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Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

Episode 57 – Sunrise Farm

10.25.12

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.

Episode 49 – Rge Rd 135

08.22.12

Last year’s Rge Rd 135 farm-to-table epic at Nature’s Green Acres [Episode 19] is still engraved into the minds of everyone that had the pleasure of being involved, making me more than slightly trepdatious at the prospect of trying to duplicate, nevermind top that farm-to-table extravaganza. But as far as I see it, they pulled it off.

Maybe I’m biased. It was a menu heavy on grass fed free-range meats, fresh garden veg and a splash of wild foods, all cooked on fire. I’m into that kind of thing. It also was the true maiden voyage of the 2nd cob oven build of the year, the first being mine. Add a lucky card-draw on the weather [again], a crew that busted their butts to make it happen, a few bottles of wine, a farm tour, and a few beautiful dishes for a large crew of happy guests – what’s not to like? The cob oven performed fabulously, I’ll add. It was a joy to watch it shed the last of its moisture from the build, get insanely hot, and cook some beautiful food. I wish I’d shot a video about the build, but was soaked to squishy-socks-in-my-shoes-stage and muddy as all heck.

This event is a labour of love, and for that I adore it.

Episode 39 – Backyard Hens, Part 3

04.12.12

As the urban hen debate in our city heats up, here’s another video featuring yet another urban hen keeper. Well, two hen keepers, in fact. The more I get buried in this issue, the more I realize how important it is. In our province at least, it has become about the right for people to produce their own food. That, and the classic objections of noise and poop. I have yet to visit an urban coop that was noisy or smelled of anything at all. I’m pretty sure the same could be said for the vast majority of those who object.

This issue is ramping up momentum because the city is in the throes of putting together a ‘Food and Urban Agriculture Project’, and while I have yet to run into anybody in the food community that has a clue what the city’s up to, apparently they’ve done some work that will be unleashed at a conference held on May 25-26. Sadly, it will cost you $184 to attend to find out what’s going on or to share your voice, for what is tagged as “a key milestone in the engagement process”. Even for not-for-profits. Ouch. Liane wrote a really solid post about this whole thing. I’ve paid my dues to be there, and can’t wait to find out what the heck is going on, and who ends up having the $ to be part of the conversation around urban ag in the city.

From The Farmers’ Mouth – Time to Vote

12.21.11

My highlight reel of ‘From Local Farms‘ videos was just chosen by Daniel and Mirra of The Perennial Plate as a top-four contender in their recent video competition. I’m honored to be on the list, to say the least. The very reason I started a video series at all was directly because of Daniel and Mirra’s earliest episodes – inspiring me to pick up a cheap Flip camera, introduce myself to some farmers, and press some record button. My life, quite literally, has not been the same since.

So a big thank you goes out today to Daniel, Mirra, all the passionate farmers, and especially to you for taking the time to watch what other folks have to say about our food world. You plugging into and supporting projects like The Perennial Plate matters – it creates cracks in a food culture needing to evolve.

Please click over here to like the video on facebook, and vote for it too while you’re at it. If the vid wins the day, it will replace the regular programming of The Perennial Plate next Monday, exposing it to a very large viewership of like minded folks across many borders. That would be very cool. Even if it doesn’t, big thanks to Daniel and Mirra for your support of what I’m up to and sharing your audience.

Farm to Table w/ RGE RD & Nature’s Green Acres

07.27.11

Farm-to-table dining, while commonplace elsewhere, is still an extremely progressive concept in our restaurant scene. When one of the most well-respected chefs in the city, Blair Lebsack, mentioned he was going to tackle serving a multi-course dinner to 30-40 guests out in the cow pasture at Nature’s Green Acres, I wanted to be there.

I find in the food service industry, ‘Local‘ normally equates to an element, maybe two on the plate being local, and it’s usually a protein. ‘Seasonal‘ often really means, ‘seasonal somewhere’. Not here. The beef, pork, and chicken was from the farm, yes, but when the farm didn’t have enough garden to supply the dinner, Blair and Caitlin got out there and built and planted garden months in advance. They foraged nettle for one of the iced teas and the ice cream, and nicked edible flowers from farm yard to include in the menu. They made butter for bread and for the pastries in the desert course. Blair chased the pig into the trailer to haul off to the abattoir, and butchered it himself. They butchered chickens, made stock for the soup, and used the livers in a terrine. He even helped the farmer rip the ancient, neglected, wood burning stove out of one of the farm’s outbuildings so he could cook on it – the entire service being done over wood fire. Essentially, if it wasn’t from the farm or a neighbour, it wasn’t on the menu.

It was an epic evening for everyone involved, I think – certainly the kind of event you don’t soon forget, if ever. Keep an eye out for more from Blair and RGE RD [the name of his new venture], as this wasn’t a one-off. Perhaps farm-to-table has finally truly arrived.

From Local Farms – Sunworks Farm

09.17.10

My time with Ron Hamilton of Sunworks Farm left me drowning in fascinating content – making this the most challenging edit to date. Ron and Sheila have been at this game longer than all the others I’ve covered so far, and have achieved a level of success in the organics business that places them as leaders in their industry. Being the biggest also makes you a target for criticism, and it seems like one of the emerging local ethics-of-food debates is whether one can get this big without compromising values. Ron addresses scale, growth, ethics, feed, conventional vs. organic practices both outdoors in the summer and in-barn in the winter, among many, many other topics.

I find feed interesting – and specifically the quest for farmers to achieve high-protein diets required to build meat without the use of soy. Ron says the roasted soy they use has 38-40% protein while the next best protein source, peas, has 20-22% if conventional, and  18-20% if organic. Problem is, much more than 15% peas in the ration doesn’t agree with the chickens’ tummies, and makes them sick. Another feed element that helps is alfalfa meal at 18% protein, also offering a greenness to the flavor of the meats. It currently comprises 12% of the ration. But the challenge remains: how to get birds to put on meat fast, with the use of local feed. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that Ron knew all this stuff off the top of his head, you might too if you had to feed 8000 lbs of it a day to your birds.

One of the many new frontiers for Sunworks Farm is a brand new value-add facility where they’ll capture current waste products [chicken livers, wing  tips, etc] into patés, stocks, and other prepared foods on a large scale. I love the idea – more locally produced organic products, they can reduce waste from the animals the already produce, and it creates a new revenue stream for them in the value-add game. They also have a new facility with giant drum composters to handle waste they generate, turning it into healthful-for-the-land compost, and continue to build innovative facilities as practicality requires. It’s an exciting time in the world of Sunworks Farm, and they’ll be a key player to watch as the regional, ethical, and artisan food industry moves forward.

From Local Farms – Serben Free Range

09.10.10

Jered Serben is the 4th generation in his family to tackle farming out by Smoky Lake. Over the generations, his family went from traditional pioneered diversified family farm [was there a method other than organic in the early 1900's?], to industrial conventional  factory pork farming – all the way back to natural, free range practices. Having grown up immersed in the business of  ‘factory farming’ pork, he has an unusually credible position to speak to that approach. He even takes us for a little tour of one of the remaining now-vacant pork barns from that era that still stands on the property. The pork’s now chemical free and free ranged – as are his chickens, turkeys, and sheep.

Unlike his great-grandfather’s, you can buy Jered’s products online via their website.

Other episodes in this series

FROM LOCAL FARMS – Nature’s Green Acres

08.27.10

Shannon & Danny Ruzicka at Nature’s Green Acres are pretty tough not to like, their kids are cute, their farm is neat, their dog is gentle, their land is gorgeous. But tossing all that bias aside, how they raise their beef, chicken, and pork is truly remarkable. Clearly heavily influenced by Joel Salatin [If you haven't watched Food Inc, you should] and well read and mentored in contemporary sustainable agricultural practices, these two are operating at an incredibly high standard right out of the gates.

For example. I’d arrived early in the morning, and hopped in the truck to tag along while Danny did his morning chores tending to the pigs. First off, their pen looked pretty nice. Their water’s overhead and always clean, the ground was not nuked to bare dirt as pigs tend to do, and the animals looked rather…clean. Didn’t even stink. He proceeded to hook up the truck to the pen and move it onto fresh knee-deep-grass. The shocker: he’d done it the evening before. Every morning. Every evening. Every day. The pigs are on deep, thick, fresh pasture essentially every few hours. I probably looked a little stunned.

The good news is they do the same for their chickens. I had arrived with a question from my wife wanting to know why their chicken was so exceptionally good. It could be their ration of 90% wheat/10% peas [they avoid soy, the standard protein-rich item in feed, to avoid GMOs], could be the grass – I left without a conclusive answer. As for their Nouveau Beef – a brand they’re creating for milk-and-grass-fed 6-7 month-old beef calves slaughtered in the fall – they’re tougher to spot when you visit. They have just under 20 cow-calf pairs on 200 acres of beautiful land. The way I figure it, that’s more than 5 acres per animal. And it sounds like the next step is implementing a rotational grazing program to further improve the health of the soil, grasses, animals, and ultimately us. How nice of them.

The bottom line is I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing already, and where they’re headed. They’re happy to sell sides and whole animals [important to me], are completely transparent, and as best they know how are growing the healthiest food they can in the healthiest way for the land. What more could you ask from the farmer who raises your meats?

BBQ Oven Action

08.10.10

I’ve posted about this setup before. But then in all my wisdom, I nearly deleted all of my new wordpress blog-post-blogger-transition. I don’t recommend it. So some of the content from that post, well, died. Permanently.

No matter. I had a good friend coming over for lunch today as I live close to his new City TV gig downtown, and figured the garden salad  on the menu might not tide him through his day. I had a bowl of dough in the fridge – Anita’s Organics stoneground ww, and unbleached white. So some tasty flat bread hopped on the menu. Then one thing led to another, and I’m glad I picked up the HD camera throughout, as it made for a good overview of my eccentric, atypical use of my formerly-propane bbq. And yes, this is the same setup I use to smoke and grill – minus the masonry.

Although I still intend on breaking ground on my wood fired oven project one of these days, this setup certainly made me pause to consider the low-cost, easy access, minimum time investment, sufficient, and sensible approach that can be had with free stuff. I heart kijiji.

Don’t burn your house or somebody else’s down trying this at home and blame it on me. I don’t have propane or natural gas attached, near, or even friends with my bbq. I’m just sayin’.

From Local Farms Project Update

08.09.10

This project is getting pretty big pretty fast, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Starting in September, I’m going to have a blog-doc-short episode featuring each of the following biggest and brightest talents in local artisan food production – and the list is growing daily: Sunworks Farm, Nature’s Green AcresSmoky Valley Goat Cheese, En Santé Winery, Serben Free Range, Sparrow’s Nest Organics, Mighty Trio Organics, Gold Forest Grains, Green Eggs & Ham, and Peck N Berry Acres. These are busy people and it’s a busy time of year, so I really appreciate their willingness to have me show you more about who they are and what they do.

How cool is that.