table to farm: food reunion

I often refer to quality ingredients when preparing meals.  High quality doesn’t always mean expensive – usually local, nutritious and very fresh!  They contribute to a better culinary experience through intense bursts of flavour.  However, those ingredients are often limited by geography or season.  Those strawberries in November or February will never compare to the warm summer berries found through most of Canada or the juicy Ontario peach pulled ripe off the tree.  Fresh products are  best – and local is even better.  Local products don’t travel far (leading to a decrease environmental footprint) and you might be lucky enough to connect with the farmer or producer at your local farmer’s market or food stand.

As a means to reconnect city folk back to the source of local food, a local Winnipeg charitable organization, Food Matters Manitoba, host a variety of events to promote harvesting, preparing and sharing nutritious food.  The latest event, held over the weekend, was called the Table to Farm tour as part of their Food Reunion fundraising series.  I participated in the excursion and would like to recount some of the day.

We met at Canadian Mennonite University where we embussed on a highway cruise just after lunch.  Within forty minutes we pulled into our first destination, Watersong Farms.  We were warmly met by our hosts, Leslie and Rudy Reimer.  Watersong Farms is a second-generation farm raising roasting chicken and rainbow trout.  The farm is undergoing some renovations to expand and streamline their roaster chicken side of the farm.  The rainbow trout are housed in a massive indoor river system complete with natural stream waste management.  A section of the river is loaded with ridged honeycomb shaped plastic pieces coated with commensal bacteria responsible to convert the waste ammonia into nitrite and eventually to nitrate.

Rudy brought us shoreside to see the rainbow trout.  After they floundered a bit for their photo op, he tossed them back into  their indoor ecosystem.  They were well rewarded with a fishy smelling snack.

Our second destination was the Smith Family Farm.  Our host, Mr Ian Smith, tends to his whole farm by himself.  He has just over 200 pigs (at various states of growth!), chicken, a few cows and horses.  We were lucky enough to arrive on the day that one of the sows gave birth!  We eventually made our way through the cow pasture to the smaller barn and found the newborn piglets.  They gleefully hung out under a heat lamp and spent most of their day sleeping and finding nourishment.  The remaining sows and single boar happily rooted in the straw laden yard and let out the occasional squeal and grunt.  These were definitely happy pigs that wandered freely in their pen.  Ian sells whole sides of pork, cut and wrapped on request and offers free deliver (depending on location).  He had some product ready to sell during our visit – most was scooped up by the time I made it to his cashbox.  My find, the Farmer’s sausage patties, were not only a great price – but a hit at the breakfast table the following morning!

We were lucky to see some day-old piglets.  Some were trying to figure out how to get to the feeding side of the sow – eventually she found her way…

The Table to Farm excursion wrapped up around 5 pm and was a great way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.  If you are curious to how your food products end up on the grocers’ shelves, you should subscribe to the Food Matters Manitoba newsletter and keep an eye out for their next Food Reunion event.  I know I will.

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