Disclosure: I work with the Stettler Board of Trade to bring Stettler events and attractions like the Stettler Alberta Farm to Fork Tour and Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner to the attention of my readers. As always, all opinions are my own.
Writing this post about one of the highlights of the summer has taken a bit of a backseat for the last few months. I bought a store which has kept me busy and I lost the notebook I took with me to the Farm to Fork Tour.
In it, I scribbled down the million little tidbits that I learned from the farmers that we visited. In my head, I thought this post wouldn’t be any good without having every detail JUST right. After more thought, though, I’ve decided I was wrong. You see, what made the event great was meeting the farmers while they went about their daily lives and getting the chance to ask the questions that led to those tidbits. Reading them here? While interesting, it just wouldn’t be the same.
You need to go visit Stettler and do the Farm to Fork Tour to meet the farmers and learn their stories for yourself. To see what they do on a daily basis to make the food that hits your table a more delicious and nutritious. To see what they do to make sure there will be food on your table for years to come.
Living in the city, it is easy to forget where your food comes from and what small-town life can be like. News flash! That milk that you drink doesn’t just appear in a plastic 4L (or gallon) jug! Alberta is awesome at promoting farmers and where our food comes from with Open Farm Days but what if you can’t make that day? Well, Stettler has you covered with their Farm to Fork tours and Taste of the Heartland farm to table dinner the weekend before Open Farm Days.
Stettler Alberta Farm to Fork Tour
Around 9 am, a group of visitors and Stettler residents climbed aboard two tour busses. They split the group into two groups so we could all get a first-hand experience talking to the farmers. Big groups make it hard to hear, see or do much of anything.
Our first stop was Greidanus Honeybee Farm. Ron Greidanus comes from a long line of honeybee keepers. He started out his adult life as an engineer but he soon determined that joining the family business was a much better way to live life and spend more time with his family.
Listening to him talk about bees, you can tell that he made the right decision. While honey is his goal, his bees also help local farmers by pollinating their crops. A great symbiotic relationship!
Next, we headed to visit Craig Parks’ farm. He and his wife raise organic Rhodiola. This new (to me) supplement aids in healing and stress management and it comes from the root of the Rhodiola plant.
A high price per kilo for Rhodiola means you don’t have to have a huge farm but the plants take five YEARS to mature so farming it is definitely a long term project.
Our third stop was for a delicious beef on a bun lunch. A fitting lunch menu for a farm to table tour in Alberta don’t you think? We also got to try beer from Prairie Brew Company in Three Hills, Alberta. After lunch, we learned all about silage. Farmers feed their cows silage in the winter.
Determining what kind of silage to feed requires a comparison of how much energy the silage yields to your livestock and how much it costs to plant and grow. Kudras Ranch feeds their cows corn silage which delivers a high amount of energy to their cows and the possibility of a high yield number which gives a low cost of feed per cow. Who knew farming required so much math!
Last, but not least, we visited the Marsfield Dairy. The Schrijver family are recent(ish) immigrants from the Netherlands. Their dairy operation just won the Master Breeder Award from Holstein Canada. We got to tour their barns and see every step of the dairy operation.
It was amazing to see how many cows they can raise and milk with so few people to help them. One of the reasons this is possible is by the use of automation. They have automated milking machines and a Roomba-like robot that cleaned up the feed for the cows to make it easier for them to eat.
After an info-packed day learning about farming near Stettler, it was time to kick my feet up and have a rest before the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner. While I was taking it easy, a few blocks downtown were being turned into a dining room. Though the weather forecast had made it seem like a downpour might put a damper on the festivities, the night turned out to be perfect for dining al fresco.
Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner
To begin our evening, we watched two contestants, Audrey Roussel and Stephen Teasdale, prepare appetizers in a Chopped-like contest. Preparing appetizers with 3 “surprise” ingredients for 150 people is a feat I’m not sure I could do. Never fear, they were up to the challenge and barely broke a sweat. Everyone in attendance got to try both appetizers and vote for their favourite. My favourite, a bison slider with caramelized onions and feta by Stephen, won the round. It was delicious!
Few things are better than dining with new friends under the Alberta skies! Our dinner was prepared by 3 chefs, 2 visiting and 1 a Stettler local. All the dishes included local products to really bring the farm-to-table element home.
Our first course was a Raspberry wine poached beet and goat cheese salad prepared by Chef Shania Scammell of CCR Restaurant and Bar in Consort. You’ll have to believe me when I tell you it looked and tasted delicious. In fact, it was so delicious I didn’t even get a picture. Ooopsie!
Next up was our main course of cherry braised Alberta beef, roasted onion and garlic whipped potatoes with pickled strawberry puree prepared by Chef Steven Brochu of Milk Crate Catering in Edmonton. Alberta Beef never disappoints!
For dessert, we had individual pavlovas topped with Saskatoon berries created by Stettler’s own Brenda Brinson of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe. Nothing says summer on the prairies like Saskatoons! It was the perfect end to a delicious meal.
After dinner was done, there was a dance along Main Street. A great way to finish the day with music, friends and fun.
Over the weekend, I learned that Stettler has a lot to offer visitors and residents alike. The town came together to support their local farmers, extend hospitality to visitors to their town and put on a darn good party. All in all, I think it is just the kind of event every Albertan should do to gain more knowledge about where your (delicious) food comes from! I hope I’ll see you there next year…mark your calendars for August 8, 2020 for next year’s Stettler Farm to Fork Tour and Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner!