I’m getting quite a few questions about the prospective new Lactuca Urban Farm site, so figured I’d share where things are at. The quick answer: it’s in Inglewood and we’re in the process of negotiating the lease. Although nothing’s a done deal, we’re very near the end of the process. Perhaps I need to back up a bit.
Travis and I started looking at prospective farm sites some time ago. Despite being totally sold on the feasibility of backyard operations, we decided to scale via tapping into unused urban space for a variety of reasons – mostly financial and logistical, partly because we could, but also because both of us are keen to explore the potential of ‘what could be’ in urban ag. This site was our best hope: large enough for a considerable scale-up, easy striking [read: biking] distance for he and I [~1km or so as the crow flies from his house and mine], reasonably tucked away. It’s a site slated for residential development down the road, currently sitting unused. We approached the developer and they were on board if we could clear it by the City and the Community League. We’ve done both those things over the past couple months, with resounding support from the community. So now it’s time to sign on the dotted line.
The site’s over an acre. So we’re adding to the roughly 1000 square feet in the backyard intensive setups by about 45,000 sq ft. It’s more than we need, in fact, and we’re only going to use a portion of the space in the 2013 in order to manage our growth. All this space allows a serious expansion on the salad greens front, but also gives us the space to go to market with heirloom tomatoes, heirloom carrots, heirloom leeks, beets, radishes, cooking greens, and plenty more. The farm plan is drawn up. Seed is in-hand. Logistics are being finagled. Fingers are crossed.
Yes, episode 1. Don’t get it? Don’t blame you.
This series [Field to Fire] is going to strictly be about exploring regional ingredients, and preparing them a couple ways outdoors. Same format. Every time. I liked the idea, but a major problem with it is that it excluded other fun content that I’d normally shoot and get involved with. So rather than kevinTV being one ‘thing’, it now is multiple ‘things’. Multiple ‘shows’. This will be one of them. More about this switch-up here.
Instagram feed watchers have been witness to my posts about ice fishing. Action went from absolutely dead in Dec/Jan to limiting out in an hour in late Feb, so I had some whitefish to work with for this episode. They’re a strange species – one that I had no experience with until lately. I hardly feel bad about it though, as while showing off some instagram photos recently to chefs, I got some questions about what species they were. They just aren’t solidly part of our food culture beyond certain niche pockets. Hence my interest in featuring them. Many more ‘Field to Fire’ episodes on deck. Enjoy.
Although the blog’s been quiet, my life has not been. Januaries here suck, for the most part. They’re darned cold. And snowy. And cold. And usually a do-nothing-kinda-month. I’d planned on taking January to get the shamozzle of incorporations and business setups done, and then out of the blue, piles and piles of production work fell atop my calendar. Plop. Add to that much Shovel & Fork action. In January.
Example. Saturday morning, the Game Butchery Epic ran out at Sangudo. Super interesting. Jeff Senger killed 3 animals, walking through 3 very different approaches to field dressing an animal in the field – the afternoon spent on butchery. My instagram feed has some interesting photos from that morning of dead things that look like tauntauns from Star Wars. I then ran [drove] to Calgary a mere 400km away to shoot #charpopluck for Alberta Culinary Tourism, found a hotel to rest my head for a few hours, then drove back to Edmonton bright and early for Shovel & Fork’s bread baking workshop to do some press interview stuff and get in the way. The whole time through the weekend we had a production crew shooting the Shovel & Fork gigs – we were approached re: having them pitch a trailer to broadcasters for a show about S&F. We’ll see. Interesting to not be the one behind the camera.
Anyway, this is no complaint. Not even close. And yes, perhaps I feel a bit badly for the silence upon this domain. But with the seasons, that will soon change. Part of the production schedule is 20-30 episodes of KevinTV that are lined up, shooting starting in a few weeks. More on that soon. This site is getting a rebuild from somebody who actually knows what they’re doing, so once that’s done, there will be lots more info on the crazy 2013 in Kevin-land. And it’ll look prettier too. Here’s to busy Januaries.
Once upon a time, I built a wine cellar. In order to make decent wine from the grape vines in my back yard, I was advised to practice on other fruit. I practiced on apples. Now my wine cellar’s really a cider cellar. Perhaps cider/charcuterie cellar would be most appropriate. If I call it a wine cellar, it’s only because I’m lying or getting old and am forgetting what is in fact stashed down there. It’s cider. Apple ciders of various blends/batches. Pear ciders of various blends/batches. A couple types of Pommeau [an apple and apple brandy desert wine]. And if you look hard through the bins, you will find some actual grape-based wine. If you were to turn around from this view of the west wall of bins, you’d see kegs. Full of bubbly cider. Awaiting an epic party. Above them hangs odds and sods of dry cured meats. Refreshing that meat stash is on my to-do list.
Edmonton is an apple [and pear] city, and we just haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe I’m reading too much into things or it’s just the circles I spin in, but cider seems to be slowly creeping into our psyche. Maybe it’s just me. I’m starting to think ‘coq au cidre’ instead of ‘coq au vin’. Starting to pair every pork dish with some kind of apple booze. Give me cheese, I now think ‘pear cider’ instead of ‘pinot gris’ [which I still love, btw]. Is part of it frugality? Partly, especially indirectly in that it’s so abundant that dumping a litre into a braise doesn’t phase me, whereas dumping a $20 bottle into the dish does. As a result it creeps into your daily life. But there is also a dominant thread of simple beauty around the harnessing of what ‘where we live’ offers. I don’t think that bit will ever get old.
It strikes me as rather convenient that after a couple months of pork, game, and beef, nature’s thoughtful next step in seasonal food offering is some fresh fish. I’ll take it. Was out at Lac Ste Anne this time around as it was a convenient location for meeting Jeff Senger for a 8 hr business meeting. Between he and I we have 6 girls and 1 boy, so meetings at our homes is rather…inefficient. Ice fishing meeting. We’ve decided that these are a very good idea.
Action was seriously slow. Saw a couple pike, a couple pickerel, and a variety of sizes of whitefish – including some bigger than I’d ever seen, maybe 5-6lbs. Nothing landed on the ice. Such is hunting and fishing. Next time. Still a successful ice fishing meeting. Me sitting here writing to tell about it confirms that the ice is indeed thick enough to get out there, and we were far from the first. I would, however, be mindful of where the inlets and outlets are, as the ice tends to be considerably thinner there. There was some discussion about phobia of slow death in murky water. Who knew ice fishing was so hardcore? It is in a lot of ways. Go upon a big huge sheet of ice, drill a hole in it, risk your life a touch, and be willing to sit in seriously sub-zero for hour upon hour to MAYBE catch a fish. It’s kinda zen. I highly recommend it.
I’m looking forward to taking some folks out for Shovel & Fork’s Ice Fishing 101. Doing an interview tomorrow evening for CKUA about that one, actually.
I feel like I have a little explaining to do, as I’ve been getting involved with projects that may seem a little out of the blue, but aren’t. Since the snow fell, the cold came, and the outdoor food world froze into ice, I have had time to park myself at an imac and get stuck into building out some of the businesses that were conceptualized through this last growing season.
Story Chaser has finally been born. The video production opportunities are increasingly piling up and it was well past the time to put together a team to handle the workload – it’s already more than I can take on. One of the cool pieces of the puzzle is we’re going to focus on producing hunting, fishing, and agriculture video production – a niche that will be really fun to fill. I had no idea there was as much work as there is in the video production world, and can’t believe the scope of the projects we’re already working on. I feel like I should be sending Daniel Klein a royalty for getting me started down this path.
Shovel & Fork was born from the workshops I put on over the past season – which I put on because folks had been asking me to for years. I learned a few things doing them. First, and most importantly, is that I’ve long known that I really don’t enjoy being a teacher. Learned that being a music teacher through university. Not for me. Secondly, I learned that a lot of folks really enjoy learning in that hands-on way. So rather than tap out, which was my intent, I’ve teamed up with chef and culinary instructor Chad Moss who will rock the instruction bit. We’ve also built the gig to incorporate folks with other skill sets and knowledge to teach workshops in their area of expertise – not only in #yeg but elsewhere too. It’s become a really, really fun project, and is already changing the landscape of the food scene here. Love it.
And there’s more on the way, including a rebuild of this very site which will focus a fair bit more on KevinTV than it does now. Lactuca will continue to consume a fair bit of my brain, as we figure out expansion and employee logistics for the coming growing season. In the end, it turns out that I’m really, really enjoying tackling entrepreneurial projects that create vast opportunities to do projects with social good pieces attached. So much fun. I’m really, really grateful to those of you who support what I do and make it possible. I will long be in your debt.
Dear moose and elk,
You won this one. You did. But it’s not because you’re awesome, or cause you ran really fast or hid really good. The big reason you got away lucky was cause I was in camp crumpled on the floor with the flu. Otherwise, you were totally, totally, totally in so much trouble. And yeah, whenever we found you we didn’t have a tag for your particular ‘gender’ or ‘age’, but really that’s not something to be proud of. It’s pretty ‘sexist’ and ‘agist’. Yeah, ‘agist’ is a thing, even if you’ve never heard of it cause you live in the bush.
If you laughed at me while my sick self glassed you to determine that I couldn’t shoot you, I’m totally coming after you next year. In fact, either way I’m coming after you again next year. Yeah, be scared. And guess what. My hunting buddies bagged 2 bull elk, 2 cow elk, and 2 moose calves the weeks before and after I was there. They totally have your number. Be scared.
See you next year.
Sincerely - Kevin
Pork workshop [Ep 50] went so well that there wasn’t much question about whether there would be more. This time around: beef. The kill was an old cow whose new destiny laid in Jeff Senger’s family’s freezer, while the cow we cut was a beauty of an organic cow from a local farmer. So the day: kill, skin & gut, break down into primals, cut into retail cuts, afternoon of charcuterie, followed by dinner and wine. Epic days, they are. And yes, we ate thinly sliced raw heart sandwiches for lunch.
Had lots of positive feedback about the pork butchery music track by the AwesomeHots, so this one features a shiny new track of theirs: Wayfaring Stranger. I love the vibe – really well tracked piece – and it gives this edit a somber side that made some of the gorier footage work in editing. If it’s too gory for you, blame Daniel Klein over at the Perennial Plate – he advised I go for it. Yeah, that’s a massive passing of the buck. Fact is, this is still tame relative to what goes down behind the scenes of a fast-food hamburger, say. Daniel’s work is extremely cool, btw, if you haven’t checked out his work, do. Here.
Just fyi, the trial of workshops this season was more successful than anticipated, but since my time doesn’t allow me to pursue it alone, I’ve teamed up with a bunch of rad people to start a company called Shovel and Fork. We’re essentially trying to do some good by offering folks a chance to engage with food in ways they wouldn’t normally get a crack at. These workshops will be a part of that. Should be a fun gig.
This one was a year in the works. Way back when, while shooting Episode 23 at Riverbend Gardens, I was enlightened to the situation that is common at vegetable farms in the fall: harvests fill up storage capacity, labour is relieved for the season, and anything left in the ground becomes compost-in-place. Sensible, really. Wouldn’t make sense to try to anticipate the storage capacity and shoot for it, as the first lean growing season would teach you that’s a really bad business plan. So surplus is normal.
At the time, I’d just been introduced to veg gleaning, as a farmer had called the Food Bank asking if they wanted a 1/4 acre of vegetables he had in the ground. The Food Bank, unresourced to go get it, put him onto Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton - who have people swinging on the front lines all fall rescuing fruit of all types. So OFRE put a crew together to harvest it. And win-win-win happened.
So having made arrangements for this one last year, I was awaiting the call from Riverbend Gardens, who had a year earlier generously offered their surplus to charity if OFRE could come get it. The text msg arrived on my phone. I lined up a Salvation Army truck to pick up the charity’s share. And win-win-win happened.
A couple decades ago, some forward thinking individual(s) decided to put on a holistic management course within the agriculture community, and whoever you are/were, I thank you. The output of that re-think of industrialized ag can be seen in the successes and influence of Ron Hamilton (Ep. 4), Peter Lundgard (Ep. 47), and featured in this one [and long overdue at that], Don Ruzicka of Sunrise Farm.
I find myself lacking the adequate supply of positive adjectives to adequately describe Don and his approach to sharing his experience in the world of food production – but I’ll try a few: he’s passionate, gentle, kind, generous, and vastly underrated in terms of his profile in the broader food community. The foods folks like this produce should be the brands that matter in the food industry – in this case not just because of animal handling practices, but because of philosophy and approach to land stewardship in general. We’re partly on the way down that road of producer becoming rock star in Alberta, but I think there’s some consumer flushing out to do of what’s good marketing, and where best practices are being reinvented – a motivator for me personally to keep visiting farms and asking questions with a camera rolling. Don’s the real deal.