Pathway 6 in Profile: Healthy, Diverse Economy

By Nouran Emam and Therese Bong

The Cochrane Sustainability Plan (CSP) is all about creating a sustainable future for our community.  With Pathway 6, the focus is on a strong and diverse economic base that will stand the test of time.

Pathway 6: Our Local Economy is Healthy and Diverse

Targets:  By 2029, the number of businesses in Cochrane across all sectors increases by 50%.


A diverse economy is important not only because it provides increased stability, but also for the value it offers citizens.  Being able to access services locally offers convenience to Cochrane residents, and contributes to a sense of connection and community.  Buying locally is also a key sustainability principle.

Cochrane is fortunate to benefit from a diverse economy, relative to its size – and one that continues to grow.  This diversity is something that is tied to our land use, as outlined in Pathway 10, which focuses on supporting a healthy and growing economy while preserving our natural environment.

Saffron Collective Studios

The work being done at Saffron Collective Studios is a good example of our diverse economy.  Nicole Byl of Saffron Collective recognizes the importance of arts in Cochrane and feels that art brings people in the community together. Having grown up with a passion for working with clay, Nicole is no stranger to creativity.   “Every individual should have access to art and culture in their daily lives,” Nicole says – and that’s something Saffron Collective Studios is helping achieve.

Nicole Byl

Nicole was a part of the development of the CSP.  She decided to become involved because she loves Cochrane and wanted to find ways to help make it a sustainable town. Her involvement was her first introduction to any sustainability planning, and gave her a chance to learn more about the culture of Cochrane.

With her business, Nicole originally started out with a smaller location that did not accommodate too many people at a time.  However, she soon expanded her business so that more people in the community could have a chance to get involved in pottery making. She saw a need in the community and the potential to expose the arts in a new way, and she acted on it.

Nicole views her studio as a place where community members can come to work on various mediums in an inviting environment.  People can meet each other, try something new and gain an appreciation for other artist’s work. Nicole feels her studio helps pull the community together in the form of art – reinforcing her belief that it’s important to support art in order to appreciate art.

In her efforts to keep arts thriving in Cochrane, Nicole has set up monthly, half-year and yearly memberships and teaches most of the classes offered at Saffron Collective Studios.

When asked what advice she would give to someone who wants to get involved with the community plan, she suggests reviewing the CSP first to see what areas interest you. Sustainability is a broad subject, and there are plenty of ways to get involved.

LJ Ranch


The LJ Ranch is a family owned and operated ranch located in the foothills of Alberta, just five miles from Cochrane. In their natural beef program, LJ cattle are raised on native pasture and hay and finished with locally produced grain — all without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.

For many years, LJ Ranch has provided their customers with local, naturally raised beef.  They follow many of the key points of the CSP by providing locally grown product for Cochrane and area residents.

Sustainability is an important part of LJ Ranch’s business model. “People are becoming more aware of what goes into their food,” says Joy West-Eklund, owner (with her husband Lindsay) of LJ Ranch.  “More and more, people are thinking globally, and acting locally.”

There’s no question that ranching is hard work, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living.  Recently, LJ Ranch was part of a CBC TV feature Make the Politician Work.  Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith visited LJ Ranch to gain an appreciation for what goes into cattle ranching in Alberta.

As the agricultural land-base diminishes, it becomes more and more difficult to sustain any sort of local agriculture. Low commodity prices means that local farmers must sell their products at a lower rate than the cost of growing their product – often they can’t make a profit from what they grow and sell. Such issues can make local farming unprofitable.  Too often farmers slowly give up their farms in order to make a living, reducing the availability of locally grown product in the process.

Businesses like LJ Ranch help Cochrane on the path to sustainability by providing a local source of beef, and they stay sustainable by pursuing this niche market. The calves are born and raised humanely on the LJ Ranch, which is an important consideration for many customers.

“Our approach is not only more wholesome and satisfying to us personally, but satisfies our environmentally — and locality — conscious customers, who place value on knowing where their food comes from,” Joy says.  “In turn, it’s much more satisfying for us to know where the product of our labor goes.  That’s why we do it.”

Business for LJ Ranch began growing as a result of local networking and community building. As more and more people tried LJ Ranch beef, they spread the word to others. This local networking helped to increase the awareness people had of the locally grown product available in the area.

For businesses looking to start on the path to sustainability, LJ Ranch has found that trust and word-of-mouth have been the best methods for building a customer base. Allowing people to sample products from your business helps spread word of it to others who may be interested in purchasing your goods. Most importantly, trust is key to keeping the customer base returning. Customers came to purchase services from you because of your business model built on sustainability. To stray from this model would be to break this trust.

Area customers are able to purchase beef quarters or halves for delivery from LJ Ranch directly.  For smaller quantities, their beef is sold through Twisted Basil, a Sustainability Champion for the Cochrane Sustainability Plan.