#OurFoodHasAStory Post 31 Clinton Monchuk: My Food Story Is Also The Story Of Me

It is the final day of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, but I ask each of you to continue to share your food stories throughout the year. This is something that I am sure today’s guest post author, Clinton Monchuk, would agree with. You see, beyond farming, Clinton also heads another of my favourite organizations, Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan. This is an organization devoted to helping consumers navigate through the multitude of food options by bringing them one step closer to the farmers who produced the food, and bridging that gap.

Follow Clinton on Twitter @cgmonch or Farm and Food Care SK @FarmFoodCareSK and visit their website here.  

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My Food Story

When I consider the many blessings this beautiful country of Canada has provided for my family and me, I feel it would be short sighted to not remember our past and how my food story has been formed. Similar to many prairie beginnings, the story of me is also my food story.My food story started at the end of WW1 when a young prisoner of war, my grandfather, left Eastern Europe in his early 20s in search of a peaceful country where food would be abundant. Canada’s promise of “utopia” still included its challenges. Although there was a lot of land, much of it had to be cleared of trees and broke to be made suitable for farming. I try to picture myself and my family breaking land in scorching heat of our summers with the labour done by hand. It is hard for me to imagine producing food for my family and others under the same conditions that he would have done it. Yet, he raised a family on 160 acres, which is roughly what I can plant now in 5 hours.


Sometimes we romanticize food production of the past and it’s simplicities but fail to recognize the difficulties. When there were crop failures from drought or early frost, the ability to support a farm family disappeared. This resulted in malnourishment, higher infant mortality rates and family members being more susceptible to disease. This concept is so far removed from our generation that it seems like a physical impossibility, yet it happened. One only has to read the book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck to make an emotional connection to the hardships that occurred with farm families during this time.


My father took over the farm when he was 17 years old, after my grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack. As a young man he could identify the need to move forward and expand as other smaller farms were already falling by the wayside. Through the years not only did he and my mother raise six children, but they also expanded their land base, built a large scale dairy operation, increased their beef herd and dabbled in selling fresh fruits and vegetables. I remember numerous times being late to sporting events and family suppers as a result of a cow calving, taking her well-being and the well-being of the calf over the importance of whatever we were to attend. I can also appreciate the progression of grain farming from cab-less tractors and combines, to the comforts of cabs. I still have phantom scratches as I combine malting barley thinking of how my father would have had that chaff blowing around his face.

Growing up in agriculture allowed me to appreciate the sweat of the spring and summer, while reaping the rewards of harvest. The vegetable growing season was a busy time tending to the garden after the cows were milked by picking weeds and potatoes bugs, hoeing, hilling and the back-aching task of harvesting it all. But we also enjoyed all this fresh produce as a family. Some of my greatest memories of meal time are eating thick, juicy home-grown BBQ steaks with fresh potatoes smothered in cream and dill sauce, fresh lettuce picked an hour before supper, then topped off with fresh strawberries and cream with a touch of sugar. Hard to not read that and lick your lips!  


Fast forward to today and my food story continues. My brother and I are now in the process of taking over the family farm and our children and spouses are involved in the process. Our kids ride with us in the tractors and combines so they too can feel the appreciation of growing food. Gone are the days of cab-less tractors or combines, but producing food for our family and thousands of others is still in our blood.  


For me, my food story is the feeling of planting a crop, working with family, watching a calf being born, picking a fresh strawberry or smelling the settling dust during harvest, and it’s that feeling where I want my children’s food story to start.

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 30 Jordan Hamilton:Busy Family Making Food A Priority 

Day 30 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from a very special friend of mine. Jordan Hamilton has been in my life since I was born. From school friends and teammates, to university roommates, we have always been close, no matter the distance that separates us. She gently urged me (ok, downright nagged me) to join social media, and later to start this very blog. I always love her perspective as a “city mom”, even though her roots are rural like my own. Enjoy her post on balancing a busy, commuting family and placing priority on good food and family meals. 
Follow Jordan on Twitter @jmhammy and check out her blog, Just Jordan, here.

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My story starts in Tisdale, a farming community in NE Saskatchewan. My great grandparents were farmers, as were my grandparents, and all 3 of my dad’s siblings. My dad owns and operates Fritshaw Meats, but still managed to farm a few years while I was growing up. My husband’s family has a similar history. His grandparents and parents farmed. Even as I think about our roots, I feel a swell of pride for what our families have accomplished and provided for this province.

Not surprisingly, because of my dad’s business, we ate a lot of meat growing up. And I wasn’t a big fan. In fact, I was known to push meat around my plate and a number of times even complained at the lake, “Steak AGAIN?” Not that you should ever complain about steak, but these ones in particular were always NY strips or tenderloin. I honestly had no idea at the time the price of all the food we ate and the fact that very few families would have eaten the plentiful choice cuts of meat that my family ate.

I grew up with 2 full time working parents. We didn’t eat out and we always ate at the table as a family. I know there were times when my dad would eat with my brother and I, because my mom and sister had quickly eaten before her gymnastics, but my parents created a real sense of family with us by treating meal time as family time that my husband Hugh and I hope replicate with our three yahoos.

My husband, Hugh, and I are also full time working parents. One additional factor that we have compared to our parents is our commute to work. We spend approximately an hour of our day in our vehicles. We also have a Saskatoon Blade living with us and have to factor his 19 year old appetite and cereal consumption into our meal planning.


Breakfast

I don’t eat breakfast. GASP. I know. It’s terrible. I just love my coffee. With a lot of creamer. And I typically don’t get hungry until mid-morning when I have a piece of fruit. Hugh is the same. Double GASP.

The kids LOVE cereal and we go through a lot of milk. And I’m pretty sure most days that’s all our billet eats until we get home :-). Hugh is the king of breakfast and so the kids often get pancakes or eggs during the week and if they request it, and waffles on the weekend.

Lunch

Hugh and I take a salad to work every day. These get made up on Sunday night. I take real pride in cooking homemade items for my family, but I have found that pre-made salads have really become my friend during the week to mix things up a bit. A person can only eat so many tossed salads.


Calder likes salads at school along with soup or noodles packed in his thermos. He will occasionally take a sandwich or ham dip and crackers. A new one for us this year is that he can’t take oranges to school. Apparently, a teacher has an allergy. I am finding this a bit frustrating. Oranges are so easy to take for him. They don’t get bruised like a banana or take too long to eat like an apple (so Calder tells me).

I always have muffins in our freezer to throw in our school bags and our weekly shopping trip always includes apples and bananas for Hugh and I to pack.

Supper:


Our freezer is packed with pre-made meals we put together on the weekends. Chicken bruschetta, a multitude of casseroles, lasagnes, cooked meatballs and ground beef, chicken pot pies, chili, marinated cuts of meat, beef stroganoff, shepherd’s pie, and fajita mix to name a few. What we cook each day depends on the amount of time we have. Eat and go days we rely on casseroles, one pot slow-cooker meals, or some well timed leftovers. Days when we have a bit of time to prep before our 5:30 meal time, we will often eat a protein with rice or pasta. We save those heavy prep meals, like roasts, ribs, and homemade pizza, for the weekend.


We also eat a salad most days at supper. Our billet and kids LOVE them, so they are an easy way to make the kids happy!

Things our food story definitely requires:

  1. Timer on our oven and delay start outlet we plug our slow cooker into.
  2. Costco’s large package of pre-washed romaine.
  3. Rice cooker
  4. 2 freezers (one stand-up and a medium sized chest)
  5. 2 fridges (one in the garage is great for beer, lunches, and garden veggies)

We also couldn’t live without online shopping. I have yet to use Superstore’s Click and Collect, but purchase all our dry goods from Walmart.ca. All items are identically prices as in store and they ship for free right to our door.  We have storage in the basement and I have a backup of everything. I hate running out and also hate going to the grocery store more than once a week.


Lastly, our garden is a big part of our lives. We devour fresh veggies in the summer and fall and enjoy salsa, spaghetti sauce, and pickles all winter long. These pictures are from last year. We now have a cement pad where the gravel is. Our kids love shooting pucks and riding bikes there in the summer and Hugh takes some serious pride in his rink in the winter.


I take full advantage of our limited space. When the bobcat came to dig out our rink, we had her put garden soil behind our fence in the back alley!

And that’s our food story.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 19 Brad Wildeman: Times Are Changing; And Mostly For The Good

Today, day 19 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, brings us a guest post from a cattleman we can all learn from, Brad Wildeman. He has been heavily involved in shaping the agriculture and cattle industry in Saskatchewan. He has also been the head of a very successful, integrated feedlot and ethanol plant, PoundMaker Ag Ventures. Brad could be (and is by many) called a visionary in Ag. So it’s wonderful to see so much of his vision written in this post. Enjoy!! 

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I have been privileged to be involved in agriculture, and particularly in the cattle industry, almost all my life. Over the years, I have seen many changes and for the most part they have been positive even though change is sometimes hard to accept or embrace.
The adoption of new farming practises and harnessing the potential of new technological tools has improved yields, financial returns and increased the health of the land. Gone are the days of the prairie duststorms caused by over tillage. Capturing and conserving the moisture from fall and winter precipitation through minimum or no-till farming has allowed for good yields even on dry years that in the past would have resulted in crop failure. New cropping options, improved varieties, and the precise use of fertilizers and crop protection products have all been very positive improvements to farming practises.

Those improvements haven’t been limited just to grain based agriculture. New methods of grass management, utilizing new winter feeding regimes, and better cattle genetics has increased the productivity and financial returns of the cattle industry as well. Improvement in animal health products and the increased adoption of preventative vaccination programs has reduced morbidity and mortality within the herd. And although we haven’t harnessed all the opportunities available through adopting new technology yet, I see progress being made every day.

Perhaps the biggest change I see is the effort by the cattle industry to implement programs and procedures that allow us to promote our products as safer, more sustainable, and more accountable to our consumers. The demands of the consumer for transparency and accountability, and advocating the benefits that a healthy cattle industry can provide to everyone is a critical component of continuing to make a living in this industry. Our efforts in traceability, adoption of animal care standards, our participation in sustainability roundtables, the implementation of the Verified Beef programs, and the creation of Cattle Young Leaders and other mentorship initiatives that are training new advocates to communicate with consumers at their level of understanding and concern are all very positive steps. Organizations like Farm and Food Care are important avenues to creating and maintain this connection to consumers who don’t understand our business and make judgments on what they may see or hear on social media.

Social license and sustainability are the new drivers that will shape how we do business in the future. Just doing the right thing isn’t good enough unless we can prove accountability. Then taking this message to the masses is critical to changing the paradigm of modern day agriculture from the “factory farm and profit at all cost” vision to that of a socially and environmentally sensitive industry that is committed to feed an ever increasing population while preserving, and potentially enhancing, our impact on the planet.

These are tough goals but I believe we are on a winning strategy and I applaud the efforts of all those involved. It has brought out a passion for our industry that encourages optimism for the future. The key is to sustain this momentum as the stakes are high.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 17 Laura Reiter: A Wheat Story

Laura Reiter is the guest author for day 17 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Laura is a grain farmer from Radisson, and I can only imagine how picture perfect her land must be, along the Saskatchewan River. She is also a director and research chair for Sask Wheat. Have a read of her story of her favourite crop, wheat. 

Follow Laura on Twitter @ReiterLJ

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When Adrienne asked me to be part of #OurFoodHasAStory this month on her blog I was honored. I was also a bit hesitant as to how to proceed. What we produce is several steps from the grocery shelf so it is much easier to think of it as an ‘ingredient’ rather than ‘food’. I struggled for a bit as to how to tell you our story. What I decided was that I would tell you part of a story…

Our farm is located along the North Saskatchewan River by Radisson, Saskatchewan. My brother, my husband and I operate a grain farm here on land my Grandfather purchased when he got back from the war.

We have grown a variety of different crops here over the years but my favorite has always been wheat, Hard Red Spring Wheat.


Canada is pretty good at growing wheat. The industry has exported wheat to over 50 countries in 2017!

The wheat that we produce on our farm gets delivered to a local milling company and they mill it into flour. That flour can get shipped to customers around the world or to a store just down the street.

That is the end of my part of the story. What happens next is up to you. Whether you open that bag of flour and make pizza crust, a pan of sticky cinnamon buns, or a simple loaf of bread, whatever you choose, together #OurFoodHasAStory

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 16 Julie-Anne Howe: Farms = Lifelong Learning For Farm Kids

It is day 16 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, and today’s post is from a FarmHer friend of mine, Julie-Anne Howe. She is a dairy gal turned cattlewoman, grain farmer and a growing bee farmer to boot. 

Follow Julia-Anne on Twitter @JulieAnneHowe and check out her farm blog, Fit to Farm, here (ps. Her latest on sexual harassment in agriculture is really, really good). 

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One thing that I love so much about farming and food production is the tie to nature, science and lifelong learning. Our farm is the ultimate classroom for my children. We farm South of Moose Jaw Saskatchewan; living and learning with nature. Our farm was established in 1950 by my husband’s grandparents and my children are the 4th generation of Howes living on the farm. We run 300 purebred Charolais and Red Angus Cows, about 2600 acres of grasslands, 1000 acres of grain land and a small-scale honeybee operation. 


For all aspects of the farm to sustain itself, we need to care for the land and our creatures. We need to be constantly paying attention to the weather, soil, new technology and more. We are always learning: myself, my kids and my family business. I go to courses, field days and conferences to learn as much as I can to keep farming better for our future generations. Food production is complex. We strive improve our understanding of everything from how we can reduce stress in cattle to how to provide more cuts and types of beef products at the grocery store. For my bees, I attend at least one conference every year and take advantage of a mentorship program to learn about beekeeping techniques and food safety in honey production. There is so very much to learn. 

The Canadian Beef Industry Conference had over 800 attendees this year.


My kids learn so much from our farm. Biology, math, responsibility, respect. We include them in the farm as much as possible and safe. 

Matthew and I tending to our beehives.


Elise and I collecting flea beetles to use as part of our I alive weed species program. Flea Beatles eat Leafy Spurge.


They have been privileged to see firsthand our crops grown from seed to harvest and onto food production. They have learned the hard lessons of the circle of life and how nature doesn’t always play nice. From sadly still born calves, to droughts parching our crops, there are lessons in all of these experiences. My kids also have their own chickens that they tend to and are saving their egg money. They also help me at the local farmers market to gain money sense and small business skills that will be invaluable throughout their life. They have their own cows and are now learning the ropes on animal production. My oldest is starting 4-H this year and it’s amazing to see the personal growth he is from having his own show calf and learning how to care for her. 


From learning about the latest ways to manage invasive weeds species in my cow pastures to developing an orchard to provide more early spring nectar sources for my bees, we are always looking to learn and improve our farm. The different components of our farm are so deeply interconnected. My bees pollinate my crops and pasture land. My alfalfa fields fix nitrogen in the soil that will help the grain crops that are seeded after them. My cows use land that isn’t suitable to crop production. These lands provide key habitat refuges for wildlife. We have deer, moose, foxes, badger, hawks and owls and more all residing on our farm. And we see how if one species declines in number the rest of the ecosystem is affected. The wonder of the complexity of how nature and farming co exists astounds me. I’m always learning more about nature, farm production and how we can do better to co-exist.
The list on what lessons the farm gives back to us is unending. Our farm also is committed to giving back by providing farm education experiences to the public and mentoring younger people in our industry. We host international groups wanting to learn more about Canadian Agriculture. We contribute to the Moose Jaw Food Farm, a Sask Ag and Ag In the Classroom initiative to teach Grade 2-4 children about food production and have had hundreds of kids (young and old) pet our cows at Agribition. 


We are the lucky ones. We get to live and learn in the wide-open spaces to see nature in all its glory daily. I was born into agriculture and am thankful for all the lessons I have been able to learn and for the chance to raise healthy food for Canadians. This is my food story.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 13 A Day In My Ranch Life (Adrienne Ivey)

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a rancher is, “What do you do in an average day?”. This is also the hardest question I am ever asked. You see, every day is sooooooo different for me! And I don’t just mean seasonally. Of course a normal day is different for every farmer in seeding vs harvest, or in calving vs weaning. But because I am the secondary rancher here, some days I do ranch work. Some days I am more of a stay at home mom. Some days I feel like I am a professional organizer of randomness.  Any given day is a total spin of the roulette wheel. So today I decided to track my day, and give each of you a real glimpse into my life.

(6:30am) Alarm goes off. I immediately grumble – no morning person here! I wake the kids and chat with hubby. Once they are fed and clean and off to school, I feel like my real day has begun. (9:00am) I spend some time on email and social media, concentrating on #OurFoodHasAStory posts.

(10:00am) Phone call with a reporter from the Tisdale Recorder. We chat about Ag Month, being an agvocate, and how Tisdale’s old slogan Land of Rape and Honey started me down the path of talking about agriculture.

 

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10:30am – I bundle up because we are moving one of the herds of cattle a few miles onto some rented stubble land (land that has been combined, but we send cattle out to graze the slough grass and fencelines. This is like upcycling, because it would otherwise be wasted.). As I head out, I peek at the weather. -3C. That is freaking cold with a bare face, going full speed down a road on a quad with no windshield.
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10:40 – I fill up my ranch pony with fuel. I’ve learned to never trust a fuel gauge on the farm… the hard way

 

 

 

 

11:00am – We head out down the back roads. It. Is. Freaking. Cold. Unlike the other guys on the ranch, who work outside everyday, I have not developed my winter skin yet. Ok, who am I kidding, I never do. -3 bombing down the road, I can only imagine what the wind chill is. Too much for a big wimp like me, this early in the year.

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11:10am – We stop and formulate a plan. “We” is a loose term. More accurately, I wait patiently to be told what the plan is. My memory (or lack thereof) for gate placement and paddock shape means I am more of a point and shoot type of helper. I’m the digital camera of ranch help.

 

 

​We move cattle a lot. A normal cattle move is like a well oiled machine… and then there are “Those” days. This was one of those days. After an hour of trying to get the cows and calves moving, we needed to stop, regroup, and start all over again. These experienced girls were convinced that they needed to go east. They were adamant. 600 head of stubborn bovines can be frustratingly hard to convince they are wrong. “The Plan” was to go west.

​Eventually those stubborn ladies got on board with the boys plan. In the end, I kind of thought they were right – we should have gone out the other gate, but shhhhh… don’t tell the guys!

(2:00pm) I got back into the house (even colder due to the fact I dropped a glove somewhere on the move. The throttle hand glove, of course), just in time to take another call from a reporter. This one from the Estevan Mercury. Again, we chatted Ag Month, agvocacy and blogging. I love taking the chance to brag that we are the only province that doesn’t just have a day dedicated to agriculture, not just a week, but an entire month to show just how much Ag means to Saskatchewan. (2:30pm) I then spent some time planning a minor hockey overnight weekend. Complete with the all important parent hospitality room, of course.

I spent some time digging in the fridge planning what to feed child #2 in between school and hockey, as I was going to be busy driving child #1 to her daily riding lesson (4:00pm). When we finally got home from the barn (6:30pm), I fed child #1, and finished planning the hockey weekend for child #2’s hockey team.

And now, as I sit here writing this post (9:30pm), with a GIANT glass of wine, I am realizing exactly why I find it so hard to explain to people just what it is I do. Am I a rancher? Am I a stay at home mom? Am I a blogger? A communicator? I am all of these things. In the same day.

I guess when it comes down to it, that IS my food story. Balance. My food story is cool and eccentric. It is varied and full. My food story includes raising beef, feeding it to my family, and speaking to the masses about it. My food story is so fulfilling. Thank you for sharing in it with me.

 

 

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 11 Stuart Smyth: Communicating the Benefits of Agriculture Innovations

Day 11 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan is exciting for me. Today’s author is Stuart Smyth, a researcher, educator and communicator – all about agricultural science. The reason that farmers and ranchers are able to do what we do, and raise what we raise, is due to those in research and education. 

Follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartsmyth66 or check out his University of Saskatchewan profile here: http://www.usask.ca/research-groups/stuartsmyth/About%20Dr.%20Smyth/Profile.php

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As a professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, there are two things that make my job one of the best in the world, sharing the results of farmer surveys and teaching farm kids.

I receive several invitations, national and international, each year to attend conferences or other events and give a presentation based on my research. Yet, the presentations I enjoy the most are the ones I give to Saskatchewan farmers. Farmers are incredibly savvy businesswomen and businessmen, who know very well just how economical a new innovation is or is not for their operation. This is often the case regardless of the innovation, whether it is in a new piece of equipment, chemical or crop variety. That’s because they take the time to find out. Farmers also know how well a particular innovation is succeeding in their general area, but they may have less exposure to impacts at the larger, provincial level. This is often where I’m able to share some of the findings of my research with them, to give them a broader sense of the provincial impacts.

 These opportunities to speak with the farm community are valued ones, as the exchange of information is two-way. While I am able to share some of my research findings, I’m also able to have the results validated by those in attendance, allowing me to know what results are pretty accurate and which ones might require further research. Luckily for me, farmers are relatively forthcoming about sharing insights about farming that they are interested in, expanding my knowledge and understanding. A lot has changed on farms since I left my family’s farm in the mid-1980s, so being able to expand my awareness regarding current issues, topics and concerns is incredibly valuable for me.

Being able to teach classes of predominantly farm kids is truly a rewarding experience. Their passion and enthusiasm for agriculture is certainly infectious. Getting a chance to know these students a bit over the course of their education makes teaching classes exciting as the students are curious about changes and innovations in agriculture and the resulting impacts. As I get to know the students, I’m reassured about how capable they are and know that as the future leaders of our province, we are in good hands. One of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen in agriculture at the U of S is the high number of female students today, compared to the class photos that adorn the hallways. Class photos from the late 1970s and well into the 1980s show a handful of female students at most, definitely less than 10% of the total class size. For the past few years, the graduating classes from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources have been over 50% female.

Growing up on a farm in the 1970s and 80s, but not actually farming myself, has never been something that I’ve easily accepted. However, being able to report on the farm level benefits of agricultural innovations and to teach farm kids is pretty good compensation for not being able to farm. Every day that I drive onto the U of S campus, I’m so very thankful that I have the opportunity to work in agriculture.  

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 10 Shayla Hertz: Celebrating Our Connection Through Food

It is day 10 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. I have only had the pleasure of meeting today’s author, Shayla Hertz, once, but I have been awed and inspired by her mother, Alanna Koch for years. Like Shayla, I have also travelled the world, and also like her, I am proud of the amazing (and safe!) ways Saskatchewan raises and grows food. Enjoy!!! 

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October is Agriculture Month, a time to celebrate something we are all connected to and by. Food.

Ag Month is about celebrating how food grown on farms gets to our tables, how this food is healthy and nutritious, how it’s affordable, how this food is safe, and how truly sustainable this food is. These are values everyone shares in Saskatchewan. These are values we are united by across the globe, people simply prioritize them differently. 
This weekend is Thanksgiving. I’ll be with my family. Many are grain farmers. We’ll eat turkey, cranberries, stuffing, cabbage rolls, potatoes and gravy, seasonal veggies, and some kind of pie. Food that’s associated with love and happiness. Thanksgiving has always been an extra special time of year for us. It signifies the end of harvest (usually!), a time where farmers work extremely hard to get their crops off. These crops will be the food you and I eat. 


Agriculture is synonymous with home for me. I’ve traveled to other parts of the world and what I love most about Saskatchewan and Canada is knowing whole-heartedly that we have access to safe, healthy, and affordable food, always. Not only that, but that we contribute significantly to feeding other parts of the world where people can’t grow enough food for themselves, doing so in an environmentally-conscious way. 


This Thanksgiving and this #AgMonth17, I’m celebrating being able to enjoy food produced with the use of modern technology and production methods. The food of today. Food that is just plain GOOD. 

That’s a chapter in my food story. Can you tell me about yours?

#CelebrateFood #Thankful #OurFoodHasAStory

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 9 Adele Buettner: If My Kitchen Table Could Talk

Day 9 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from a good friend of mine, Adele Buettner. Adele is more than a friend, she is also an inspiration to me. She is a force to be reckoned with in an industry which hasn’t always embraced women in leadership roles. Through her company, Agribiz Communications, (see them here), she works with awesome organizations like Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan, helping farmers share their stories with the public.  Read Adele’s food story, and I am sure you will be inspired as well. 

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Growing up on a family farm minutes from Saskatoon, I had the best of both worlds. While it was relatively effortless to make the five-minute drive to the city to take part in extracurricular activities, meet up with friends or go shopping, I was also very fortunate to live, learn, work and play on a family farm. I grew up fully integrated in the two worlds.
At the farm, the pivotal gathering point was our kitchen table. Since my grandparents farmed with us and lived in the same yard site, it was never a sure thing where our evening meal would be.

Regardless of which of the two kitchen tables we ate at or which meal of the day it was, we were fortunate to always enjoy an abundance of beautifully prepared homemade foods. We were taught that mealtime was family time. We all ate at the table together. Conversations, debates, storytelling, sibling rivalry, laughter and sometimes tears, all took place around the kitchen table.

Family gathered at my Grandparents table.


As farmers, much of what we ate came from the labour of our own hands. Going out for supper was a rare treat and we hardly ever ate food from a can or a package. Rather, the bulk of our vegetables came from our garden and our meat came from our barn or pasture. As with the foods grown on our farm today, the food on our table when I was growing up was produced with care and respect for both the land and animals.

Washing cattle for the regional 4H show.


The kitchen table also served as a focal point when neighbours would stop by. They would sit around the table visiting, drinking coffee and enjoying an endless selection of open-faced egg salad sandwiches on Mom’s freshly baked buns and an infinite selection of homemade sweets, which I always found delicious fresh or frozen! The kitchen table also provided untold hours of enjoyment for all the card games and board games we played with family and friends. And every evening, the kitchen transformed to a library, as after a day of hard work, my parents would have a coffee and read the daily paper while sitting around the kitchen table.

Our table was also the office. As computers were not yet a household must-have, a notebook and pencil were essential to planning for the next growing season. It was at the same table where we enjoyed the goodness of homegrown food that my parents would discuss what they were going to seed for the next year, what genetics they are going to introduce into their cattle herd, what equipment they should look at upgrading or what horse show we would attend the following weekend. The very place where the food was shared with family and friends is the same table where the cycle of what to grow was decided.

Adele and her daughter at Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals.


Growing up, I was expected to help with chores like cleaning barns (chicken and horse), gathering eggs, and feeding horses. My mom also taught me how to process cucumbers, make homemade soup and how to cook without relying on a can opener. My parents taught me the how to grow good food and to celebrate family and the blessings of good friends.

My mother pickling cucumbers.


Today when friends and family gather at my home, the kitchen table is also the gathering spot. I cook with good ingredients that come from farms in Saskatchewan, across the country and around the world. I was fortunate to learn my way around the kitchen from a mother and grandmother that could have given the Top Chef Canada winners a run for their title. Card games, board games, visiting, counseling, laughing, crying, storytelling and memory building—these are all regular occurrences around my kitchen table.


Saskatchewan is Canada’s only province that dedicates a whole month to agriculture, which is fitting because farming and ranching are so important to our economy, our people and our culture. I certainly relate to the tag line “Our Food Has a Story”. For me, the centre of my food story is the kitchen table where good food is shared, stories are told and memories are made.


 
Adele Buettner owns AgriBiz Communications, which for 25 years has helped ag related organizations, including Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan, with management, marketing and communications services. Adele is a passionate foodie, family supporter and volunteer. While she lives and works in Saskatoon, she maintains involvement in the family farm and remains to this day a farm girl at heart.
 
 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 8 Donna Stone: Why I Love Gardens

Donna Stone is our guest author for day 8 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Donna and her family grain farm near Davidson. I love her story of the garden and the peace it brings her. I completely understand…. every part except the weeds! Ha! 

Stay tuned later in the month to hear from her husband Rob and his food story. 

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Hauling weeds


From as far back as I can remember, I have loved gardening. The smell of the freshly tilled soil, watching those tine seeds grow into beautiful plants and reaping the delicious rewards the garden produces. I even find pulling weeds relaxing and therapeutic. I love it all!

Canning Tomatoes


​I have learned a lot through gardening. Family stories and history were shared while I shelled peas with grandma or picked raspberries with grandpa. Plenty of “life lesson lectures” happened while my brother and I pulled weeds with mom. Through watching and helping, I also learned how to preserve and store the wonderful fruits and vegetables our gardens provided.  

Hauling potatoes farm kid style


​I have tried to pass my love of gardening on to my kids, and I think it’s working. They love helping from planting to harvest. Like I did, they are also making fond memories of gardening with their parents and grandparents. They’re learning that the best tasting food is the food you grow yourself and I hope someday the traditions and knowledge are passed on to their kids.