Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hestia Organics: Reconnecting Farming and Food

Kalissa Regier’s great great grandfather emigrated from West Prussia in the late 1800s and established a farm near Tiefengrund, a Mennonite settlement due north of Saskatoon. The family has farmed in this area ever since.

Kalissa didn’t originally plan to become a farmer. She moved to BC to study music, but part-time restaurant jobs led her to think more and more about food.

She realized that the grain and other crops grown on Saskatchewan farms were not simply commodities to be sold on the world market. Agriculture was all about feeding people nutritious food. As a farmer, she could play a key role in the world of food.

Shortening the Gap
Kalissa and her parents weren’t interested in industrial agriculture with its focus on exports of high output commodity crops that feed into a chain of large multinationals. Their goal was to maintain family farms, increase rural development, and protect the land. They began the transition to growing organically and started focussing on smaller-scale specialty crops.

The Regiers have 1,400 cultivated acres with 1,000 in production every year and 400 planted with green manure and resting. They are currently growing 10 different field crops, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, lentils, flax, and hemp seed.

Hestia Organics began selling its products at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market in December 2011. “I wanted to shorten the gap between the field and the consumer,” Kalissa explains. “I’m accountable for the product from the time the seed is planted in the spring to the time someone buys it and cooks it.”

What Are People Looking For? 
Personally selling the crops at the Farmers’ Market provides Kalissa with an opportunity to find out what products people are looking for and to adapt to what they want. The beluga lentils have proven to be extremely popular. Shaped like caviar, they look gourmet and hold their shape well when cooked.

Kalissa also has the time to talk to people about the different grains and to provide recipe suggestions. Wheat berry salad is one favourite.

Challenging Crops 
Some crops are more challenging to grow than others and this influences the family’s decisions. They are phasing out the golden flax as it’s a troublesome crop and difficult to clean. “Anyway, I love using brown flax in baking,” Kalissa says. “It adds lovely little brown specks.”

“Hemp can be a headache,” Kalissa says. “It’s difficult to grow organically as it grows really slowly and delicately at first. For the first six weeks, it has trouble competing with the weeds.”

In addition, hemp is a controlled substance and you need a license to sell the seeds. The simplest solution is to remove the outside shell, which isn’t digestible, and sell hemp hearts.

Hands On 
All the Hestia Organics products are weighed out individually and packaged by hand. It may sound time consuming, but it provides Kalissa with greater control and more options. At Christmas, she put together small gift packages with three different products and recipe cards.

“I’m challenged to help people see these products in a different way. They’re organic and they’re grown by someone you know,” Kalissa explains.

Vertical Integration
Kalissa believes that small-scale vertical integration, the merging of different businesses at different stages of production, can work well for small family businesses.

The Regiers are building a processing plant on the farm and setting up a stone mill so that they can sell stone-ground flour. Kalissa says that stone-ground flour has lots of advantages. “You can control particle size and produce really finely ground, soft flour using the entire grain. The industrial milling process removes the bran and germ from the flour to extend its shelf life – but that removes most of the nutrients.”

Kalissa is also looking for a flax mill so that Hestia Organics can sell freshly-milled flax seed.

One of her long-term plans is to purchase an expeller so that she can sell cold-pressed flax and hemp oil. “I really like hemp oil as a salad dressing,” Kalissa says.

Rural Infrastructure 
Purchasing proper grain-cleaning equipment is a significant investment. Fortunately, Kalissa has found a nearby business that can clean her grain for her. Unfortunately, very few small-scale processors remain on the Prairies. The hemp fibre could be put to good use if there was a nearby processor, but the cost of transportation makes it prohibitive.

The Next Generation 
Kalissa Regier is the former Youth President of the National Farmers’ Union. In 2010, she organized the Campaign for New Farmers, a national campaign focused on raising awareness of the rapidly declining number of farmers in Canada and on developing government policy and educational opportunities to better support young and beginning farmers.

Kalissa currently represents young farmers at the United Nations Committee on World Food Security.

Photo: The recipe for Morpheus Medley, a lentil-barley salad, is one of several tasty recipes on the Hestia Organics website.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 26, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – spring greens, Easter baskets, raspberry canes, and food security 

Spring Greens
There are more fresh products every week at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Goodlife Greenhouses had basil, chard, spinach, lettuce and dehydrated tomatoes. Floating Gardens had baby bok choy, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, Chinese chrysanthemum. Grandora Gardens has lettuce and cucumbers. And I’m sure I’ve missed some items. Three cheers for spring!

 Make Your Own Easter Basket, March 29
Create an Easter Basket filled with delicious locally made products on March 29 from 6:30-8:30 pm at SaskMade Marketplace. Build a custom-made gift basket, sample some treats and take advantage of the in-store specials.

Gardenscape, March 30 – April 1 
You’ll find lots of friends at Gardenscape, including Ag in the Classroom, Bedard Creek Acres, Garlic Garden of Yorkton, Over the Hill Orchards, Premala’s Spicy Sensations, Saskatchewan Fruit Growers’ Association, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, and The Berry Barn.

Check out the schedule for the Backyard BBQ Cooking Show featuring Saskatoon chefs cooking Saskatchewan products.

Springtime Handmade Market, April 13/14 
The Flock and gather craft collective will be holding a spring craft market on April 13 and 14 at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall on Broadway Avenue.

Food Security in Saskatoon
 Rachel Engler-Stringer is an Assistant Professor in Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. Her editorial in The StarPhoenix provides an overview of the steps that she believes are needed to implement the Saskatoon Food Charter and increase local food security. Her suggestions include increasing the number of community gardens, planting fruit-bearing plants in city parks and requiring green roofs on all new developments.

Organic Gold Raspberry Canes
Over the Hill Orchards has organically grown gold raspberry plants for sale.

Farm to School
The State of Washington has a wonderful Farm to School website. It includes information about local crops and school gardens. There are various programs to promote selling and serving locally-produced foods in schools, universities, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 19, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – fair trade, Spanish wine, human library, eat local - cook local, bison and ziplines 

Fair Trade, March 21/22
Michael Zelmer, Fairtrade Canada’s Director of Communications, will be speaking in Saskatoon this week:

7 pm, March 21How Fair is your Fair Trade? – presentation and fair trade fair (The Refinery)

3-4:30 pm, March 22Co-operative Solutions: How the Fair Trade and organic coffee markets support forested ecosystems on Nicaraguan coffee farmsCentre for the Study of Cooperatives Lecture Series (Prairie Room, Diefenbaker Building, UofS)

Human Library, March 24 
You can check out a book with a difference on Saturday, March 24, 10:30 am to 5 pm, at the Saskatoon Public Library. Rather than physical books, the Human Library is an opportunity to talk to individuals who have experienced social prejudice or stereotypes. Here are two examples:

Arati, Spicing Up Saskatchewan – an immigrant who began her Canadian career as an operating room nurse but has gone on to create Chatty’s – a spice business to make Indian cuisine available and accessible in her adoptive country

Karen, Growing Community with Community Gardens – an experienced community gardener who would love to discuss ways of producing healthy food and improving the local food system while also meeting new neighbours and getting more exercise

Congratulations to all the participants. It takes courage to share your beliefs and experiences publicly.

Spanish Wine and Tapas, March 30 
I'm planning to attend Souleio’s monthly wine tasting  from 6-9 pm on March 30. For $15, you can sample four wines, including the Parés Baltà Brut Cava. Tapas will be available for $8-12 a plate. Seating is limited; phone 979-8102 to reserve.
Think Global Eat Local, April 13 
CHEP Good Food Inc. and Health Everywhere will present the seventh annual Think Global Eat Local dinner at 6 pm, April 13, at the Hilton Garden Inn. The meal, featuring international cuisine, will be followed by a silent auction, entertainment, music and dancing. The proceeds help support CHEP’s community food programming.

Eat Alberta (Saskatoon?)
Eat Alberta is a mix of hands-on and demonstration workshops, tasting sessions, and presentations from leaders in the Edmonton food community – from Sourdough 101, Knife Skills, and Preserving Vegetables, to Beer Appreciation and Making Salad Rolls at Home.

Organizers hope that participants will learn how to use and source local food as well as develop nurturing and ongoing relationships with one another and with those that produce our food.

Eat Alberta is organized by local food bloggers. This is where the non-mainstream media really comes into its own as it moves from researching and writing to doing and leading. I’d love to see a similar event in Saskatoon – maybe a partnership between Slow Food and Transition Saskatoon?

Ag-West Bio – Sea Buckthorn 
My article about Northern Vigor Berries was republished in the March 2012 issue of Ag-West Bio’s publication, Bio-Bulletin.

EcoFriendly Sask – Bison and Ziplines
My “other” online publication is EcoFriendly Sask, and I’ve interviewed some really cool people lately who demonstrate that caring about the environment can be fun and profitable.

Come Out and Play: Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures – the Prairies’ first canopy zipline tour also serves as park ambassador and nature advocate

Stewardship: A Critical Role for Landowners – a free-ranging herd of prairie bison and the ranchers who watch out for them

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow Food - Because Food Matters

Food matters. It sustains life and is at the heart of our families and communities. And yet, far too often, we take food for granted. We expect our supermarkets to be filled to overflowing with an abundance of food of every kind. We grab a sandwich as we continue to work at our computers.

Writing about food began as a whim but has developed into a passion. I have met farmers, producers and restaurateurs who give their time, their skill, their energy to producing food that not only tastes wonderful but is beautiful to look at, safe and healthy to eat, and sustainable.

I delight to see Saskatoon’s and Saskatchewan’s food culture evolving. At one time, it was almost impossible to buy artisan cheese. Now we’re making it right here in our province. We have an ever-growing array of locally-produced specialty food products – from apple cider vinegar and wild mushrooms to hemp hearts and camelina oil. We have restaurants specializing in local, seasonal foods. We have local wine distributors and specialty wine stores.

There is a growing desire to connect consumers with producers, to shop locally and seasonally, to grow heritage seeds. The time is right to establish a Slow Food chapter in our community.

Slow Food 
Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.

Founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, Slow Food became an international organization in 1989. It now boasts over 100,000 members and supporters in 150 countries around the world. Slow Food Canada is active in seven Canadian provinces and territories, including British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario—but not Saskatchewan.

Slow food has many different meanings. It is the art and beauty of well-prepared food. It is the magic of planting seeds and watching them grow, of picking your own vegetables and snacking on sun-warm tomatoes. It is discussing the weather with the vendors at the farmers’ market. It is sitting down to dinner with friends and family. It is growing sustainable crops that make wise use of our finite natural resources. It is making your own yogurt or taking a photograph of your son and his first batch of cookies. It is thanking the chef for a good meal as you leave his restaurant.

Slow Food Canada National Meeting
Slow Food Canada is holding its national meeting in Edmonton from May 3 to 6. Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, will be there. What an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the Slow Food movement and to use that information to establish a slow food convivium (local chapter) in Saskatoon (or Saskatchewan).

I don’t have the personal financial resources to attend the meeting, but four local businesses that share my passion for slow food have agreed to sponsor me.

Tourism Saskatchewan has offered its support in setting up and holding the first organizational meeting for Slow Food Sask.

I would also like to thank Valerie Lugonja of Slow Food Edmonton for her encouragement and assistance.

And now I’m asking for your support. Help me to spread the word about slow food. Attend the planning meeting for a local convivium. Tell your friends and neighbours why slow food matters.

Saskatchewan Pride
I’m proud of my province and my city. I am in awe of the growing array of products that are now being grown and produced here. Help me to share that pride at the Slow Food Canada meeting.

I will have three opportunities to showcase Saskatchewan farmers/producers and their products. I will have a display table. I can share local food at a potluck lunch, and I can contribute items for the 30 participants’ goodie bags. Please give me samples of your wonderful products so that I can share them with Slow Food participants from across Canada. I promise to do my best to showcase your excellence at the Slow Food Canada meeting in May. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for sharing my passion.

My heart-felt thanks to my sponsors for the Slow Food Canada meeting:

Daybreak-Scheresky Mill

Earth Bound Bakery and Delicatessen

Loiselle Organic Family Farm

The fourth sponsor, who has contributed over half the sponsorship funds, will remain unnamed for the moment. They are planning an exciting new venture, which will be announced shortly.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 12, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – raspberry chipotle, mystery crisps, olive oil, and health store expansions 

Grandora Gardens 
Grandora Gardens has returned to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market with fresh lettuce and cucumbers. They were offering samples of their newest product - raspberry chipotle sauce – very tasty.

Grandora Gardens is on Twitter - @grandoragardens

Health Food Store Expansions
Herbs n Health (Broadway Avenue) and Dad’s Organic Market (8th Street) have announced that they are expanding and will be nearly doubling in size. They’ve both introduced new websites as well. I'm looking forward to lots of new health food products.

Oliv Tasting Room
The Oliv Tasting Room will be opening shortly on Broadway Avenue. The founders have an olive farm in South Africa and a store in Moose Jaw. According to their website, the store offers a personal tasting experience of over 60 flavours of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It’s not very practical – a local resident told me he would much prefer a hardware – but it sounds like fun.

White Birch Catering
White Birch Catering has started a new pop-up restaurant in the Ideas Inc. building next to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. It’s a combination of Moe Mathieu’s food and Cava wines. Reservations can be made online. The blackboard didn’t list any vegetarian options, but Moe has been very good at providing me with excellent vegetarian meals when requested.

White Birch is gearing up for the dinner club season with the first event in April. They are also planning a kitchen garden full of organic heirloom vegetables, which they’ll be harvesting and selling in the summer.

If you are looking for a caterer, I would recommend Chef Moe’s creative cuisine and White Birch’s fun, friendly approach.

Agricultural Leadership Scholarships
If you are mid-career with a minimum of 5 years agricultural or farming experience and want to expand your knowledge and travel internationally, check out the Nuffield Farming Scholarships. Applications are due by April 30.

Walkers Crisps 
Every spring Walkers Crisps introduces a limited edition of a new flavour of crisps (potato chips). This year they will be selling three mystery flavours. Guess a flavour correctly, and you’ll be eligible for prizes.

Brit Foods in Cumberland Square expects to have the mystery flavours in early April (around Easter).

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Photos: Amiens, France

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, March 5, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – wild rice, fair trade sugar, hot cross buns, and food lies and illusions 

Rusty’s Wild Rice
 I was delighted to meet a new vendor at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market this weekend.

Russ Cameron of Rusty’s Wild Rice is selling certified organic long grain wild rice grown in northern Saskatchewan. He is also selling wild rice/whole wheat flour pancake mix and wild rice flour.

According to their website, Aboriginal peoples in eastern Canada harvested wild rice as an important food source long before it was introduced locally. Wild rice seeds were introduced into Saskatchewan in the 1930s as a way to increase the population of muskrats and ducks for improved hunting. Saskatchewan is now Canada’s largest producer of naturally grown wild rice.

If you follow the link for more information, you will discover a school curriculum unit on Wild Rice as part of the series Rekindling Traditions: Cross-Cultural Science and Technology Units.

 Hot Cross Buns 
Earthbound Bakery (1820 8th Street East) was selling hot cross buns on Saturday – yeah! They're organic and lightly spiced with large chunks of fruit. Baker Trent Loewen says the buns will be available on Wednesday and Saturday this coming week. In the following weeks leading up to Easter they will be available every day.

Fair Trade Sugar 
I was delighted to discover a growing number of food products at Ten Thousand Villages. It really is an excellent source of organic, fair trade foods, such as sugar or spices, which cannot be produced locally.

The last time I was in the downtown store, they had two kinds of cane sugar. Level Ground Trading purchases their sugar from Fruandes, a Fair Trade organization operating out of Bogotá, Colombia. The sugar is purchased from independent farmers or associations of small-scale farmers, whose workers receive a sustainable wage, vocational training, health care, and education for their children. The sugar is hand-processed in a cottage industry press. It’s part of an effort by Level Ground Trading to help farmers diversify with dried fruit and sugar as well as coffee.

Ten Thousand Villages has also teamed up with La Siembra Co-operative, a pioneer of Fair Trade Certified cocoa and sugar products. The sugar comes from Paraguay and Costa Rica. The producers use organic techniques to grow and harvest their crops. Various kinds of sugar are available.

Is the food revolution just a great big fat lie?
Is the food revolution just a great big fat lie is an edited extract (The Guardian) from Get Real: How To Tell It like It Is In A World Of Illusions by Eliane Glaser. As the article’s sub-heading says, “From the multimillionaire chefs who claim to be just like the rest of us to the multinationals making public health policy, there's something a bit iffy about the new food culture.” My thanks to KathleenCrowther – @katdawnc – for sharing this article on Twitter.)

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.