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Picture Butte chamber names Cor Van Raay as Citizen of the Year

Posted on January 21, 2020 by Sunny South News
Sunny South photo by Nikki Jamieson

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Cor Van Raay has been named Citizen of the Year by the Picture Butte and District Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s nothing but an honour,” said Van Raay. “I supported the community for a long time, and had farmed there for 50, 60 years.”

Van Raay had lived in the Picture Butte area for more than 50 years, and had first came there from Blackie, Alta., for a job topping beets. He met his wife Christine in Picture Butte, and they married in 1963, having six kids between 1964-1977.

In 1964, they purchase land in the Iron Spring area, to grow grain, and rented land to grow sugar beets. In 1972 Van Raay built the corrals for his first group of cattle.

“I’ve always wanted to be a farmer, never changed my mind about that. I had a chance to buy half a section of land, and that’s what I did, and that’s where I started farming.”

Van Raay changed the feedlot cattle industry in Alberta by building bigger feedlots, ranging from 15,000-25,000 heads of cattle.

At one point, the operation contained more than 100,000 heads of cattle with more than 100 employees looking after them. Van Raay also developed relationships with American packers, starting the trend of large-scale exports of cattle to the U.S. The growth and success of the feedlots inspired other farmers, and the area became known as ‘feedlot alley’.In the 1980’s, the Van Raay  and Paskal families became part owners of the Butte Grain Merchants, a trucking and cattle feeding operation. For several years Van Raay was also a part owner of a John Deere equipment dealership in Lethbridge called McKay Brothers for several years.

In 2009, a majority of the farm was sold to four of his children who managed Cor Van Raay Farms Ltd. (CVRF) until it amalgamated with Paskal Cattle Company in 2015.

After selling the farm, Van Raay started Van Raay Land Inc., and with the support of his partner Julie Perverseff, he started a grain farm near Outlook, Sask.

The pair enjoy the time they spend in Saskatchewan, and the Barton family provide the custom farming support to seed and harvest wheat, canola, barley or lentils on the 35,000 acres located around Outlook.

As he enjoyed success in various agriculture businesses, he supported various community projects and organizations in Lethbridge, Picture Butte and Outlook. According to his nomination, his support of community projects is why he was nominated for Citizen of the Year.

Some of his support for local projects include a park in Picture Butte in memory of Christine, who had passed away in 2005, the Walk on the Wildside pathway and a $1 million donation to the Cor Van Raay and Community Aquatic Centre in Picture Butte, which is expected to open this summer. VRP Farms had also donated land for the pool facility.

In total, Van Raay has supported three pools — the new West Lethbridge Cor Van Raay YMCA, the Outlook Saskatchewan community pool and the pool in Picture Butte — and has sponsored two hockey teams.

Van Raay said he felt good supporting these causes.

“I believe in sharing,” said Van Raay. “I made good money farming, so I share it.”

“How can you not be involved (in the community there)… I lived in Iron Springs actually, but did all my business in Picture Butte of course, so it was natural.”

Van Raay has received a honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Lethbridge, and is a Queens Diamond Jubilee recipient, an inductee in the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame and is an awarded member of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association.

By supporting projects or organizations in your community, Van Raay says everyone can reap the benefits of that project, as opposed to just giving it to an organization where you might not see the affects.

“If you spend money in your community, it gets spread out in the whole community, so to speak, and that’s a heck of a lot better than giving it to one (person or organization).”

Van Raay will receive the chamber’s Citizen of the Year award during the chamber’s AGM and awards dinner on Friday, Jan. 31, at the Picture Butte Community Centre. Tickets can be bought at Scotiabank, ATB Bank, Ag Employment and the Cooperators. Doors open at 6 p.m. and supper is at 7 p.m.

By Nikki Jamieson

Sunny South News

Cor Van Raay has been named Citizen of the Year by the Picture Butte and District Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s nothing but an honour,” said Van Raay. “I supported the community for a long time, and had farmed there for 50, 60 years.”

Van Raay had lived in the Picture Butte area for more than 50 years, and had first came there from Blackie, Alta., for a job topping beets. He met his wife Christine in Picture Butte, and they married in 1963, having six kids between 1964-1977.

In 1964, they purchase land in the Iron Spring area, to grow grain, and rented land to grow sugar beets. In 1972 Van Raay built the corrals for his first group of cattle.

“I’ve always wanted to be a farmer, never changed my mind about that. I had a chance to buy half a section of land, and that’s what I did, and that’s where I started farming.”

Van Raay changed the feedlot cattle industry in Alberta by building bigger feedlots, ranging from 15,000-25,000 heads of cattle.

At one point, the operation contained more than 100,000 heads of cattle with more than 100 employees looking after them. Van Raay also developed relationships with American packers, starting the trend of large-scale exports of cattle to the U.S. The growth and success of the feedlots inspired other farmers, and the area became known as ‘feedlot alley’.In the 1980’s, the Van Raay  and Paskal families became part owners of the Butte Grain Merchants, a trucking and cattle feeding operation. For several years Van Raay was also a part owner of a John Deere equipment dealership in Lethbridge called McKay Brothers for several years.

In 2009, a majority of the farm was sold to four of his children who managed Cor Van Raay Farms Ltd. (CVRF) until it amalgamated with Paskal Cattle Company in 2015.

After selling the farm, Van Raay started Van Raay Land Inc., and with the support of his partner Julie Perverseff, he started a grain farm near Outlook, Sask.

The pair enjoy the time they spend in Saskatchewan, and the Barton family provide the custom farming support to seed and harvest wheat, canola, barley or lentils on the 35,000 acres located around Outlook.

As he enjoyed success in various agriculture businesses, he supported various community projects and organizations in Lethbridge, Picture Butte and Outlook. According to his nomination, his support of community projects is why he was nominated for Citizen of the Year.

Some of his support for local projects include a park in Picture Butte in memory of Christine, who had passed away in 2005, the Walk on the Wildside pathway and a $1 million donation to the Cor Van Raay and Community Aquatic Centre in Picture Butte, which is expected to open this summer. VRP Farms had also donated land for the pool facility.

In total, Van Raay has supported three pools — the new West Lethbridge Cor Van Raay YMCA, the Outlook Saskatchewan community pool and the pool in Picture Butte — and has sponsored two hockey teams.

Van Raay said he felt good supporting these causes.

“I believe in sharing,” said Van Raay. “I made good money farming, so I share it.”

“How can you not be involved (in the community there)… I lived in Iron Springs actually, but did all my business in Picture Butte of course, so it was natural.”

Van Raay has received a honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Lethbridge, and is a Queens Diamond Jubilee recipient, an inductee in the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame and is an awarded member of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association.

By supporting projects or organizations in your community, Van Raay says everyone can reap the benefits of that project, as opposed to just giving it to an organization where you might not see the affects.

“If you spend money in your community, it gets spread out in the whole community, so to speak, and that’s a heck of a lot better than giving it to one (person or organization).”

Van Raay will receive the chamber’s Citizen of the Year award during the chamber’s AGM and awards dinner on Friday, Jan. 31, at the Picture Butte Community Centre. Tickets can be bought at Scotiabank, ATB Bank, Ag Employment and the Cooperators. Doors open at 6 p.m. and supper is at 7 p.m.

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