Gillian Watt is the owner of Holmwood Farm, program coordinator of the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University, and an FFCF Board Member. Watt has been a rancher for 47 years, moving to Holmwood Farm 18 years ago. Before Holmwood in Kamloops, she ranched east of Williams Lake, 25km southeast of Horsefly on Black Creek Ranch. There, she and her partner ran a 330 head cow/calf operation and a woodlot on 2,200 deeded acres along with grazing license lands. A few years later, with a change in ownership structure, Watt diversified into a custom grazing enterprise, ranch vacation packages, and a grass-fed beef sales enterprise. Watt grew up on a cow/calf operation near Barriere and has spent most of her life since then farming or ranching in one capacity or another. She took time away from the land during university, and later for work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Forests and she even spent some time as an Agriculture Account Manager with the Royal Bank before buying another, smaller farm property.
Holmwood Farm consists of 40 acres of cattle and sheep, grazing together as well as a vegetable garden and a raw pet food enterprise. Watt applies the principles of regenerative agriculture to her farm. She practices no-till, keeps the plants green and growing 250-280 days of the year, plans for diversity, keeps her farm free of chemical inputs, and grazes her livestock to promote carbon sequestration below ground. Motivated to produce nutrient-dense pet food, sourced from BC farm families with sound environmental practices, Watt started BC’s Best Raw Pet Food. Many animal parts that are less desirable for human consumption are often wasted in the slaughtering process. With this business, Watt can utilize some of these animal parts that are actually quite nutritious. In addition to her livestock, she grows vegetables, many of which are formulated into the pet food. She grows cover crops between the rows of vegetables and continues to plant cover crops as they harvest their vegetables, leaving no bare soil. This spring, she plans to seed right into the cover crop residue, in order to disturb the soil as little as possible and then once again, reseed the cover crop between the rows.
Watt’s top priority is taking care of the soil on her livestock farm. She says, “It’s really all about the soil; we have to increase organic matter into our soils. Through our agriculture practices, many of us have been depleting soils of organic matter over the last 70 years, and even before that, mostly through cultivation and more recently through use of chemical inputs. Civilizations fail when their soils fail, and their soils fail because they have been depleted of organic matter.”