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HOMETOWN: Lucia Johnston loves ranch life in the Cariboo

Having grown up on a ranch and outdoors, this 19-year-old is pursuing an agriculture education
Lucia Johnston calls her cows her best friends, and loves the hands-on work which is part of every day life on a ranch. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Lucia Johnston is a versatile young woman.

She arrived looking bright and clean, with a dimpled smile, at the Cariboo Meat Up livestock producers event, ready to give a talk on a book report.

She apologized for having missed the morning presentations, but explained she had been up “pulling calves” at 2:30 a.m.

Lucia wasn’t phased by the late night, even if she did need to catch up on a bit of sleep. Pulling a calf is when, during birth, a calf gets stuck in the cow’s pelvis. Ranchers can assist the cow during birth by actually pulling on the young calf during the birthing process. This requires experience and confidence.

“We didn’t need flashlights because the moon was so bright last night,” she said of the nighttime adventures on her family’s ranch.

Luckily for her, not only is the late night work helping out the family, but it is also helpful in her studies. Lucia is enrolled in the two-year Regenerative Agriculture Program at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake.

Johnston said so far she’s loving the diploma program.

“I’ve always been more hands-on,” she said of her learning style. In the program, she attends class once a week and the rest is flexible and just how she likes it — practical.

When meeting up again at her family’s ranch, she hops into the driver’s seat of a ranch truck, apologizing for the state of the cab, with straw, gloves and other items spilling from the cab, in typical work truck fashion. Driving around the fields to check cows, she comfortably navigates the steep, rough ground, as she directs the truck through the herd, a route she has clearly done many times.

“I can be outside, I can be with the cows now.”

In the spring especially, this is ideal. When speaking to the Tribune, Johnston said so far the ranch had somewhere around 250 new calves this year. She helps with the overnight cow and calf checks, which take place at 11 p.m., 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

This kind of lifestyle is normal for her, having always lived on a ranch. As a young child, she and her parents lived off-grid near MacIntosh Lake, which she described as “in the middle of nowhere.”

About 12 years ago, the family moved onto the Onward Ranch.

Since moving to the Onward, she has grown up with the ranch.

This lifestyle has taught her dedication and responsibility, she said, praising both her parents and especially her dad Ty Johnston for how hard he works.

She said on the ranch, you are just exposed to more hardship.

“That’s part of life, no matter how hard you try sometimes,” she said, of days where she has witnessed both birth and death. She recalls seeing her dad save a calf’s life when he gave it CPR.

“That’s pretty special,” she said.

But she does more than ranching and school.

Johnston is also a musician, having grown up playing fiddle with her mom, Ingrid, who leads the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society. Lucia practices once a week with the group and when speaking to the Tribune, she was taking part in a workshop with a professional musician throughout the week.

Along with fiddle practice, she rides her two horses and is the president of the Rose Lake Miocene 4H Club.

“It’s kind of exhausting but I enjoy it,” she said. Having been with the club since she was about nine, she said being president involves leading meetings, drawing up agendas supporting the younger members. She still remembers when she was new to the club and found it scary because she didn’t know anyone.

“It’s just nice to give back,” she said.

Whatever she does next, she said she hopes to help increase awareness of how beneficial it can be to the landscape when managed properly and the importance of agriculture in general. She is considering pursuing an agribusiness degree once she finishes her diploma, but hasn’t made up her mind.

“The options are endless,” she said.

READ MORE: OUR HOMETOWN: Soaring through life at Williams Lake Regional Airport

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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