to Peter Skene Ogden Secondary.
“We’ve been put out of business because of COVID-19 but in these past years we’ve always seemed to have something on the go,” Horn said.
Lorraine Jerema, who joined the CattleBelles in 1998 and is the current president, said the one thing that has remained constant over the years is the importance placed on caring for the land. Jerema said the group also likes to encourage people to grow their own food as much as possible and support local agriculture.
The women agree that as agriculture changes, people are less aware of how the system actually works. They joke, though, that if you eat then you’re involved in agriculture.
“A lot of urbanites have never ever set foot on a farm and they think animals are being abused but no, they’re our livelihood, they take care of them as best as they know how to do,” Jerema said. “It’s teaching urbanites how things work and come to be from a farm and a ranch.”
The Interlakes CattleBelles intend to continue representing agricultural interest while educating the public and informing regulations that will be beneficial for the industry. They hope changes will be made to make it easier for young people to get into agriculture and stay in agriculture into the future.
Lytton noted many of their members are older because young people either can’t afford to get into agriculture or have to hold another job to support it. Yet there are many looking to start hobby farms, or inheriting land.
“Educating people, I think, is still our main philosophy about agriculture. It’s not just food; a lot of people don’t realize all the things that are involved with agriculture,” Lytton said. “You got the farmer, you got the processing, the trucking, the wholesalers, the grocery stores, it involves a lot of people that aren’t just ranching and farming anymore.”
As far as celebrating their anniversary this year, the women hope to do something special at their annual social in November at Lone Butte Hall but it depends on COVID-19 guidelines. Some of their celebrations may be postponed until next year. Either way, they’re in it for the long haul.
“I wouldn’t have been here this long if I thought we shouldn’t keep on,” said Horn, the oldest member of the group. “I agree with a lot of the things we do, I disagree with a few of them, but I think there’s a medium between we have to accept. I do my best to encourage all these younger folks I have sitting here just to keep trying and doing what they can as best they can.”