Sheep farmer gearing up for 100 year milestone

Gary Brien is the third generation on the family farm located just outside of Ridgetown, while his son, Lee, who helps out on the farm, would be the fourth.

By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter-The Ridgetown Independent News

The Brien family’s involvement with The Royal runs the test of time.

 Since its inception in 1922, a member of the Brien family has been involved in The Royal. Located in downtown Toronto, it’s a show that has grown to be the largest indoor agricultural and equestrian event in the world.

 Gary Brien of Ridgetown is working hard and getting ready to continue the long-lasting tradition.

 “This year will be the 100th anniversary. There’s been a Brien involved in it the whole 100 years,” said Gary Brien of Brien Sheep.

 Brien said the first agricultural manager of the Royal from 1922 until 1946 was Duff Brien. This sparked a streak, and the tradition of having involvement at The Royal has never skipped a beat.

 “My grandfather was a clerk in the horse ring for the first four or five years. We haven’t shown every year, but we’ve had some connection with it every year, whether we’ve had somebody on the committee or somebody judging, or whatever, we’ve been there,” said Brien.

 Brien said The Royal is arguably one of the most challenging places in North America to take livestock to as it’s located in downtown Toronto. He noted the significance of The Royal has been massive throughout the years.

 “In 1922, the population of Toronto was 180,000, and The Royal brought in 415,000 people. So, at one time, it had a great deal of significance,” said Brien. “Now, as The Royal agricultural diminishes, it becomes less and less relevant.”

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Brien admitted he is well aware of the importance of keeping agriculture strong in Ridgetown. He said he remembers when Ridgetown was a hub with many families who showed sheep as well as cattle families and many families with livestock. He added what his family does is extremely rare nowadays.

 “The family farm is a rarity now, and a family farm that has livestock on it is even rarer, and a family farm that has a pedigree and shows livestock is extremely rare,” said Brien.

 He said there are a lot of chores that need to be done, and getting prepared each and every day can be a challenge of its own.

 While Gary and the family are excited to continue the long-lasting family tradition, the show itself isn’t until November. Brien said there’s lots of work happening on the family farm in the meantime.

 According to Brien, the family will have their first lambs early later this week. He said this is important to see if their breeding program is progressing.

 While Gary has more than 60 years of experience and has travelled internationally to countries such as Mexico and Colombia, he admits his family is just as important to the success and tradition as he is.

 “That makes it possible to grow. Not just one person has to lead, but everybody has to kind of fall in behind it to get it done. My wife certainly plays a big, big role too,” said Brien.

 Gary’s son, Lee, and daughter, Sarah, also help out on the farm. Gary said it’s a team effort, and he is thankful for the value the Briens put on the word “family.”

 “It’s a lot of work to get ready, and it’s a lot of work to get in there, and it’s a lot of work when you’re there. But you know, it’s worth it,” said Brien.

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