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Waldheim-area meat shop wins Lord of the Rings trophy

Louella Friesen, Don Friesen, Jennifer Hiebert and Colin Hiebert, with infant son Seth, proudly display the Lord of the (Sausage) Rings trophy

Carmen Corner Meats walked away with the trophy for best Mennonite Sausage at the fourth-annual Lord of the (Sausage) Rings event in Osler on Friday, November 2. Continue reading “Waldheim-area meat shop wins Lord of the Rings trophy”

Food loop to serve a new generation of locavores

A couple of cherry varieties and other fruits are grown at Anna's Orchard in the Osler area.
A couple of cherry varieties and other fruits are grown at Anna’s Orchard in the Osler area.

When Melanie and Kevin Boldt started farming west of Osler 18 years ago, the idea of serving a local food market was novel. “When we first started, there was hardly anybody growing local food to serve the local market,” Melanie said. “People thought, ‘what are you doing? That’s crazy’.”

It’s not looking so crazy anymore. The Osler area offers an increasing number of growers geared to the local market. Now, some of those producers are uniting to create a ‘food loop’ that will offer visitors and area residents a rich local experience.

Pine View Farms, owned by the Boldts, has been serving the local market for a number of years, providing a variety of all natural meat products. They just launched their Love Local project at Aroma Resto Bar at the Radisson Hotel for the month of August. The Boldts are excited about the potential for food tours in the area.

“This will help urban people become familiar with the fact that there are food establishments in this area. If they are interested in sourcing local food, they know all the different places to go,” said Melanie.

The long view envisions diversified tour stops that offer a range of fruit, vegetable and meat products, homemade items, tastings and specials, tours and events, and the ability to grab a latte and experience the farm. Producers anticipate that having this total experience mapped out within a five-mile radius will be attractive to locals and tourists.

Perhaps, it shouldn’t be surprising that many people are no longer enamored of a food industry that delivers products from afar.

Lyle Stucky, owner of Anna’s Orchard along with his wife Linda, says there’s a growing appetite for food that hasn’t been trucked thousands of miles to get here. The Stucky’s grow strawberries, yellow raspberries, haskaps, a couple of cherry varieties, as well as apples, and produce for a couple of chefs in the city. It’s a retirement project for the pair, who did grain farming for 38 years.

“A lot of this stuff, especially strawberries, have to be treated to keep them from spoiling on their 1300 mile journey,” said Stucky. “They’re picked green and they don’t taste anything like berries produced on the vine.” Nutrition is better with vine ripened product too, he added.

“This kind of a thing is nice because people would be able to visit the different operations, see how the food is produced, and even sample the food,” said Stucky. He suspects a lot of people even in Saskatoon don’t know where food comes from and this would be an education for them, especially for young children.

The Stuckys hosted a tour in late June for about 15 to 20 students from a Montessori school. Part of that tour included students lying down on the grass to watch bees pollinate blooming raspberry bushes.

Bas and Martha Froese-Kooijenga enjoy the lifestyle their Farmyard Market is helping them create. The market enjoys an ideal location on Highway 12 just north of Martensville and carries a variety of local products.

“We were excited that we could just stay on the farm here and make a living and not have to go to town for a job, and be able to work together,” said Bas. For him, eating local is simply the norm.

Martha grew up on the farm and it holds a lot of memories for her. She says sales have doubled or even tripled since last August. “We don’t advertise – its location and word of mouth. We are now getting regulars from the city who are making weekly or biweekly stops, as well as people from Warman and Martensville.” Some visitors remember the ice rink her Dad made in the front yard every year for 35 years.

Other producers are gearing up for the launch of the food map as well. The group is working with the Saskatoon Food Council, the RM of Corman Park and the town of Osler.

“Now we have to step up our game and market it, make it convenient and attainable and make it a wonderful experience,” said Melanie. A fall launch of the food map tied to an event is anticipated.

Kevin said there will be potential for spin-off businesses as well. “You create this community network of businesses and producers and it becomes an economic region, something we do, something we’re known for.”

It’s a sustainable food model that with time, need not be dependent on shipping products or raw food thousands of miles, creating the possibility of food security, the Boldts said.

Who’s not ‘having a cow’ over Earl’s beef decisions

Earl's restaurant intends to find Canadian producers and ranchers who can meet the 'certified humane' standard of beef they seek.
While Earl’s restaurant will return to sourcing their beef from Canadian producers and ranchers, the controversy has led to many conversations about niche markets and how farmers can respond to the needs of certain consumers

Melanie Boldt, co-owner of Pine View Farms, says they can meet the standard that Earl’s Restaurant is seeking for beef in Canada. They just don’t have the volume.

Located near Osler, Pine View Farms offers all natural products and has been operated by Kevin and Melanie Boldt since 1998.

The Earl’s national restaurant chain said last week they would be switching to a U.S. beef producer that offers a “certified humane” product. A week later they reversed their decision, saying they ‘made a mistake.’

Part of the Earl’s controversy may arise from a widening gap between what mass production provides and what some consumers are looking for.

“We know in our business that more and more people want to know how their food is produced,” said Boldt. “Consumers crave more and better information about their food — where it came from, how it was raised (including things like animal welfare, medications, hormones etc.) and processed.” She believes Earl’s was just being market responsive in their initial decision.

A majority of Canadian beef is processed at two large plants in Alberta. Cargill in High River processes 4,500 head of cattle every day. Mass production generates certain industry protocols that have become standard, including the use of hormones and antibiotics.

The “certified humane” label originates from the Humane Farm Animal Care initiative based in Virginia, and is applied to products that come from animals who have not received unnecessary antibiotics and not experienced over-crowding in confinement systems. It is considered better for the environment and farmers receive a fair price for their efforts.

“I don’t believe our Canadian system is set up to deliver identity-preserved traceable product like what Earl’s is looking for,” said Boldt.

To ease concerns about hormone use in cattle, the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association website states, “the use of hormone implants means fewer resources are used to produce beef.” The result is, 11 per cent more beef is produced from 20 percent fewer cattle (from 1977 to 2007).

It’s an efficiency-based model that thrives in economies of scale. At Pine View Farms, it takes 18 to 24 months to raise a steer, and they slaughter about three a week, Boldt says. Animals are outdoors whenever possible, free to roam. “We’re not pushing them to grow fast.”

Pine View Farms made a decision to grow their beef naturally without hormones or antibiotics at the outset. “We decided to do something different that fit with our beliefs and our philosophy about food and what we wanted to put in our bodies. And we thought, there’s a few people out there who might like to eat the same way we do. And it turns out there are,” said Boldt.

Rob McNabb, head of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), went on record this week to say that the Canadian beef industry is in the process of developing a program that would meet the same standards the Vancouver-based restaurant chain is seeking — beef raised and slaughtered humanely and produced without antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones.

In a May 4 press release, the CCA indicated they are in sustainability discussions with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and want Earl’s to participate.

Earl’s President Mo Jessa said this week that the restaurant will work with local ranchers and get Canadian beef back into their restaurants as quickly as possible.

Boldt wishes Pine View Farms could supply Earl’s. Currently they serve Ayden Kitchen & Bar, the Delta Bessborough, Double Tree by Hilton, and The Hollows.

“We as farmers need to pay attention to what consumers are asking for. Farmers need to find their voice and tell the story of food in a transparent, authentic way, stating exactly what they do or don’t do.”

Many are watching to see how a major industry responds to the needs of a more niche market.