Sun Peaks & Kamloops, BC – Visiting Farms & Farmers in Kamloops!

It would be a challenge to put myself in their shoes and I have so much respect for the work they do.

Meeting the Farmers of Kamloops!

It was Follow Me Foodie to Sun Peaks and Kamloops and I started off with a little bit of farming. Technically I didn’t actually farm, but I was introduced to some of the lovely farmers in Kamloops who invited me onto their farm. It’s been rewarding to have met so many farmers this year and it’s really been an eye opener for me.

With Farmers Markets growing in Vancouver, BC (and in general) it’s a lot easier to meet the people growing our vegetables, catching our seafood and raising our animals that eventually make their way onto our tables and in our bodies. People are becoming more socially aware and conscious of where their food comes from and there is no better way than to talk to the people who grow, harvest, fish, butcher, feed, and breed.

I mentioned in my previous post that the concept of “farm to fork” is happening everywhere, but the idea of “celebrity farmers” and meeting the farmers is in itself a current “trend” in the culinary world. The fact that people want to know and support their local farmers is a step towards a better future. There has been a disconnect with the food system and it’s only in the last couple years that the general public have developed a deeper interest.

Executive Chef Steve Buzak at Mantles Restaurant & Lounge at the Delta Sun Peaks Resort Hotel and his house made burgers made with Mitchell Cattle Co. beef.

Even chefs are working closer with farmers (I’m sure for business reasons as well), to understand the work they do and to create a sustainable and locally inspired menu with good quality ingredients. In some cases farmers are even growing special produce especially for some restaurants. It’s interesting to see this concept evolve and the new ingredients these farmers are capable of growing are inspiring the culinary scene.

Nowadays it’s also often to see restaurant menus featuring the names of the farms where the ingredients are sourced. Some may call it a marketing initiative, but I call it bringing attention to something and someone who needs it. Pending that it is a sustainable, ethical and local farm, these farmers need and deserve all the attention they can get. If they don’t have local support they’ll be forced to close or go global, and it’ll just be a never ending cycle which leads to a bigger carbon footprint.

There’s been a moderate decline in BC farms over the last 40 years (StatCanada) which means it’s actually rather stable, but a decline is a decline nonetheless. Sure eating 100% local would mean cutting out a lot of ethnic cuisines, and it’s something I could never do, but investing the dollar locally when possible is an initiative I support. I’m not really bringing anything new to the table, but just stating the facts of why eating local has become so important. Not to mention, more often than not the produce just tastes better when it is grown closer to home.

According to StatCanada British Columbia has a reported 29,870 farm operators and I met 2 of them in Kamloops. There are many more in the area, so I recommend doing some research if you plan on organizing your own Circle Farm Tour. I was introduced to the following by Tourism Sun Peaks Resort, but they are open for public visits and walk in customers. I suggest calling ahead to avoid disappointment.

Follow Me Foodie to some of the farmers & food providers of Kamloops!

Meet the Mitchell Family at Mitchell Cattle Co.!

The first stop was at Mitchell Cattle Co. in Barriere located in the heart of BC’s interior.

Meet the meat makers! Ian and Anja Mitchell and their children own and operate Mitchell Cattle Co. which was established in 1933. They raise hormone-free cattle which graze in alpine pastures at 7400 feet called Mitchell’s Mountain Beef. They have about 300 cows which include polled red and black Simmentals, Angus and Hybrid bulls.

I spoke with Ian about his business and one of the challenges was selling the whole cow. Unfortunately many people don’t see value in the whole cow beyond the prime cuts and he said “there is virtually no one taking the whole animal”. Part of the reason is also because nobody has the space to refrigerate and store it properly since the carcass must be hung. He actually dry ages his beef for 28 days before it is even sold and I was able to try his beef products at Mantles Restaurant in Sun Peaks later this evening.

I was actually very surprised that beyond the cuts typically seen at a steakhouse, the rest is more or less considered undesired. When I heard that, I offered to take the rest. The cheeks, tongue, brisket, neck, oxtail, ribs and so many other parts of the cow are all edible and delicious. Since they’re usually parts that nobody wants they’re a lot more affordable too.

It’s a shame that the majority of people only associate “nose to tail” with the whole hog, because it’s very possible to have this experience with a cow too. I come from a culture and background that uses all the edible parts of the animal, so I have been exposed to this style of eating since I can remember. If you’re a carnivore, then eating the whole animal is the most ethical and sustainable way of eating meat.

From farm…

… to table. Home made beef jerky.

Meet the Kellogg Family at Thistle Farms!

No, they do not make Rice Krispies or Frosted Flakes, but they’re grreeeaaatt! Ha! Get it?!

Deb (not shown) and Dieter Kellogg own and work at Thistle Farms in Kamloops. It is a family owned and operated 7 acre farm growing organic vegetables since 1997. This is a bigger name that I’ve come across in Vancouver and naturally I assumed it was a huge operation with many hands. Little did I know.

It was actually pretty depressing talking to  Dieter. He was a lovely man who was passionate about farming, but just hearing him talk about needing to diversify his crops and services and how farming was a struggle was so sad. He grows many things, but farming alone is not enough to sustain the family business.

Besides selling at local markets and to restaurants, they also offer a home delivery service. They deliver boxes of fresh and organic fruit, vegetables and other certified organic grocery items on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis based on their customers needs. They are a successful farm, but the work is not easy and they have to wear many hats.

They also host special farm to fork dinners and farm tours which I highly recommend for families. On these tours children are invited to pick and clean vegetables, see beehives and feed the limited selection of animals on the farm which includes chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.

Cabbage that fell from the tree. Just kidding, but it is cabbage.

Organic squash

Organic zucchini

You know those perfect white bulbs of garlic at the grocery store? This is the before picture. Someone has to clean them. Thank goodness for farmers because cleaning these has no appeal to me. Even simple things like this I take for granted. To think 3 perfectly cleaned bulbs of garlic is only a couple dollars at the grocery store, I don’t even want to know what the profit margin is for the farmer.

This is part of the set up he is building for his daughter’s wedding this fall. Eventually he will  maybe have the farm as a venue for weddings if things work out. If we’re talking about diversifying a farm and making the most out of it to survive, Thistle Farms is a great example of doing it well.

Meet Ed of Harper’s Trail Estate Winery!

This is actually the vineyard manager John Dranchuk and not Ed. Anyway the third stop was co-owners Ed and Vicki Collett (not shown) at BC’s newest and most northern winery Harper’s Trail Estate Winery in Kamloops. Yikes! A northern winery in BC is a tough sell, but they have 18 acres of limestone veined earth to work with. It is the first estate winery in Kamloops and I’m as nervous for it as I am excited.

The wines are made by Michael Bartier at Okanagan Crush Pad which is a custom-crush winery facility in Summerland. There are many other wines made there including Haywire and Bartier Scholefield wines. The couple Ed and Vicki have no vineyard or winemaking experience, but food and wine is their passion and starting a vineyard was a dream of theirs.

Gewürztraminer grapes

Cabernet Franc grapes

It takes 2000lbs of grapes to make 1000 litres of wine” – John Dranchuk

The winery offers a Field Blend White 2011, a Riesling and a Rosé. The white wasn’t as memorable, but good and I’m not usually keen on rosé, but I actually enjoyed this strawberry-rhubarb one. The Riesling was much better when it was chilled and it seemed to be the local favourite which I tried again at Mantles Restaurant later on for dinner.

Meet RiverFresh Wild BC Salmon!

Last, but not least was a sampling of RiverFresh Wild BC Salmon. This is a product from two First Nations companies (Secwepemc Fisheries Commission and Siska First Nation) in BC. They use selective fishing practices that target only the healthy stocks so that weaker fish are unharmed. They aim to provide local salmon that raise the bar for conservation, sustainability, traceability and quality. I enjoyed it, but I was also really hungry so I could be biased and I would rather revisit it before I recommend it. However I appreciate their company philosophy and initiatives to improve fishing operations in BC.

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