How Elk Farmer Thom Van Eeghen Became Canadian
Ottawa elk farmer Thom Van Eeghen, “a landed immigrant from New Zealand”, explains how he became a Canadian, and what he thinks Canada should do to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday in 2017.
“I came to Canada like most young Kiwi guys, wanting to look at the world and travel,” Van Eeghen says. “I had some family in North America, and I also had a passion for elk farming, and North America was the place to go to see where elk came from. We were raising them in New Zealand, with my father, and Canada was just starting, and we wanted some genetic material. So I bought a Volkswagen Kombi van and started in B.C., zig-zagging through the States and Canada, just stopping off at elk farms. That was in 1989
“I did that for a good year, and stumbled upon my wife one evening at a party at the Lieutenant’s Pump on Elgin Street. One thing led to another and the centre of the universe became Ottawa. I stayed as long as I could, until it got too cold – my Volkswagen didn’t have a heater – and continued my travels east and southeast. But we were married within a year. I didn’t have a lot of family in New Zealand; we were immigrants from the Netherlands. And my wife was fifth-generation in the Ottawa Valley, going back to the mid-1800s, so we decided to raise our family here.
“Our family likes to celebrate these milestones getting together with our own family, as opposed to being in a bigger herd, and just stopping and thinking of how fortunate we are to have these resources, these people, and the new people that come to this country. It’s a mixing pond, not so well-defined as other countries, but that’s really a reflection of who we all are.”
Van Eeghen’s Elk Ranch has been in operation since 1999.
Original article by Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen, June 30, 2015.
Photo by Bruce Deachman.