Awakening My "Inner Farmer"
Innisfail Growers Farm Tour
Warning: This blog has nothing to do with chocolate. Proceed at your own risk!
I'm a city girl to the core, but somehow living in Red Deer has awakened my "Inner Farmer". I literally get choked up when I drive by the gorgeous canola fields that decorate the highway in golden yellow. I love to listen to my farming friends share their combining and milking stories. I truly admire farmers for their business savvy, long hours, energy, ingenuity and patience.
This past Sunday, this city girl had a chance to visit five farms with Calgary Food Tours
to get a closer look into the five farms that make up the Innisfail Growers
cooperative. I wasn't sure what to expect, but as a Foodie the opportunity sounded like it had a lot of potential, so off I went...
Our first stop was at Hillside Greenhouse
. Here, Carmen Fuentes greeted us with her freshly made salsa and took us on a tour of her greenhouse that houses her delicious tomatoes. Carmen has been growing tomatoes since high school and went on to Olds College to pursue greenhouse studies. She now grows three types of tomatoes and uses innovative soil and watering techniques to create the most yummy tomatoes I have ever tasted!
By the way, I made her salsa yesterday and it's by far the best salsa I've ever had! Remember: your end product can only be as good as the ingredients you use! (Carmen's Salsa Recipe: Hillside Greenhouse tomatoes, green onions, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt. Chop in a food processor, salt to taste.)
Next, we drove up the road to Edgar Farms
. Elna Edgar welcomed us each with a bag full of fresh peas that we ate as she pulled us around her farm on her tractor! Elna's a firm believer that "anyone can grow but you have to be able to market". And market she does! From their website, to her tour, to their market, Edgar Farms is the full package: customer service, excellent product and great presentation!
Their store is open from 8:00am to 8:00pm except for the winter months. Be sure to stop by and pick up some of their asparagus soup, antibiotic/hormone-free beef and pickled asparagus relish!
Following an absolutely devine "Farm to Fork" lunch at the Old Red Deer School House (see picture in blog heading) made of only Innisfail Growers products, we were off to Beck Farms
. Shelley Bradshaw and her husband Ron celebrated the 25th anniversary of their farm last year. Their focus is on carrots, of which they plant 32 acres. They also farm cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, peppers and much more!
Helpful tip from Shelley:
Broccoli and apples make your fruits and veggies ripen quickly so be sure to store them in a closed container. Also, apples make your carrots taste bitter so store them separately!
As the day started to cool down, we headed over to Upper Green Farms
where they grow seed potatoes, table potatoes, grains, oilseeds and pulses. Hanno and Megan Hanno are the fresh, new young faces of this farm that is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. They rely 100% on Mother Nature to water their crop and grow their potatoes above ground for easier harvest and warmer temperature.
My favorite of the five types of potatoes we got to taste was the banana potato. It had so much inherent flavour that it was delicious without butter and sour cream! I would still add the bacon because...well because bacon is awesome!
We ended the day with a bang with our host Leona Staples at The Jungle Farm
. I couldn't decide if this woman had more energy or strawberries! To classify The Jungle Farm as a u-pick strawberry farm is an understatement. It's also a: classroom, activity centre, gift shop, grocery store, petting zoo and flower shop! It's clear that the Staples family embraces agricultural innovation as much as they embrace business savvy and their community.
The Jungle Farm has approximately 2000 kids from Central Alberta touring their farm each year to learn about food production! It's a fun, interactive place to learn! Be sure to sign up
for their newsletter for upcoming events!
After this tour, my admiration for our farmers has grown exponentially. Their dedication to growing in a wholesome, sustainable and flavourful way seems to know no bounds! If you ever have an opportunity to tour the Innisfail Growers please do it! If you would like to know about the tour I went on, please let me know. Cheers!
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