Category Archives: May 2011

About the Coordinators

Jillian Merrick joined the Community Futures team in January to initiate the Beyond the Market program. She has resided in Prince George for the past decade and has extensive community engagement experience. Her academic background is in economics and international studies, and her passions lie in entrepreneurship, creativity, diversity, and sustainability.



Chuck Holyk joined the Community Futures team in May, bringing 18 years of project management, business analysis and technical experience from working in downtown Calgary. Chuck’s business knowledge and desire to contribute to Smithers, his newly adopted community, is a welcome asset to the project. When not on the job, Chuck’s passion is painting fish reproductions, fly fishing for pacific salmon and steelhead, and camping with his family.

June Profile: Sassafras Savouries Café and Catering

When it comes to serving fresh, healthy, local food dishes in the north, Sassafras Savouries chef and owner April Ottesen has a wealth of experience to share.

April was raised in northern BC, and food was always at the centre of her family relationships. She remembers raising livestock and honey bees, and recounts tales of her grandmother working at a Prince George restaurant in the 1940’s at a time when most of the food in the city still came from farms within the region.

Sassafras Savouries began as a small catering company in 2000 with start-up support from Community Futures. The company was founded on the principles of supporting local and organic farmers, showcasing fresh and healthy ingredients, and making the consumer connection to the value of local food through menu items. Sassafras Savouries began its catering operations out of the YAP (Youth Around Prince George) Centre facilities in exchange for April’s support of programs at the Centre. Over time, Sassafras’s loyal catering

customer base grew, and after celebrating her 10th anniversary in business, April opened the Sassafras Savouries Café at its new location at 7th Ave. and Brunswick St. in Prince George.

The customers at the restaurant are diverse but always discerning and the catering customers are predominantly health care professionals. This comes as no surprise to April, whose healthy menu items have great appeal to customers who have a health mandate entrenched in their daily operations.

April recognizes the value of her loyal customer base and often gives back to the communities that support her. Recently she developed 12 recipes for the BC Farm to School Salad Bar program, which aims to supply healthy meals in school cafeterias by connecting with local farms. Opening the new restaurant, in addition to her catering business and community involvement, has April working around the clock. She has hired several new employees to help prepare the labour-intensive, made-from-scratch menu items. She also spends her time visiting farms in the area to purchase fresh local products, rather than relying on deliveries from conventional food suppliers.

Despite the extra care that goes into Sassafras’s menu items, prices remain low, and many customers recognize that the value of their food is much more than they are paying. When asked why April hasn’t raised her prices, she says, “I just haven’t had the time!”

While the days may be long and the profits modest, April’s work ethic is driven by her passion for real food and her desire to change people’s attitudes towards whatthey eat. She firmly believes a restaurant is a great vehicle for those changes.

While the workload may appear daunting, April’s advice to other chefs, both in the home and the business, is to start somewhere, even with just one thing: one relationship with a local producer or one type of vegetable you grow at home.

Before you know it, your attitude will have changed, and you will scarcely notice the extra effort, if any, required to serve a better food product.

Sassafras Savouries Café and Catering

(250) 963-9941

693 Brunswick St.

Prince George, BC

May Profile: The Thirsty Moose

Composting, recycling, and local purchasing are not practices you’d expect to see in a northern BC pub, but that’s exactly what’s happening at UNBC’s Thirsty Moose under the direction of Food & Beverage Manager, Kyle McIntosh.

Born and raised in Prince George, Kyle began his food service career at age 19, washing dishes, and has since worked in several prestigious Vancouver and Calgary restaurants, including one of Canada’s top-10 bistros.

With his experience, Kyle had many career options, but when the opportunity to move back to Prince George to be closer to family came along, he took it. The NUSC food services operations opened their doors in June 2008, and Kyle has been the Food & Beverage Manager since.

In his previous employment, Kyle had been responsible for visiting and working directly with various local farmers and food markets. It was this personal connection – meeting with food purveyors and learning their stories – that sparked his appreciation for good food.

Kyle says the local food movement started out as a trendy thing, as if “we’re chefs, look at what we can do,” but it got people thinking, and now it’s more like “we are chefs, and this what we should do.”

Now, the local food and sustainability movement is coming to UNBC.

The Northern Undergraduate Student Centre, NUSC, is the business arm of the UNBC student union, run “by the students, for the students.” It houses two food service operations: the Thirsty Moose Pub and Degrees Coffee Co. Prices are kept low to accommodate student budgets, and revenue generated from these operations goes back to support student activities.

The Thirsty Moose Pub caters to an entirely different crowd than the high-end urban bistros of Kyle’s past. University staff and faculty patron the pub during the lunch hour and students tend to dominate the evening hours with low-cost food and beverage options. Speed of service and value are essential to the business.

Despite the fast and cheap demands of Thirsty Moose customers, efforts to incorporate local and sustainable food choices in the pub menu have been very well-received.

During the inaugural University Farmers Market held this past February, sandwiches and salads made with local greens were served as take-out items from the Grab-and-Go outlet. Bison burgers with fries made from potatoes from Gerry Visser’s farm were served in the pub. The one-time event was a huge success, selling out of food before the day was over. Now, Kyle is planning to move to a full BC-based product menu at the start of the newschool year in the Fall.

Meanwhile, the Thirsty Moose continues to compost all food waste at the PGPIRG compost gardens, serve take-out food with biodegradable containers and cutlery, and use a full line of natural cleaning and sanitizing products. Kyle says improving the environmental footprint of the pub while keeping costs low is a challenge, but it is also a necessity for the future.

Kyle adds that the old-school “meat and potatoes” attitude of the north could be seen as hindrance to the progressive local foods movement, but in reality, it is a compliment.

Meat and potatoes are some of the foods the northern region grows best, and a return to our roots and connection with the land is really what the local foods movement is all about.

The Thirsty Moose

(250) 960-6023

3333 University Way

Prince George, BC

Regional Local Foods Directory

Despite the presence of over two hundred farms in the Highway 16 region, many residents of local communities remain relatively unaware of the abundance of local farm products available to them.

One common way for farmers to connect with consumers is through listings in local farm product directories. While several communities in the region have developed print directories in the past, many are out of date and difficult to obtain. A concerted effort is needed to gather updated farm listings from across the northern region in a central location and easy-to-access format.

The Beyond the Market project has committed to developing a local foods directory for the entire Highway 16 region and will house it in a user-friendly online portal. Farm businesses need no internet expertise as project staff will create and upload your listing for you.

Participation is free. To be included, submit your farm information via fax, mail or email. Listings will include your farm name, contact information, and the farm products you sell, but can also include photos and stories from your farm, seasonal availability, maps and directions to farm gate sales and more specific details about your products.

Please contact us for more details:

1-800-661-2055 ext. 115

Growing the Local Food Economy

Welcome to the first newsletter of the Beyond the Market project, an initiative designed to build, strengthen and diversify the local food economy in communities in the BC Highway 16 region from Valemount to Terrace.

It may surprise northern residents to know that there are there are more than two hundred farms in the region, offering a variety of fresh and delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, honey, berries, eggs and meat.

Beyond the Market is designed to support you in purchasing food from local farmers, which can have a tremendous impact on the well-being of your family, your customers, and your community.

Buying locally circulates more money within the community, and contributes less to wasteful packaging, refrigeration and freight for items from thousands of miles away. Food grown locally is also fresher, more nutritious, and raised with care.

This newsletter will profile several of the farmers and food service businesses that offer local food products, and encourage you to sample some of the foods available in our region.

For additional tips and resources that will assist you in buying locally, please contact us, or visit our website which will launch in June 2011.

May Profile: Ryser Farms

There are two important tools required to pass agricultural heritage and diversity from one generation to the next: seeds and knowledge. Long-time Prince George farmer John Ryser possesses both in vast quantities and is eager to share.

John began farming in the 1930’s, and from a young age, he excelled at his trade. For thirteen years in a row, John won the potato section of the BC Provincial Seed Fair, and though the competition no longer exists, his potatoes are still infamous among his farming colleagues.

John has seen over seven decades of agriculture in the north, and it’s clear that the state of farms and food today is in need of big changes. As a seed grower, John continues to supply Art Knapps and other garden merchants with quality seed potato, but grocery stores no longer purchase from him in favour of larger centralized warehouses in Alberta and the Lower Mainland. John currently cultivates only a fraction of the land and varieties he once did. Many good northern varieties of potato have been lost because there are simply no more farmers growing them.

But these challenges have not put a damper on John’s passion for growing. He continues to cultivate more than eleven varieties of potatoes and sell them at the Prince George Farmers Market. He says he’ll rust if he ever stops. John is optimistic that the Beyond the Market program will spark consumer change in north; he hopes to up his production in 2011, just in case.