Spend some time with modern farmers and you’ll find they’re a thoughtful bunch. Especially these Calgary-area producers, who are getting noticed for doing things differently. Some even call themselves “nerdy.” They’re focused on building community around quality local food — and on mindful stewardship of the planet’s resources.
Bear and The Flower Farm
When Christopher and Jessica Fasoli traded their city jobs for farm life in 2015 to run a few hogs on family land near Irricana, they thought they were going old school. Bringing it back to the way their great-grandparents’ generation might have produced food, even. Five years later, they’re deep into lifestyle enrichment to give their pigs happy outdoor lives, breeding tweaks to get the marbling just right, and continual adjustments in care and nutrition to keep their charges at their healthiest from -30C to +30C.
“We’re really nerdy about what we do,” says Jessica. With a swine nutritionist, they’ve created their own hormone-and-antibiotic-free feed mix that incorporates natural probiotics, prebiotics and flax. (Seems piggy tummies like probiotics, too!).
“The newest thing we’ve implemented is feed alternatives, which is really exciting,” says Jessica. Since February, that feed has included spent grain from lentil and flour production: waste that was destined for landfills now reduces the farm’s costs. In addition, Bear and the Flower is the first outdoor pork producer to get CQA accreditation for meat quality, rearing techniques, traceability and transportation.
And just what does that mean for Calgary eaters? A product rich in Omega-3 that’s jumping with the kind of flavour that chefs love. It’s on the menu at UNA Pizza, OEB, and at Banff’s Sky Bistro and Farm & Fire. Look for it, too, at Sunnyside Natural Market, Empire Provisions and at fine butchers throughout the city. | www.bearandtheflower.com
Grand Trunk Veggies/Chef’s Farmer
Kye Kocher doesn’t just want to grow food; he wants to re-ignite our imaginations.
A tireless advocate for urban farming, Kocher has been walking the talk since 2014 through Grand Trunk Veggies: his 1/3-acre farm composed of ten donated yards in three NW Calgary neighbourhoods. He’s been turning city lawns into vegetable plots, producing leafy greens, radishes, and herbs to share with the landowners and to sell to Calgary grocers and restaurant owners.
“I really like when people are surprised by what I’m doing and are excited about it,” says Kocher. “And the notion that you can’t grow anything in Calgary – it excites me a lot when I get to challenge the norm.”
To spread the net further, he’s created Chef’s Farmer, a one-stop ordering website connecting Calgary chefs and other food purveyors with a collection of small-scale growers producing vegetables, micro-greens, fruit, and mushrooms within 90 minutes of the city. A pandemic pivot now allows individual shoppers to subscribe to the Chef’s Farmer Salad Box: a weekly basket of mixed greens and other seasonal produce, paired with fresh dressings crafted by various local chefs.
“It’s prorated so you can come in on it at anytime,” says Kocher. Come October, he’ll be launching a Soup & Stew Winter Box that will include a chef-made stock with each offering.
In the meantime, look for his produce at Blush Lane, Sunnyside Natural Market, and SPUD, and on the menus at The Nash,
Yellow Door Bistro, Oxbow, and The Hyatt. | www.chefsfarmer.com
Dancing Goats Farm
Their goats are named for great ballet characters, like Esmeralda, Odette and Myrtha. Cute goat pics lace their Instagram feed, along with heaps of cool info about farming, goats and cheese. They’re husbands Craig Sanok and Paul Chambers of Dancing Goats Farm, two former professional ballet dancers who sold their Calgary condo in 2014 to build a 128-acre farmstead and artisanal cheese creamery near Acme.
“I love my goats,” says Sanok. “They are endlessly-fascinating animals… with huge personalities. I love making cheese. The immense amount of variation you can get with just a few little tweaks of ingredients and process – the alchemy of it is so interesting.”
Every step of their small-batch production is completed by hand – right down to hand-washing their Two-Step cheese with Village Brewery’s Blacksmith Ale. The Two-Step is just one of five dance-dubbed varieties, including award-winners Waltz, a three-day-fresh spreadable and easygoing cheese, and Pavane, an ash-aged cheese with a dramatic black-and-white bloomy rind that’s sure to be the prima ballerina on your next cheese board.
“All of the recipes for the cheese are ones I’ve developed myself,” says Sanok. “We want to do our part to help foster local food culture and a local food identity.”
The Calgary food community is paying attention. You’ll find Dancing Goats products on the menus of NOtaBLE, Rouge, The Nash, Pie Junkie, and Scotland Yard, and at fine cheese counters across the city. Check the farm’s website for an up-to-date list. | www.dancinggoatsfarm.com