To keep his family legacy alive, John Owens has opened his own ranch with summer camps for kids.
He was raised with his cousins on the Griffin Valley Ranch, which belonged to his aunt and uncle. He helped with the work on the ranch, looked after horses, and went on trail rides.
“Over the last ten years, I was given the reins to take over the operations,” he said.
“But last year, the decision was made to close down the ranch. It was pretty sad. We had a lot of sleepless nights, but we started dreaming about something new.”
Owens loves the ranching lifestyle so much that he wasn’t about to just walk away.
“I decided to take my horses, staff, and a bunch of my equipment and start from scratch again,” he said.
He secured a piece of land in the Wildcat Hills from his mother, which he put together with some other parcels to bring together 240 acres.
In less than a year, Owens built the ranch from the ground up and put his personal touch on every piece of it.
“It’s just south of the Griffin Valley Ranch, so we were able to fence this all off and still use some of the same old trails,” he said.
“It took 40 years to make that ranch what it was, so I’m looking forward to tinkering and making adjustments as we go.”
A few weeks ago in June, the Bar JO Ranch officially opened and began welcoming kids for summer camps.
“My kids are getting to the age now that they’re able to go along on trail rides, and they absolutely love it,” said Owens.
“They all love horses. My three-year-old son is a cowboy already. I just want them to have the same experience that I had growing up. My grandpa started Griffin Valley way back when, and I’m looking forward to carrying on this tradition.”
He said that Bar JO Ranch will remain a family operation, with his wife and three kids often helping out with everything from administration to building fences.
“We really enjoy what we do,” said Owens.
“We’re looking forward to creating new memories. I love the fresh air, being with the horses, meeting new people. Time seems to slow down out here. It’s a slower pace of life.”
With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to lift, Owens said that visiting Bar JO Ranch is a great opportunity for kids to get out in the sun and back to socializing.
“We get kids away from their phones and video games,” he said.
“Horses can help teach kids respect, self-control, and confidence. It’s a great form of exercise and a way to meet new friends. And since we’re not in the city, there’s lots of wide open spaces for physical distancing.”
The camps run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every week throughout the summer. Parents can sign their children up online at barjo.ca.