'They're so much fun to be around': Meet Fort Saskatchewan's new shepherds

The City of Fort Saskatchewan has been using a herd of sheep as natural lawn mowers for nearly 30 years as an eco-friendly way to care for the city’s pastures.

On Wednesday, the Sheep Grazing Program resumed as usual, but there was a new pair of shepherds at the helm. 

Since 1993, Kathy and Ralph Playdon have tended to the herd. But, after a full life of shepherding, they decided to retire last season and pass the torch to another family.

Natasja Steinbusch and her daughter Pien have officially taken over as the new head shepherds.

“We’ve never shepherd before like this,” Natasja said. “This is something new for us too.”

“I love the sheep, they’re so much fun to be around,” Pien added

Natasja told CTV News Edmonton their family moved to Canada from the Netherlands in 2006 and bought a farm in Wildwood with miniature horses, so taking over the herd is completely new territory.

“There’s quite a bit of pressure to step up to what they did for sure,” Natasja said.

While there’s big shoes to fill after 28 years, Natasja recalls Ralph giving her one piece of advice.

He said, "Whatever happens just stay calm," she laughed.


Natasja and Pien are taking on the new venture in stride. Plus, Natasja said it’s a good way for her and Pien to “spend some time together,” before she pursues a career in education in the fall.

“I really like the opportunity to be with the kids, and be able to educate people on sheep, and farm life,” Pien said.

“It’s good practice for becoming a teacher.”

Even though there is a learning curve, the mother-daughter duo both said they’re looking forward to spending the summer outdoors and getting to meet new people in the community.

“The fact that you met new people, and how the people enjoy the sheep. Even from the walk to the pasture coming here everyone is excited about the sheep,” Natasja said.

“It’s going to be smooth sailing,” Pien added.

“It’s going to be so awesome to be able to work with the sheep all summer.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Carlyle Fiset