Category Archives: December 2011

Buying Local Made Easy for the Holidays

Nothing says Christmas like friends and family gathered together for an extravagant meal. Despite the dark and cold December climate, the holiday season is also an excellent opportunity to support your local farmers in the off season.

There are currently five farms that offer turkey in the Beyond the Market online directory, not to mention the thirteen listings for lamb, ten listings for pork, and thirty-one listings for beef. Meat has traditionally played a central role on the holiday table, so why not serve something that has been pasture raised with care, right in your own community? Take pride in serving a quality product to your family, and supporting your local ranchers in the process.

There are plenty of local options for the fixings too. Many farms cellar hardy crops such as potatoes, cabbages, rutabagas, carrots, beets, and parsnips through the winter, providing you access to local produce year round. Communities such as Prince George and Smithers host year round Farmers’ Markets, where you can pick up cellared items as well as flours and honey for baking or homemade holiday sweets and preserves.

Don’t forget the dozens of craft fairs hosted across the north. Many of the artisanal products at craft fairs are made by farming families to supplement their income over the winter. Stock up on handcrafted candies, jams, pickles, breads, cookies, toys, dolls, blankets, knits, soaps, wreaths, and so much more.

For example, Kakwa Ecovillage based in the Robson Valley offers socks made from alpaca wool. Fort Fraser’s Barefoot Sisters craft teas, soaps, and bath products made with herbs from their own garden. Spend some time while shopping getting to know a few of the local merchants.

Of course, the holiday season is a busy time for many. Why not take a break from all the shopping  and running around stopping in for a coffee and a bite to eat at any of the fine establishments that put local food on their menus. These include the Beanery 2 Bistro in McBride, Cimo Mediterranean Grill and Sassafras Savouries in Prince George, the BC  Historic Café in Hazelton, the Trackside Cantina in Smithers, the Bean on Burrard in Vanderhoof, and several others.

Of course, in the absence of a Farmers’ Market, Craft Fair, or locavore restaurant, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the farm direct suppliers listed in our directory. Avoid the hustle and bustle of stores by buying your food and gifts directly from the producer.

If you are stuck for gift ideas, and the idea of a rutabaga under the tree doesn’t tickle your fancy, consider items that will encourage your friends and family to spend more time in the kitchen and more time together. A good knife set, stock pot and frying pan can last forever and may inspire the chef in your family to prepare healthier meals with whole ingredients. Include your favourite recipe in the card for a very personal touch.

Beyond the Market is on Facebook

Our quarterly newsletter is a great way to stay up to date on Beyond the Market activities, but often there are many pieces of information we simply can’t squeeze into these six pages.

Our network is connected to some of the leading edge food systems research and community action across the continent. Our local farm and food services businesses have great stories and announcements they like to share, and our staff have collected a host of great photos during our travels and outreach. Now you can view all this and more on our official Beyond the Market Facebook page! In addition to accessing more frequent updates, you will also have the opportunity to participate in the project by adding your voice to the online community. Got a recipe you’d like to share? Questions about where to find local products? Suggestions for food and agriculture workshops and events?

Post it on our Facebook page and help get the discussion started.

http://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheMarket

November: Two Sisters Catering

Janet and Christine Blair began Two Sisters Catering out of their home kitchens in 2005, mainly catering for friends and family.  The business grew modestly in the first few years, but has recently taken off, and the sisters are moving full steam ahead.

When asked what they think the biggest draw is for their customers, Janet suggests, “they really enjoy the uniqueness of our dishes.  We provide food that many people won’t make at home, and it’s something our customers really enjoy”. Christine suggests that many of their clientele are looking for local food options; “there are numerous people in Smithers who support local food, and because we support local food, they support us.” She adds that, “many of our customers enjoy the farmers’ market, but they want more.”

Janet and Christine use local products in their menu, when in season. This week, they purchased bread from Meg at Rustica Bakery, and shopped at the Bulkley Valley Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning to stock up on local vegetables for a wedding they are catering later that day.

Janet admits there are challenges when buying local, “it’s not only the availability of the vegetables but also the variety of different and unique vegetables from rainbow beets to purple carrots”.  The sisters are looking forward to establishing even more relationships with local growers to start providing unique vegetables for their dishes.

The Two Sisters have big plans for the New Year, including opening the doors of their new bistro &  café in early 2012.  They are currently immersed in renovating the space and purchasing all the equipment for what will be Smithers’ newest eatery.

In addition to providing healthy local food for customers, Christine and Janet also hope to provide some menu items for their gluten-free patrons. They plan to make use of the bistro space for community and special functions by hosting cooking classes for public and private dinner parties using guest chefs from the North.  For private functions, a group of up to 30 patrons can pre-order from a select menu and wine list and enjoy dinner in an intimate setting.

Janet and Christine hope that many will take advantage of the unique opportunity to mingle with other food lovers from the area while being treated to a meal from talented chefs they normally would not have access to.

 

Two Sisters Catering

(250) 847-1706

(250) 847-2644

Smithers, BC

info@twosisterscating.com

www.twosisterscatering.ca

Two Sisters on Facebook

 

Seeking Advisory Committee Members

The Beyond the Market Project is guided by the input of community members from across the north. We rely on the expertise and networks of our volunteers to ensure the project is accomplishing meaningful work. But we are missing some key members! We invite you to join our Advisory Committee to help guide and shape the project and network with others working with local food systems across the north. The time commitment required is only an hour per month, but the value of your time is far greater than that.

Join us to help represent the needs and interests of your community in the project.

Beyond the Market Advisory Committee

Robson Valley Agriculture: Pete Amyoony

Robson Valley Food Service: Vacant

Prince George Agriculture: Vacant

Prince George Food Service: April Ottesen

Nechako-Stuart Agriculture: Andrew Beuzer

Nechako-Stuart Food Service: Vacant

Bulkley Valley Agriculture: Joe Hugs

Bulkley Valley Food Service: Vacant

Skeena Valley Agriculture:  Diana Penner

Skeena Valley Food Service: Kerry Clarke

Omineca Beetle Action Coalition: Art Kaehn

Regional District Fraser-Fort George: Terry McEachen

Regional District Bulkley- Nechako: Corrine Swenson

Regional District Kitimat-Stikine: Vacant

Northwest Premium Meat Co-op

Operating in Telkwa, BC, the Northwest Premium Meat Co-op’s (NPMC) vision is to supply healthy, locally raised, quality meat products to the communities throughout the Northwest. The NWPM abattoir allows northwest producers to have their livestock slaughtered locally and in compliance with provincial meat inspection regulations. The Co-op is supported by 230 members consisting of farmers, ranchers and consumers in the Northwest from Terrace to Vanderhoof.

One of the main strengths of the NWPM producers is that they are keen to supply the local market, rather than risk low

commodity prices traditionally fetched from shipping out to auction. Consumers in Northern BC are hungry for locally raised meats.

The Co-op has a new Analysis and Marketing Strategy and is currently re-positioning itself to take a more active role in the local supply chain by providing value added services.  These value added services will in turn strengthen existing value chains and create opportunities for their producer and processor members to form new value chains.

Northwest Premium Meats is seeking like-minded partners who share local sustainability policies to participate in procuring local meat products for northern industrial camps.

The Co-op will facilitate the links between producers, processors and end users; these initiatives will help grow their members’ businesses by connecting them with large volume customers.

This model will enable the Co-op to have more influence on the long-term health and sustainability of the local meat sector while also increasing use of the facility to sustain its’ own operations.

For more information on the NWPM value chain please contact the board of directors.

Board of Directors:

Paul Davidson: 250-643-2140

Tenley Dahlie: 250-847-5046

For more information on slaughter dates contact Manager Manfred Wittwer 250-846-5168

nwpmcoop@gmail.com

November: Simpson’s Farm

Loretta Simpson used to be a truck driver, hauling loads back and forth between Prince George and Alberta. Eventually, after years of passing through the gorgeous Robson Valley on a regular basis, Loretta decided to purchase property and settle down in the area. Her late husband had experience in beef farming, so they began working with a small herd of cattle.

When Loretta’s husband passed away, she was faced with some tough decisions. In the end, she decided to keep the farm and try to manage it on her own. Her decision proved to be the right one, and Loretta continues to manage a beef operation with her current partner Herb Bulman, who moved from the Peace River area with extensive farming experience.

About 7 years ago, a neighbor gave Loretta a few garlic bulbs, which she planted in her flower garden. The resulting crop was amazing. Loretta was so wowed by the flavour, that she was planted more and more each year. She eventually grew more garlic than she could consume on her own, so she started selling it to friends and family. In 2009, when beef prices hit a record .93 cents/lb low and her garlic was selling for $8/lb, she recognized an opportunity.

This fall Loretta put 5000 heads of garlic in the ground, up from the 3000 she planted last year. She’s not even sure what the exact variety of garlic she is planting, as it’s still a direct descendent of the bulb her neighbor gave her years ago, but she suspects it’s a Russian variety that likely came from fellow Robson Valley grower, Irene Froese.

Loretta credits the Robson Valley Growers’ Group, a newly established network of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners in the Robson Valley, with helping to get her garlic to market, including the Jasper Farmers’ Market.

As a fertile growing area with a very small population, the Robson Valley is an excellent place to grow food, but a difficult place to find markets for farm products.

The Robson Valley Growers’ Group has helped to remedy this by cooperatively transporting and selling Robson Valley produce to the Jasper Farmers’ Market. The group also offers a place for growers in the region to connect, share experiences, and build a community of practice.

The Importance of Grassroots Farm Networks

Beyond the Market heralds the importance of grassroots groups like the Robson Valley Growers. These community groups and networks are essential in building the capacity of local food systems.

Farmers traditionally work in isolated environments, where not only are they separated from their peers by great physical distances, but barriers such as rising fuels costs, long work hours, and limited internet access pose further challenges to staying connected.

Farmers’ Institutes were some of the first grassroots farm networks in BC, but many of  these institutions struggle to remain relevant in the modern era. Networks such as the Northern Interior Vegetable Growers Group have been disbanded altogether. Many Cattlemen’s Associations remain active, but are limited to farmers in the ranching field. Farmers’ Market Associations are an emerging network base, but are limited to members who sell at markets. There are groups like the Nechako Valley Food Network, the Groundbreakers Collective in the Bulkley Valley, and the Greater Terrace Food Society that bring a broader community of growers and consumers together, but they too struggle with limited volunteer and financial resources.

Ultimately, a farm network hub that can connect all these groups, their members, and their mandates to provide greater strength in numbers is a critical piece in enabling change in our regional  food system.

Recap: Regional Food Systems Expo 2011

This past October, Beyond the Market hosted the Regional Food Systems Expo in Prince George, offering farmers, food service operators, and the public a chance to connect as well as discuss the opportunities for food and agriculture in the north. The event was well-received by the more than 80 participants and was a great success.

Several different workshops offered specific tools and resources for farm and food service businesses, from evaluating the business case for Farmers’ Markets, to navigating health regulations, to reducing the energy consumption and waste in restaurants.

A number of different panel sessions offered the opportunity to generate grassroots discussion on the many challenges and opportunities for the local agri-food industry.

The highlight of the day for many, however, was the farmer-chef speed networking session, during which participants had the opportunity to talk one-one-one with as many as 30 different contacts in the course of an hour.

Feedback on the event was overwhelmingly positive. Here are some anonymous comments that participants had to share:

The collaborative session format generated the most interesting discussions and learning.  I also appreciated the intergenerational knowledge sharing that occurred.

There was a very good diversity in presentations that catered to the audience, farmers, producers and food industry folk.

This event exceeded my expectations.  It was well-planned and was an excellent networking opportunity.

I would like to see this event at least once per year in at least three communities across the north

We’ve listened to these and similar comments and are now planning to roll the event out in the communities of Dunster, Vanderhoof, Smithers and Terrace in the Spring 2012. We are actively seeking volunteers interested in shaping these events in their community and sponsors who can help make it happen. Contact us to get the ball rolling!

September: Northern Farm Products Ltd.

David and Karen Kellett are no strangers to Prince George food enthusiasts. The husband and wife team is well known both for their tasty carrots and for their generous contributions to the community. David and Karen own and operate Northern Farm Products Ltd. and Sweder Berries U-Pick on a large acreage 40 km south of town. Neither David nor Karen were raised on a farm, but after they met each other at Fairview College in Alberta, both registered in the Livestock Production Program, they decided to settle down and commit to growing a family and a farm business.

Beginning in 1976 with vegetable production and a cow/calf operation, Northern Farm Products Ltd is one of the largest produce operations in the north. Their beef is sold as part of Save-On Foods Western Family Brand and their carrots, beets, rutabagas and cabbage can be found in Prince George’s Shoppers Wholesale Foods, Save On Foods and most recently, the Vanderhoof Co-op.

In 2001, Karen added another project to the farm operations. As part of a Ministry of Agriculture initiative, she became involved in commercial raspberry trials. For four years Karen meticulously collected data on the health and yield of 28 berry varieties. When the trial ended, Karen had more berries on her hands than she could use and opened a U-Pick berry operation to offer people the opportunity to come out and get a ‘hands on experience’ at the farm. Karen admits that the berry operation is a small part of their vegetable and beef operation, but she does it for the joy she gets in bringing people out to the farm and connecting them more closely to their food supply. David and Karen are no strangers to philanthropy and community spirit. David has served as President of the now-defunct Northern Interior Vegetable Growers Association, a group that once provided grassroots networking and support to produce growers in the north. He has also served

over the years as a Board member for the Prince George Cattlemen’s Association, and the farm donates hundreds of pounds of produce annually to various charities in Hixon and Prince George.

Many in the Prince George community know Karen for her twenty-six years of volunteer service with Cystic Fibrosis Canada, a role she began when her children were diagnosed with the disease. In addition to serving on the Cystic Fibrosis Canada National Executive, she also organizes the annual Razzle Dazzle Do, a gourmet dinner and fundraiser hosted in the berry patch. Chef Wayne Kitchen of Cimo Mediterranean Grill prepares the food, and Karen provides the ambiance and fun. This August marked the 3rd annual event and proved to be the best yet, selling out of tickets and receiving great sponsorship and an overwhelming number of donations for live and silent auctions, almost $35,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Research.