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Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:16

Hochstein family weathers many changes

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The Hochstein Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the M.D. of Pincher Creek No. 9. The Hochstein Family were the BMO Farm Family winners representing the M.D. of Pincher Creek No. 9. Photo courtesy ShowChampions

There are always changes in any operation, especially one that can look back over involvement by multiple generations of the same family. Take for example, the Hochstein family of Dryfork Ranches, the BMO Farm Family of the Year for the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9.

The first Hochsteins to settle in the area, Lester Hochstein’s grandparents, came up from Nebraska in 1905.
His grandfather, Lester says, had quite a bit of land at one time.
“He had eight kids and set up four of them, so it got divided quite a bit,” he says.
Today, Lester and his wife Olive still live in his grandfather’s house, built in 1914.
Dryfork Ranches, named for the creek that waters part of the property, has about 250 commercial Black Angus mother cows and backgrounds another 400 or so calves.
Lester and Olive’s son Blaine is the main operator of the herd now that Lester has taken a step back.
There used to be a fair bit of barley grown on the ranch’s 1,000 acres.
“It’s mainly back in hay, now. With the cows and the farming there’s just too much work to do, unless you reinvest and buy all the modern equipment,” explains Lester. “That kind of land base won’t support it. You can’t justify it on this many acres.”
Much of the ranchland is pretty rough and most of the work is done on horseback.
“I’d much sooner ride a horse than a quad any day,” Lester says. “To me, it’s a better way of handling livestock. I’m a total believer in it.”
One major problem that most ranchers in the Pincher Creek area face is predation.
“It’s a constant battle and it’s getting worse,” Lester says, noting that his neighbours have lost six or eight animals this spring. “That’s all grizzly bear kill. They’re coming out of dens hungry. They’re not going to chase a deer at 40 miles an hour if they can catch a calf at five.”
Blaine is a farrier by trade and still practises.
The other three Hochstein children, Terence, Murray and daughter Renee all have jobs off the ranch, but try to come back and help out when they can, as do some of the 12 grandchildren.
“It’s hard to get young people involved,” says Lester. “There are plenty of other ways to make a living. It’s seldom any of them get past three generations. It’s just a fact of life.”
Like most rural people, the Hochstein family played their part in the local community.
As long as the family was here we tried to keep involved,” Lester says. “Not near as much as I’d have liked to have been, but you can only spread yourself so thin.”
He was on the local Municipal Planning Commission and Doris volunteered in the local school and for the Canadian Cancer Society. 4-H was also a major involvement.
“My father had a saying that you see very few poor citizens come out of the 4-H system,” Lester says. “If I think about it, I think he was right.”
The rural lifestyle suited Lester just fine, he says and looks on ranch life as having an advantage that affected the children.
“One thing it did do is we were able to teach every one of the kids how to work. I don’t think any of them ever complained about learning how to do it. They learned to think for themselves.”

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