As a corporate executive with Super Save Group, local rancher Jay St. Germain was drawing a salary that would make most of us giddy with envy. The job didn’t allow for the lifestyle he wanted though. “When I increased my division’s profits,” he said, “it just meant the expectation level went up.” One day he confided to his wife Kimberly, “by the time I’m 50, I want to be out of the city.”
Jay grew up around tractors, equipment and agriculture. Early on, his parents owned a chicken farm, and had horses for hunting. One year he rode bulls. He also joined a saddle club. Early experiences developed in him a love of the outdoors.
Jay and Kimberly met at a night club on the Lower Mainland. His CFL linebacker frame (minus the extra weight) got him a job there as doorman/bouncer. Kimberly, blond, pretty and comfortable talking with almost anyone, was a bartender. She jokingly said, “Jay threw out anyone who was a possible rival suitor.”
Kimberly went on to a 25 year career in telecommunications, beginning with Bell Canada and ending at the help desk at Telus. Prior to working for Super Save, Jay became a realtor and also owned a cleaning business that employed 25 people. He had the drive, skill and personality to achieve impressive success in business, but in his heart he always knew he wanted to be in ranching.
His parents bought a ranch in the Pemberton area and Jay spent as much time there as possible.
He and Kimberly were married in September, 1992. They bought 5 acres in Milner and had horses. “In time, we had a good home, a Mercedes in the garage and the income to go out for nice dinners and various events,” Jay said. “I realized though I’d never find fulfillment in the corporate world.”
His parents sold the Pemberton ranch. Then, a few years ago his dad began talking of buying another one. He would only do it though if Jay and Kimberly partnered with him.
When they decided to take the plunge and began looking for a ranch, it meant giving up the security of a corporate income and pension. Jay’s fellow executives were dumbfounded. They attempted to convince him this was a foolhardy move. Just a little more than a year after purchasing the Stirling Creek Ranch west of Hedley, he says, “life experiences are a result of the choices we make. At times we have to risk to get what we want. I’m a risk taker.”
The ranch has changed their lives. “Before we made this move I’d often be in a hotel room in Toronto or some other city,” he said. “I was away a lot. Now I work 7 days a week, but I love what I do, and I see Kimberly every day.” Instead of attending executive meetings, his work is mostly outdoors, where he wants to be.
With the help of Doug, their one cowboy, his time is given to haying, managing the range so the cattle don’t overgraze, repairing equipment, cutting in trails, riding, fixing fences and much more. Coy, their Australian Working Kelpie, assists with cattle control.
The St. Germains feel fortunate in having inherited Robin from the previous ownership. “Robin manages the place,” Jay said. “He knows where the wells are. He knows a lot about breeding. It’s all so technical now. He has made the learning curve less steep.”
Kimberly doesn’t have Jay’s agricultural background but she pitches in whenever she can and is eager to learn. “I began taking riding lessons,” she said, “but then I had back issues and also broke an arm. I do want to be a cowgirl so I can help with the roundup. It will enable me to embrace the life style more fully. In spring I’ll get back to the lessons.”
The St. Germains own about 450 acres and lease thousands more, some from the local band and individuals. They also have a government grazing lease. Their goal now is to improve the herd and make the ranch profitable. “Costs and profits don’t match up well,” Jay said.
Even so, after a delicious lunch in the dining area of their spacious home and listening to them, Linda and I sensed their contentment. “We’re living our dream,” Jay said. He is nearing 50 and out of the city.