Disclosure: This eat local post about was sponsored by Destination Stettler. They put together our tour and hosted us for the day. As always, all opinions are my own.
We are “city folk”. We live in a neighborhood near the center of Calgary which has over a million people. Dewey and I both grew up in much more rural settings. He grew up on a cattle ranch/farm in Alberta and I grew up in rural Alabama. We both have a lot more experience with the working end of where our food comes from than Evan does. Spending time at the lake has changed that a bit for Evan. Central Alberta is home to many of the farms that supply the food we eat every day. We’ve made an effort to eat local as much as possible when we are here and meet the farmers when we can.
Late last week, Evan and I got a chance to visit Stettler, AB. It is a mid-size community with its roots firmly in farming. In a few weeks, Stettler is hosting a farm to table tour and dinner event called Taste of The Heartland to showcase local farm producers. Unfortunately, I can’t attend so we got a little pre-visit with some of the producers that will be a part of the event. (Note: This event is open to the public so if you are available on August 19, go to the link above and buy tickets. You will have an amazing time!)
Eat Local: Primrose Farms
Our first stop was a visit to Primrose Farms. When you meet the owners, Cornel and Cremona, you can feel their passion for farming immediately. They are looking at ways to make farming better for everyone. Watch this video of their robot cow milker. Cows que up on their own to be milked. Each time they get milked, they get a treat pellet. Some love it so much that they try to go in over and over. Thankfully the computer knows that they are not ready to be milked again. Two milkers milk the 100 cow herd an average of 3 times per day. Cool!
Primrose Farms automates what they can but they also embrace that sometimes less is better. Instead of pushing for the most milk production possible, they treat their cows as well as they possibly can to give them a long and happy life…even if it means less production today.
They also believe all farm animals deserve to be outside and experience the dirt an the mud. We enjoyed meeting their outdoor piglets (which is quite unusual in Alberta where most pigs are raised in huge pig barns never seeing the light of day), their free-range chickens and their gaggle of guard geese.
Evan got a small taste of farm life when he got to feed the pigs some grass, let a calf suck on his hand, gather eggs and watch the robot milker. It was a great day and I think he gained a lot of new respect for where his favourites: milk, bacon and steak come from. Primrose Farms sells many of their products online with delivery to Calgary and Edmonton. They also welcome visitors to stop by their farm! Check out their website as well as their FB page and Instagram.
Eat Local: Kempf’s Greehouse
Our next stop was to Kempf’s Greenhouse. If you’ve never been inside one of Alberta’s huge greenhouses, you have GOT to go! I assumed that it would look like my potted plants only more of them in a warmer environment. I obviously had no clue.
Instead, giant tomato plants stretch from floor to ceiling. A pulley system raises them up as they grow. As tomatoes are produced, the leaves and tomatoes are cut from the plants. The plants continue to produce from the top portion of the plant. I was suprised to learn that these plants keep producing for the entire growing season!
In addition to many different varieties of tomatoes, Kempf’s also grows beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, hot peppers, cucamelons (see pic below…they taste like cucumbers with a hint of lemon), lettuce and more. Evan had a blast walking up and down the rows trying different produce right from the vine. I think he ate his body weight while we were there!
Even though the green house keeps the plants toasty warm, Kempf’s does not grow their plants in the winter. There isn’t enough sunlight to keep them going with their set up. Kempf’s sells their produce through local farmer’s markets and has a small store at their location. You MUST try their tomatoes and buy some of their herb salt. It is delicious on everything and they make it themselves.
Oh and here is how I suggest you eat those glorious tomatoes….
Eat Local: Brenda’s Cozy Cafe
We made a quick stop in Stettler at Brenda’s Cozy Cafe for lunch. It’s name says it all. It is a comfy cafe! We grabbed a seat in the window so I could see all the goings on down Main Street. Specializing in sandwiches and baked goods, it is a great daytime stop in Stettler.
I had the Grilled Cheese, Apple and Bacon on Naan with a side of clam chowder. Both were delicious and really hit the spot after a busy morning. Evan had a grilled cheese add bacon which he ate before I got a picture. When I asked him how it was he said “You can never go wrong with bacon.” True story.
We finished up lunch with a house made Saskatoon Berry cinnamon roll. It had saskatoons on top and INSIDE. It was deliciously decadent. We were stuffed, though, so we took most of it home to enjoy later.
Because how could that be wrong, ever?
Eat Local: Fireside Winery and Market Garden
Most people decide to take up a nice easy hobby in their retirement, not Marci and Larry Heck, owners of Fireside Winery and Market Garden. Instead, they planted 5 acres of fruit trees and bushes and became fruit wine makers. They bottle around 2000 litres of wine per year.
Almost everything they do is done by hand from picking, washing, wine making and bottling. In fact, when they ran out of labels for some of their more popular wines, Marci drew more by hand.
Often, their fruit production is larger than the amount of wine they can produce so they also have fruit available for picking and for sale. You can also have them host a wine tasting party for you on their outdoor brick patio. And there are a LOT of wines to taste as they produce black current, choke cherry, Mongolian cherry, saskatoon, Evan’s cherry, rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry. This year they will be adding plum and crabapple to their line up. Call to set up a tour, to taste their wines or to buy fruits, veggies and fruit trees or catch them at local farmer’s markets.
Eat Local: Buffalo Hills Natural Beef
Our last stop on our tour was to Buffalo Hills Natural Beef. The hilarious part of this stop was that I actually worked with the owner, Quinn Hayden, before he left Calgary to move back to Stettler and open his ranch. It had me humming “It’s a Small World After All!”
Buffalo Hills Natural Beef is another producer that is doing things a bit differently. Their cows are raised and finished on site. They are fed by hand in a pasture environment. They are also stimulant free and antibiotic free and are fed only natural feed. You can read more about their commitment to an all natural product on their website.
Buffalo Hills sells directly to their customers through their website in half cow and whole cow increments. Buyers work with the butcher to ensure that they get the cuts of meet they prefer. Once the meat is processed and frozen, it can be picked up at Buffalo Hills or delivered within Alberta.
I have to admit, the thing that I loved most about Buffalo Hills was the gorgeous location overlooking Buffalo Lake (you can see it to the right in the picture above). No wonder the cows look so happy in such a beautiful place! If you order a side of beef from them, definitely go visit to pick your cow. Evan got to play with Quinn’s sons on the hay bales (see the pic at the top of the post). What a great way to raise kids!
At the end of our tour, we were exhausted but happy to meet such great people who are commited to producing delicious and healthy food for Albertans. You couldn’t help but catch their enthusiasm for farming done right. If you live in Alberta, definitely make a trip to see these great producers. If you don’t, find a farmer to visit where YOU live.