British Columbia

Northern B.C. farming community raises money for livestock affected by wildfires

This year's B.C. wildfires affected not only people, but thousands of livestock as well. Horses, sheep, cows, goats and more are still being sheltered in fairgrounds and friends’ barns throughout the Bulkley Valley in the northwest central interior of B.C.

'It's pretty urgent,' says farmer and organizer

The Bulkley Valley is home to many hobby farms. Wildfire evacuation orders have relocated many hobby farm animals like sheep. (Laurie Gallant)

The summer wildfires in B.C. affected not only people, but thousands of livestock as well.

Horses, sheep, cows, goats and more are still being sheltered in fairgrounds and friends' barns throughout the regional district of Bulkley-Nechako in the northwest central interior of B.C., due to multiple evacuation orders over the summer.

Of the roughly 9,000 relocated animals in the Burns Lake and south-side Francois Lake areas, half are not eligible for the emergency relief funding that farm-status animals receive from the regional district, according to farmer Laurie Gallent.

Gallent is also president of the non-profit organization Music and Agritourism Society of the Hazeltons.

"When I heard what happened I [thought], what can I do? I need all the hay I have for my animals," Gallant told Daybreak North host Carolina De Ryk.

Laurie Gallant's farm, Bulkley Canyon Ranch (pictured above), will host a benefit concert for hobby livestock this weekend. (Laurie Gallant)

This weekend, Gallant is organizing a fundraising concert to cover the costs of returning hobby livestock to their homes, as well as feed costs. 

Hobby farms

Hobby farmers raise animals for personal use and grow food for their households. The farms are not set up like businesses or meet financial quotas required for farm status by the B.C. Assessment Authority.

Organizers are hoping to raise approximately $5,000 Sunday evening to aid around 4,500 animals.

The Northwest Forest Fire Support Network, a community-run organization, has already raised $11,400 for feed costs through a GoFundMe page.  

Gallant says that horses and cows need 30 pounds of hay per day, and sheep and goats need six pounds of hay per day. She says that $150 provides 2,000 pounds of hay on average, depending on the quality of hay and the size of the bales.

Gallant's own farm has farm status, but she says helping the hobby farmers is important for the community. 

"It's pretty urgent ... areas in the region have already gotten their first snow. Fires devastated piles of hay that were being saved for the winter, and pastures are gone as well."

Some of Laurie Gallant's sheep at Bulkley Canyon Ranch. (Laurie Gallant)

The benefit concert will take place at Gallant's Bulkley Canyon Ranch. Attendance is by donation. The event will feature five musical acts including Scottish musician Simon Kempston, swing band Hillbilly Scrabble, and Bulkley Valley locals The Racket. 

"It's not only about the money," Gallant told the CBC. "It's about creating a space for people to gather, regroup, have fun, and reflect on what just happen and how we can be more ready next time."

Listen to the full interview here:

With files from Daybreak North