The Waldron Grazing Co-op is the largest deeded block of land on the eastern slopes of Alberta. South of the picturesque community of Longview between the Whaleback and the Porcupine Hills; the Waldron Grazing Co-op continues to enjoy an interesting, evolving history. One of the largest co-operative land purchase deals in Alberta's history, the co-op was established in 1962 when 116 southern Alberta ranchers signed over a hard-earned million dollars for 44,000 acres of foothills grazing land. The premise behind the original deal (still valid today) saw ranchers purchase shares in the co-op which gave them the right to bring their cattle to the Waldron Ranch area to graze.
One of the most unique elements of the Waldron Ranch land is that it’s comprised primarily of native grass, which holds food value for cattle through the winter. Over the early years of the co-op's history, organizers, share-holders, board members and ranch staff worked hard (and consulted with outside organizations and experts) to learn how to manage the Waldron grasslands and watersheds.
Since the establishment of the Waldron Grazing Co-op, the
organization has seen a number of changes; among them the 2013 negotiation of an easement on the Waldron lands between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Waldron Grazing Co-operative. The largest conservation easement in Canadian history, the agreement ensures preservation of the land for large-scale cattle operations while protecting against development, subdivision, cultivation to domestic crops or drainage of wetlands. Both the provincial and federal governments contributed funding to the conservation project, along with private donors and the Waldron Co-op.
And in 2014, the Waldron Grazing Co-op bought the King Ranch with funds received from the conservation easement the Nature Conservancy purchased a year prior. The King Ranch, last owned by Bill and Cody Bateman of Cochrane, was renowned for its original owners, Harrold and Maurice King (former Waldron share owners), who passed away in the 1990s.
With the Waldron Ranch in native fescue grassland, of which less than five per cent remains in Canada, it's important that the Co-operative conserve water quality and maintain its grasslands and wildlife habitat.
“The purpose of the gazing co-op at its inception in 1962 was to provide more grass to benefit shareholders’ existing ranches. Our founders would be proud of the way Waldron is protecting the watershed and utilizing better grazing practices,” said Gerald Vandervalk, chair of the Co-op board.