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The Black Diamond Elk Ranch is a Bright Spot in our Foothills Community

Steve Koeckhoven channels his drive, passion, and natural curiosity about the world around him to achieve innovations and success wherever his journey leads.
Black Diamond Elk Ranch Spotlight

In May of 2019, his curiosity led him to knock on the front door of North Fork Elk Ranch and Cowboy Trail RV & Self Storage. After introducing himself to the owners, Patrick and Tanis Downey, he understood the potential opportunity that lay before him.

In January 2020, the Downey’s stepped into retirement with the sale of the business to Koeckhoven. Koeckhoven realized that the ranch was the perfect opportunity to put all his farm and corporate experiences and education to work.

Koeckhoven has firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing both crop and livestock producers today. Steve grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Alberta. In 2008, the family decided to exit the dairy to purchase a turnkey grain operation in southeast Saskatchewan.

He pursued education as an economist and holds both a finance degree and a Master of Economics from the University of Alberta. He followed this up with an MBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business in Ontario. Koeckhoven used his formal training and hands-on ag experience on a journey that included stops in corporate boardrooms, offices at major ag interests like Nutrien, and classrooms where he has won awards for the knowledge he shares. His writing and research are utilized in academic institutions such as Harvard.

In addition to his experience in livestock and grain production, Koeckhoven is committed to sharing his farm and corporate experiences to spark curiosity about the business of agriculture. Having has seats at both the boardroom and kitchen table, he is uniquely positioned to provide a wide array of viewpoints within agri-business.

His latest stop, one he couldn’t be happier about, has him overlooking a wide open ranch – one brimming with endless possibilities as he broadens his experiences. COVID aside, Koeckhoven admits that transitioning to a new community and into two new industries with very little experience has been the biggest challenge he has faced to date. Living in Calgary at the time, he purchased the businesses from the Downey’s with the plan to officially move to the ranch later that fall. For a host of reasons, not to mention COVID, 18 months passed before he was could call the ranch home and truly begin executing his transition plans.

Now as the owner/operator of the renamed Black Diamond Elk Ranch & Cowboy Trail RV, Koeckhoven has renewed excitement. To honor the hard work and integrity of the generations that came before him, Steve is charting a course for a successful future.

He says with a grin, “I never dreamed or imagined I would be raising elk or own a storage business!”

The majority of consumers are introduced to Alberta’s Elk industry through meat and pet products. Most believe that meat products are the sole purpose of the elk industry, and Koeckhoven admits he used to think the same way, quickly did he realize that there is much more to it than that “Black Diamond Elk Ranch supports an ecological resource as much as it supports a food resource,” Koeckhoven points out.

“The real story is one of regeneration and renewability. We want to collaborate with others to offer products that people can enjoy, knowing that the animal is still alive and breathing.”

Elk antlers can be used in art, home furnishings, and pet and human health products. When an animal is at the end of its life cycle, the entire animal can – and should – be used. Every step of the way, the animal enjoys a productive, happy life while roaming on a grass-filled ranch.

In addition to the consumer products that his herd provides, Koeckhoven sees the ranch itself as the ideal location for tourism, education, community engagement, connecting consumers with the land, and helping them understand where their food comes from. And with state-of-the-art solar panels already installed on the ranch, he’s working on making the ranch climate-positive, and that includes the RV storage business as well.

“Black Diamond Elk Ranch is in a beautiful location, accessible after a beautiful drive,” Koeckhoven adds. “The long-term plan includes being able to host local events, act as a venue, and support local fundraisers.”

This plan became reality on July 25th when the ranch hosted hundreds of cyclists participating in this year’s Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

His full attention continues to be on and in the business; he couldn’t be happier to be in a position to follow his dreams and looks forward to properly introducing himself fully to the community soon.

Koeckhoven concludes, “We all have to work the best we can with mother nature and with the natural world.

This is where our food comes from. Elk is not just for meat; elk is a part of everything – a walking, renewable resource. Not many people have the blessing and opportunity to raise elk at the base of the Rocky Mountains.” He smiles broadly. “I’m a lucky man.”

Learn more on Black Diamond Elk Ranch and Cowboy Trail RV websites, and follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

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