Family Business

Welcoming the next generation in the family business


4 min




Watch the Kotelko family in Alberta, Canada, a 4th generation business family in agriculture who owns and operates Highland Feeders, one of the largest cattle feedlots in Canada (36,000 heads) and has two major spin-off businesses: (i) Spring Creek ranch, a multi-million dollar beef steaks, sausages and patties business and (ii) Highmark Renewables, a bio-energy company. We learn how the daughter was welcomed in the family business to lead Spring Creek Ranch.


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Bern Kotelko
What Spring Creek Ranch is, is a value chain of raising beef cattle in a low stress environment and keeping them on the ranch level where they are raised through our value chain ranchers.

Kirstin Kotelko
So for my family business, I run Spring Creek Ranch, which is our premium line of hormone and anti-biotic free beef that we market to high-end restaurants and retailers across Canada. Well, what I think I bring to the family business more specific to my area of the family business for Spring Creek is just my passion for food and my knowledge of the food industry. My dad and my uncle are great producers of this great beef product, but they are first and foremost farmers, and so I bring that next level of generation and the new outlook for the family farm.

Bern ... View More Kotelko
She started; we gave her a protocol and a certification.

Kirstin Kotelko
My dad basically says that he has given me a white sheet of paper and some crayons and told me to color on it and draw whatever picture I wanted. In fact, I did not realize when I went to University that I would actually be coming back to the family business, and so having those few years away from home allowed me to find my own path and my passion and vision, and then be able to bring that back.

Donna Kotelko
When Spring Creek became busy, when Kirsten came back from University to run Spring Creek, I could see that she needed support that we you know, we just did not have the resources to hire people to help her. So at that point, I thought this is somewhere where I feel comfortable coming and helping.

Kirstin Kotelko
Some of the benefits of having family as business partners are that you always have someone that you know will be on your side and support you, you are not dealing with, you know, a boss that you do not get along with, or conflicts in the office place, because you have grown and you have lived together and you have dealt with conflicts all through out your life, so I think some of those experiences previous to being part of the business really get incorporated when you are running in the family business.

Donna Kotelko
There is a lot of responsibility in running a business this size. We have become an integral part of this community in providing employment, you know, a place for grain farmers to deliver their grain, a place for ranchers to sell and market their cattle, and then all the spin off businesses that come from there. So we do feel a real responsibility to make this successful and not let some little things prevent us from succeeding.

Bern Kotelko
There is no time to really to sit back and think of who is doing more than the other. You know we are all going flat out, and so we need each other’s just to get everything done.

We can look back at our grandchildren coming here and wondering how creative they are going to be.