My April column for CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon was all about a new website called Soil Mate.
The Soil Mate website acts like a match making service between consumers and farmers. Just as internet matchmaking services helps people find their soul mate, this site will help you find your “soil mate”. But, it’s all brand new and Soil Mate needs help building a directory of farmers, farmer’s markets and wineries that will span North America. We can all help. Here’s a bit more information and my podcast.
Here’s a few videos highlighting last year’s host farms.
Chefs, restaurants, caterers and culinary tour operators can design and offer culinary events to celebrate our Alberta farms on Saturday, August 23, 2014. Fees will apply for these events.
Farms willing to host a free admission open house of their farm on August 24 have the opportunity to engage and enlist direct market support of their enterprise through this annual event.
Both culinary event operators and farmers can download the participation form here.
Taking time out to celebrate our amazing Alberta farms and farmers is a great way to savour it all.
Corrine Dahm and Darrel Winter
photo – Karen Anderson
I’ve known Darrel Winter and his wife Corrine Dahm since about 2005 when I started doing volunteer work for Slow Food Calgary. I met a lot of Alberta farmers in the six years I worked actively on the board of that organization. Winter and Dahm stood out. Anyone who meets them appreciates the honest and earnest way they conduct themselves and how that translates to the animal husbandry practices of their turkey farm.
In 2007 I first visited their farm and started calling it “the turkey spa”. Beyond a wholesome farm smell, the air is crisp and clean. There is fresh straw bedding laid daily for the turkeys. They have access to the great outdoors, food and water at all times. They are calm. Their life is calm. The only thing missing is a bit of Bach playing softly in the background.
Winter’s father converted the farm from chickens to turkeys in 1958 and Winter still feeds the turkeys the same program his father devised. We’ll talk a bit about that here, share some photos and I’ll share my favourite way to cook a turkey.
Freshly harvested organic barley field at Highwood Crossing Farm
photo – Karen Anderson
Highwood Crossing Farm has been in Tony Marshall’s family for almost 120 years now. The farm is in Aldersyde, Alberta and hugs a curve in the Highwood River. It’s as though the land of the farm and the flow of the river are two lovers spooning. Most of the time, life is that peaceful and serene there.
In June of this year that was definitely not the case. That’s when we Albertans dealt with The Great Alberta Flood of 2013 and Tony and Penny Marshall of Highwood Crossing saw their Highwood Crossing Foods Ltd. processing plant in High River swallowed up by the river. To add insult to injury the basement of their beloved and beautiful home on the family homestead was also devastated. As always, they looked around and thought – things could be worse. They regrouped and are slowly rebuilding as they can. Before long Tony was making a joke that with all that flour and water in High River it was a good thing they did not also make yeast. High River would have had another mess on their hands the likes of a Ghostbusters movie.
This blog will talk about the Highwood Crossing organic grain farm, the products they produce and what’s involved in that process and then finish with a few of Penny Marshall’s delectable recipes. I’ve had the delight of trying these good things and enjoyed them so much I’m confident you will too.
This film clip talks about the small but important trend towards grass-finished beef ranching, pasture management, environmental stewardship, and prairie grassland habitat restoration here in Alberta, Canada.
Do you know the difference between grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef? A friend that I consider a real food lover asked me the what the difference is last week and I thought – wow, if he doesn’t know then how many other people don’t understand the difference and what it means for the health of the animal, the land and the humans who enjoy beef? This blog will discuss the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished cattle in more detail. If you are keen to read this I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 12 minute film above. It’s loaded with the beauty of Alberta and her precious grasslands.
Alberta harvest time land and skyscape
photo from a moving bus – Karen Anderson
I just spent the better part of the last week planning, shopping, cooking, packing up, catering and leading a Foodie Tootle tour to four farms in one day for 43 guests. I’m pooped out but proud of the amazing farmers we visited yesterday and all the goodies my guests were able to gather for their Thanksgiving dinners next weekend.
I’m going to blog a little bit about each of the four farmers we visited this week. Those farms include the following:
Poplar Bluff Organics
Highwood Crossing and the
The Saskatoon Farm.
All through this week, I’ll share some of the recipes these farms have inspired along with some of my family’s favourites.
Meanwhile, if you are wondering what a Foodie Tootle is, I hope you will enjoy this piece I wrote for City Palate describing the origin of the Foodie Tootle farm tours, their goals and what that typical experience looks and feels like.
Did you read the article? Here’s a sample of one of my Bad Turkey Jokes.
Why did the turkey cross the road? It was the chicken’s day off.
Here’s a better punch line to make up for that.
Apple Jack Frost Nipping at your Nose Punch
4 liters apple cider
1 bottle sparkling wine
2 cups Calvados
2 t. Fee Brothers whiskey barrel-aged bitters
Iced apple ring
Combine all of the above in a punch bowl and serve promptly upon guests arrival for a smooth opening to your holiday party. Make the ice ring by slicing 6 apples thinly, overlap them on the bottom of a ring mold, add just enough water so they’ll freeze in position, freeze, then fill the mold with water and freeze again until needed.
Pumpkin muffins with cranberries, pepitas and brown sugar topping
photo – Karen Anderson
I’m at my desk this morning enjoying a couple of mini pumpkin muffins and steaming cup of tea because my September Alberta at Noon food column (I’m at the 8 minute mark in the program) is about pumpkins and I presented the recipe for these long time favourite muffins for that broadcast.
September is the prime time to visit Alberta’s agritourism pumpkin patches. If you wait until October when Thanksgiving’s pie and Halloween’s Jack o’ Lantern are pressing culinary and decorative concerns you’ll miss out.
We can have frost in Alberta anytime in September and that’s when the big green pumpkin leaves and vines die, die, die. The pumpkin patch goes from photo ready verdant pastoral eye candy to orange dots on a sea of brown dirt overnight. The farmers go out to the fields pluck up each and every pumpkin and put them in bins at that point. So, if you want to take the little tykes out to pluck their own pumpkin from the patch NOW is the time.
You can find more information about the cornucopia of pumpkin patch opportunities around Alberta here.
The reason I’m talking about pumpkins so far before Thanksgiving and Halloween all started because of a recent tour I led to the five farms of Innisfail Growers. This blog post features the beautiful day I spent touring the five farms of Innisfail Growers and I’ll just say from the outset how grateful I am to my friend Leona Staples for educating me about the brief window for viewing pumpkin patches in their prime. Previous to this August’s visit, I had never even thought about it. Thanks Leona.
Thanks to all of you for dropping by and thanks for being @CBCradio listeners. It’s fun to talk about and savour a bit of the life and activity on our Alberta farms together. Cheers, Karen
It’s never too soon to learn where food comes from
photo – Karen Anderson
Sunday, August 11, 2013 was the kind of Alberta summer day one dreams about.
We have big sky in Alberta. When our big sky is nothing but blue as far as the eye can see and there is not a breath of wind and I have a farm tour booked for my company Calgary Food Tours Inc. – well, that is a sure sign that all is right in the cosmos and my guests are going to have a day they remember their whole lives. I care for that.
I take it as a sign that Alberta and I are working together to help my guests savour their lives. The big Alberta blue sky serves as the perfect backdrop for some deep emotional bonding between city folk and farm folk over the common thread of caring about our food and where it comes from.
The mission for this farm tour was to take thirty people to five farms in one day.
This blog post will describe the day and I’ll throw in some fun recipes as we tour the farms together here. I hope this post will encourage you to take a country drive and visit these farms yourself sometime or at least take a drive as far as the Calgary Farmer’s Market where you can get their truly local produce year round.
Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, B.C.
Culinary Tourism and my trip to the 2013 Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop (@OKFWWWorkshop) in Kelowna, British Columbia were the topics of my most recent food column on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon . You can catch that podcast here. My column starts at the 17:53 mark in the show.
Albertans (and people from around the globe) love to visit British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley each summer. Kelowna alone receives 1.5 million visitors. I’ve been visiting regularly since I first went with my husband in 1987. We spend at least two weeks every year there now with our family. I never tire of going so I was naturally drawn to the @OKFWWWorkshop. My writing can always be improved and the whole area acts as a muse for me. It consistently inspires me to write.
This post will add more depth to my radio column’s outline of recent developments in culinary tourism in the Okanagan. I’ll also share some photos of the food, wine and general good spirits brought about by exploring the farm to table agri-tourism offerings in Kelowna. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed being there. Better yet, go and savour a little of the Okanagan good life for yourself.
The Lavender & Herb Farm, Kelowna, BC
Every artist needs a muse. For the many artistically gifted chefs that have settled in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia it is the quality of the area’s produce that is the muse that has drawn them to this spectacular setting. That quality produce comes from food and wine growers who work with the land to bring forward the very best of its terroir; its taste of place.
Tasting the place that is the Okanagan is one of the great things about attending the Okanagan Food and Wine Writer’s Workshop (OKFWWWorkshop). Along with workshops on food and wine writing there is the actual inspiration to write that comes from visiting the farms, vineyards, chefs, caterers, restaurants, hotels and food artisans of the Okanagan. I have written about what I learned about writing from the 2012 workshop and how to register for that workshop here.
This blog is a gallery of photos that I took at the 2012 OKFWWWworkshop. The pictures speak to the taste of this place; the terroir of the Okanagan Valley. Sometimes a writer just can’t compete with the perennial “1000 words” a picture gives us so effortlessly. Exploring the food and wine of the Okanagan Valley is one of ways I savour food and savour life. Today, I’ll let these photos do my story-telling.