Innisfail Growers Cooperative

We hear the question often: “why isn’t the market open every day?” The answer is simple really. There is a lot that goes into bringing the fresh produce you see at our market; they’re here even when we’re not open, they’re in the fields growing food for our tables, and even farmers need a day of rest. Recently, we visited the five farms that make up the Innisfail Growers Co-Operative: Beck Farms, Edgar Farms, Uppergreen Farms, The Jungle Farm, and Hillside Greenhouses. The farms are scattered around the Innisfail area, filled with hardworking farmers, warm hearts, and incredible produce. We made the short journey with local food blogger Dan Clapson and illustrator, food writer, and Food On Your Shirt creator Pierre Lamielle. We were expecting to learn a few things, but we came away with more knowledge and warm hospitality than anticipated. There is a passion that lies within the hearts of these farmers and their families and it shows in their many offerings which can be found at the Innisfail Growers Co-Op booth at our market. So what did we learn? Where did we visit? Get ready for the whirlwind, here goes everything we can try to wrap up in one post.

Close your eyes and imagine what a thriving greenhouses smells like. If you said “green”, you’d be spot on. But green is a color, it doesn’t have a smell you say. Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. Carmen and Jose Fuentes of Hillside Greenhouses are the newest members of the Innisfail Growers Co-operative joining in 2003. They occupy 18,000 square feet of greenhouse filled with tomatoes, mini cucumbers, and green beans. We were pleasantly surprised to see that they had just started harvesting the beans and cucumbers to be sold at the market, with the tomatoes requiring a little more love and time. If you’re wondering what it was like to have your nose awash in the smell of green, pick up some of Carmen’s beautiful tomatoes at the Market and stick your nose right in the bag… get right in there and give it a good, deep sniff. Smells good doesn’t it?

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All of their greenhouses are herbicide and pesticide free, instead using biological controls: “good” bugs take care of the “bad” bugs.

Hillside Greenhouse Collage
Beans, Tomatoes, Cucumbers! Oh My!

All the tomatoes you find at the Innisfail Growers table have been ripened on the plant and picked 1-2 days in advance. This is what gives them such great home grown flavour!

Shelley Bradshaw, with her husband Rod and two sons have been crafting the art of growing carrots for over 20 years. Over the years, they have perfected planting in Alberta’s rich, dark soil to bring us their famous Nantes carrots, but also beets, parsnips, dill, hot peppers, and more! Nantes carrots are by nature a sweeter variety, but Shelly’s carrots are particularly crisp and sweet due to the unique terroir; the cool nights we experience in Alberta are key to producing sweet tasting, crisp vegetables because it prevents the naturally produced sugars from turning to bitter starch.

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This is Shelley and this is her mower. Doesn’t she look at home?
Beck Farms Collage 1
Shelley took the time to show us their impressive set-up; we can’t wait to see it up and running during harvest.

Once dug from the ground the carrots are brought to the farm yard where they are washed, sorted, inspected and bagged. Ready for you to eat. We may have snagged a carrot or two… it was quality testing, really.

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We went up at the beginning of May so the fields were bare, but this gives you a good idea of the before picture. Don’t worry, we’ll be back up to Beck Farms for harvest time. Shelley has promised to put us to work.

Edgar Farms

We hadn’t exactly done a whole lot to work up an appetite, but it was lunch time nonetheless. Elna and Doug of Edgar Farms had prepared a fantastic meal for our gang; it isn’t everyday you can sit down to a table filled almost entirely of local products: Beck Farms shredded carrots and Honey Mustard Dressing, Hillside Greenhouses tomatoes and cucumbers, Uppergreen Farms’ thick-cut roasted french fries, Edgar Farms Angus Beef burgers and homemade asparagus relish, pickled beets, mustard pickles, and what Elna promised to be the best sauerkraut in the world; she wasn’t exaggerating. And to finish the meal, a home-baked, fresh-out-of-the-oven rhubarb pie. We could get used to this sort of hospitality! But isn’t that part of a farmers’ charm? Down-home heart and a table full of friends.

Edgar Lunch Collage We’d had our fill and were all ready for a nap, when Elna and her lovely family rolled us out the door to show off their farm, a Country Store open seasonally, and a shiny new kitchen to bring you all of their delicious offerings. They have an impressive set-up to say the least.

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Believe it or not, this field is actually filled with asparagus. It just wasn’t quite ready to show it’s beautiful little spears.
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Amanda and Elna digging for asparagus.

Doug & Elna Edgar and family started off growing asparagus on a hidden-away acre “so their neighbors wouldn’t think they’d gone crazy” in 1986, but soon expanded to 21 acres. The largest asparagus field in Alberta, the Edgar’s farm produces some of the sweetest, most tender asparagus, with the addition of beans, preservatives, pies, and natural beef on their sixth generation family farm. When picking, they snap the asparagus off at ground level so you won’t have to cut off the tough bottom before you prepare it. It arrived at the market a little early this year and we just couldn’t keep our hands off of it!

For a simple and delicious asparagus recipe, check out our Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart featuring Edgar Farms scrumptious spears.

Edgar Farms Collage 1
Pierre was eager to get his hands dirty, but we’re pretty sure it’s a lot harder than it looks. For an idea of just how it works, check this video out.

Edgar Farms is only 5 minutes west of the QE2, so it’s not much more than a hop, skip, and a jump to pay them a visit for their Annual Asparagus Festival on June 1st and 2nd. And if you can’t make it for the festival, you can meet the farmers, experience picking for yourself, learn what is involved in growing, plus taste the freshness straight from the fields at their Innisfail Growers Customer Appreciation Day on Sunday, July 28th!

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The Women’s Institute has been managing this school for many, many years. The farmers in the community often supply food for community events held here.

3 down and 2 to go, we hopped back in the car and sped down the dusty gravel roads trying to keep up with Shelley (our guide for the day). If you’ve ever tried to follow a farmer zipping around in their neck of the woods, you’ll know it was no surprise we nearly lost the undercarriage of our little city vehicle once or twice. But we had potatoes to see!

Upper Green Farms

The Buyks family has been growing potatoes for Innisfail Growers since 1993. Originally from Holland, John and Corry bring years of vegetable growing experience to their family farm. Although their four children have now all graduated from university, their son Hanno and his wife, Megan, are involved with the farm and help to bring you the fresh potatoes you know and love. When we arrived at their farm, John was about to head into the fields to start planting but he took a few minutes to explain the planting process to us. In our city slicker minds, we equated this contraption to a potato Ferris Wheel. Every summer, they spend hours and hours walking through the potato fields to ensure the plants are healthy. The baby potatoes are all hand picked, selected, and sorted to bring gourmet quality and freshness to your plate. There is no potayto-potawto debate here, they’re just in a league of their own.

Upper Greens Collage 1
These ‘ugly’ sprouted potatoes are actually what John will load into the potato ferris wheel to be planted… like a seed.

The Jungle Farm

And last, but by no means the least, we were off to meet 4th generation farmers Blaine and Leona Staples just north of Innisfail. The Staples are best known for their strawberries, but also grow greenhouse crops, specializing in flowers and a number of field crops such as lettuce and pumpkins. Everyone in the family helps out on the farm in the summer time; Leona’s eldest son is even experimenting with his own crop of garlic this year. After the summer of berries and freshly picked vegetables, you can also get your halloween pumpkin from your local Innisfail Growers Booth or straight from The Jungle Farm (where they just happen to have a pretty cool pumpkin cannon, yeah you read that right. Cannon).

Jungle Farms Collage 1 There are an endless number of activities to do on The Jungle Farm from picking your own strawberries, choosing the perfect pumpkin right out of the pumpkin patch, planting your very own flower planters and baskets, riding the wagon to the corn maze, enjoying a leisurely stroll along the gnome walk, or zipping down the slide. It’s fun, trust us.

Jungle Farms Collage 2
We consider this quality control too.

Our first farm tour was an outstanding experience, a beautiful beginning to what we hope will help connect our farmers to our guests. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Shelley, Carmen, Elna and Doug, John and Corry, and Leona (and their lovely families) for letting us invade their farms and homes. We are humbled by your hard work and appreciate you and your produce beyond words.

Stay tuned for future farm tours of our other fabulous vendors here at the Calgary Farmers’ Market and our return to Innisfail to help with the harvest. That should be interesting!

AND, if you can’t make it up to Edgar Farms for the Asparagus Festival or to visit all of the farms for their Customer Appreciation day… Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours is offering an exclusive Alberta Farm Tour on Sunday, August 11th!

In the comfort of a bathroom equipped and air-conditioned Sahalla Coachlines executive bus, with a coffee and pastry to go from two of Calgary Farmer’s Markets’ yummiest vendors, you will sit back and enjoy the 75 minute drive North along Alberta’s most fertile growing belt to Innisfail Growers. You will be greeted with a refreshing snack and then tour Edgar Farms and Hillside Greenhouses before enjoying a farm fresh lunch in the Little Red Deer Community Hall. After lunch you’ll pull a few of Beck Farms’ famous carrots, spot spuds in the mud at Buyks farms and then enjoy Leona Staples’ great cooking with dessert at The Jungle Farm!  For more information and to purchase tickets, check out Calgary Food Tours Inc.

Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart

It’s always an exciting day when the asparagus spears start gracing the shelves at the market. As if they come with fireworks and streamers, it’s an announcement of sorts that Spring is here and Summer is just around the corner. It’s the start of a beautiful, colorful, and delicious growing season and we are delighted to showcase the local asparagus from Innisfail Growers. It is our hope that when you read through our market blog, you find something that catches your eye and calls to your stomach. And it’s easy enough to whip together after a long day at work. This Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart, we are proud to say, is simple and sophisticated; your dinner guests will never expect you threw it together in a few simple steps.

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Market-Sourced Ingredients

Serves 6-8

1 bunch of beautiful Edgar Farms Asparagus from Innisfail Growers Co-Op

1 package of Puff Pastry and 1 200g tub of Chèvre Fresh Goat Cheese from Blush Lane Organics

100g Bison Bresaola from Olson’s High Country Bison

1 Lemon from Souto Farms

Fresh Herb selection from Terra Farms (we’re partial to parsley, basil, and chives but choose the herb you love)

Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

Puff Pastry Collage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set out the puff pastry and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. We chose to sprinkle fresh herbs all over the pastry, fold it over, and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Prick it all over with a fork and bake it for 10 minutes (called ‘proofing’), or until lightly golden brown.

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While the puff pastry is proofing, mix in the fresh herbs and zest of one lemon into the goat cheese. Remove puff pastry from the oven after 10 minutes, place twoonie-sized chunks of herbed goat cheese on the puff pastry and place back in the oven for 20 minutes.

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Wrap one piece of bison bresaola around each asparagus spear. Drizzle a little olive oil over prepped asparagus and season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Grill asparagus for two minutes and then flip, continue grilling for two minutes on second side.

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Place bresaola-wrapped asparagus spears on top of the goat cheese puff pastry. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on the top, and serve in strips. This is really quite perfect on its own but would pair nicely with a simple green salad or a selection of fresh tomatoes. And a glass of wine, of course.

Edgar Farms is only 5 minutes west of the QE2, so it’s not much more than a hop, skip, and a jump to pay them a visit for their Annual Asparagus Festival next weekend (June 1st and 2nd)!

BBQ Season Has Arrived!

May long weekend is upon us, the sun is shining, tulips are poking through the felt-like-forever-frozen earth, seeds are going in the garden, and barbecues are being fired up. It’s Spring! It always feels like an eternity that we wait to shed our winter coats and get outside. And when it finally happens, we go hog wild. The Spring and Summer are so fleeting here in Calgary that we take every sunny opportunity to enjoy the beautiful produce and fresh fish, local meat, and poultry that the market has to offer.

Silver Sage Beef is a full service shop with a complete range of cuts available and an on-site butcher to meet customers’ custom requests. The cattle are raised naturally on wholesome prairie grass on the 100-year old Zentner family farm located south of Cypress Hills; free of all artificial hormones and antibiotics, you can be assured that the dry-aged beef is flavorful, tender, and knock-your-socks-off yummy…. perfect for BBQ season! Even we can’t resist firing up the barbecue or building the first campfire of the year, we bring you a simple, Albertan favorite: BBQ Burgers. And because the greenhouses are offering such beautiful produce these days, we’re going to pair it with a fresh and easy side salad with a homemade BBQ sauce vinaigrette.

Burger Ingredients

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Serves 6

6 Fresh-Made Beef Patties from Silver Sage Beef

6 Buns from Yum Bakery

Seasoned Pepper Blend from The Silk Road Spice Merchant

1 jar of Dill Pickles from MacFarlane’s

1 head of Butter Lettuce, 1 bag of Tomatoes (your choice of variety), mini cucumbers from Gull Valley Greenhouses

BBQ Vinaigrette Ingredients

1/4 cup BBQ Sauce from Big D’s (mild or spicy depending on your preference)

The juice of 2 Lemons (and zest from 1) from Souto Farms

1 tablespoon Nixon Honey from Innisfail Growers

1/4 cup Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

*This is where you can get creative! You like cheese on your burgers? Sure! Grab some cheese from Fresh DELIcious or Sylvan Star Cheese. Add bacon! Spragg’s Meat Shop have some killer delicious pork goodies.

Want to add more veggies to your salad? Why not?! Radishes, peppers, green beans, fresh herbs… if you like it, throw it in there. Good food is best when it isn’t too complicated; don’t overthink it. If you like it, use it. We guarantee you can find just what you’re craving in one stop at the market.

Dressing Collage

We’re big fans of homemade vinaigrette’s because they’re dead simple and delicious. Start by cutting all of the veggies up and tossing in a bowl with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.  In a mason jar, add all of the vinaigrette ingredients and give it a good shake.  Pour about half onto the cut veggies and toss.  Let people build their own salad by serving veggies with lettuce family-style.

Burger Collage

The Silver Sage burgers are perfectly seasoned but we added a little pepper blend to kick it up a notch. These burgers are juicy, flavourful, and are in a league of their own. It would be a crying shame to slather BBQ sauce on them… Don’t you dare. We’re giving you a delicious homemade salad dressing to appease all you saucy burger lovers out there. Trust us.

Preheat a grill or cast-iron grill pan to high. Brush the burger with a little olive oil and season with the Silk Road pepper blend. Grill until slightly charred, turning once (10 minutes for medium-rare). Now, we’re going out on a limb and telling you to ignore what your mother taught you: do NOT squish the burger with a spatula! Let it be. If you want, add cheese for the last 2 minutes of grilling, close the lid to let it melt. You can also place the buns on the grill for 1 minute to toast if you’d like.  Place the burgers onto the toasted buns, gather around a full table with family and friends, and enjoy!

Eating Time Collage

Chef Guided Tours of the Market

Last winter, in an effort to provide a new experience to our guests, we tried our hands at offering tours of the market.  They were a hit and so, Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours will be offering a whole new round this year, starting Saturday, May 25th.  If you’re an adventurous person, if you’re new to Calgary or just visiting, if you and your friends are looking for a new way to explore the city and spend time together, or even if you’re looking for a unique gift, then you will love these tours.  The tours of the market are usually limited to 12 to 15 guests so that the atmosphere remains intimate and the chefs can provide an one-on-one experience.

Guests will join either chef Judy Wood, Pierre Lamielle, or a SAIT Culinary Instructor on a guided tour of the backbone of the Calgary Farmer’s Market: its farmers and ranchers.  You’ll learn the background of what it takes for each of these vendors to bring their produce to market each week and taste samples as you tour.  At each stop your chef leader will see what’s on offer and give you suggestions of how to pick the best and what to do with it once you get it home in the kitchen.

You’ll recieve a welcome gift, a coupon from the Calgary Farmer’s Market, product samples, and tastings as you tour.  A small meal at the end of the tour is also provided, and  an e-booklet of Market recipe ideas from Calgary Food Tours owner, Karen Anderson.

Buy tickets to the upcoming tour on Saturday, May 25th from 9 – 11am with Pierre Lamielle

*To buy tickets to other upcoming dates, please see the links below.

Judy Wood, Tour Guide

“I received my Grand Diplome from L’École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. I began my career with the Four Seasons Hotel in Calgary, was a pastry chef at the David Wood Food Shop in Toronto, Head Chef at Buchanan’s Chop House, creative director and executive chef for Sunterra Food group and received a Woman of Vision Award in 1999. I now have my own business called Meez Fast Home Cuisine. I’ve contributed to many cookbooks and travel to France and Italy each year with The Cookbook Co. Cooks to teach the regional cuisines of Southern France and Tuscany. I am thrilled to work with Karen helping her with tours of Calgary Farmer’s Market where we focus on connecting local consumers with local growers.”

Current Culinary Fascination: Opening minds to new food experiences and reconnecting our guests with the Joy of Eating.

Pierre Lamielle, Tour Guide

“I am a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City and the Capilano College Graphic Design and Illustration program. My book Kitchen Scraps: a Humourous Illustrated Cookbook won the prestigious World Gourmand best Illustrated Cookbook award in 2009. I also own Food on Your Shirt Design Company with my partner Candace Bergman. I write for Avenue magazine and appear frequently on Breakfast TV. It’s really fun for me to introduce our Calgary Food Tours guests to the great food ranchers and growers of the Calgary Farmer’s Market. I’m also looking forward to hosting some of Calgary Food Tours evening “supper club” tours with my partner Candace. It’ll be a way to fit a date night into our busy schedule.”

Current Culinary Fascination: My new book project called Alice Eats Wonderland with my friend, Julie Van Rosendaal.

To buy tickets for the 2013 Chef Guided Tours of the Calgary Farmers’ Market, click on the dates below:

Saturday, June 22ndCANCELLED

Saturday, July 20th: 9 – 11am with Pierre Lamielle

Saturday, August 11th: Innisfail Growers Tour

Saturday, August 24th: 9 – 11am with Pierre Lamielle

Saturday, September 14th: 9 – 11am with a SAIT Culinary Instructor

Saturday, Septebmer 28th: 9 – 11am with a SAIT Culinary Instructor

Saturday, October 12th: 9 – 11am with a SAIT Culinary Instructor

Saturday, October 26th: 9 – 11am with Judy Wood

Fiddleheads and Seared Scallops on Garlic Fettuccine

Dan Clapson, a courageous and talented food blogger, is never one to turn down a challenge.  Not even when it means he’ll be recreating Top Chef Canada winning dishes.  We love to see him visit the Calgary Farmers’ Market weekly to pick up the ingredients he needs to “Take the Challenge Home”; he’s an inspiration to many, launching a very successful Start from Scratch program, teaching students to chuck the crap into the trash and get back into the kitchen.

Spring is right around the corner, which means there will be lots of fresh, seasonal produce hitting our vendors’ shelves.  The most recent, with a fleeting seasonal window, got us pretty excited to snap them up while they’re around: fiddleheads are a great (and interesting) addition to a wide range of dishes.  These unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern are known as fiddleheads because they resemble the finely crafted head of a fiddle; easy to cook and, much like asparagus, have a delicate green flavour that is best accentuated by simple cooking.

Dan Clapson’s Lemon Rosemary Risotto with Honey Roasted Fiddleheads and Spot Prawns inspired us to make our very own version of a delicious fiddlehead dish, and you can pick up all of your ingredients in one quick stop at the market.

PicMonkey Collage 1

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Serves 4

1 package of Garlic Fettuccine from The Stock and Sauce Company

1 clamshell of Fiddleheads  from Cherry Pit

1 lemon and 1 sweet yellow onion from Souto Farms

50g of Parmigiano Reggiano and 100g of thick-cut pancetta from Fresh DELIcious

8 fresh Scallops from Blu Seafood (ask Brian, Mary, or Terry to slice them in half to make 16 smaller quick-sear scallops)

Olive Oil

Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

*It’s important for us to note: it is not recommended, under any circumstances, that fiddleheads be eaten raw.  If you’d like to toss them into salad greens or a light quinoa salad, we think it would be yummy, but be sure to steam them for 10-12 minutes.

First, let’s start by putting two pots of water on: one for the pasta, and one to steam the fiddleheads.  Be sure to salt your pasta water liberally, rule of thumb is that it should taste like the ocean.

Begin prepping the fiddleheads by washing in cold water, letting the water get into all of the curly nooks and crannies.  Trim away the hard bits of the woody stalks.  When the water is boiling, place in the top of the steamer and steam for 10-12 minutes.  If you prefer to boil them, 10 minutes is probably good.  We’re going to quickly sauté them with the onion and pancetta after steaming.

PicMonkey Collage

While the fiddleheads are steaming and the pasta water is coming to a boil, thinly slice the shallots and snip the pancetta into squares (yup, snip.  Using scissors on the pancetta is much easier, and quick too!).  Place about a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan on medium heat.  When the pan is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 3 minuets before adding the pancetta.  When the pancetta is golden, add the fiddleheads to the pan and give it a good toss.  Do not add any salt, just freshly ground pepper; the scallops will be seasoned and the pancetta is pretty salty, so adding salt now will make it pretty intenso-salty.  This is where you can add fresh or dried basil if you so wish.

Grate the parmigiano reggiano and set aside.

Pasta
A trick we learned from our friend Julie Van Rosendaal of Dinner with Julie: placing a wooden spoon across the top of the pot will prevent it from boiling over.

Now, we’re going to drop the pasta; fresh pasta only takes about 3-4 minutes in a pot of water at a rolling boil, do not overcook it.  Mushy noodles, blech.  Remember, before you strain the pasta, reserve a mug of the salty pasta water, we’re going to use it to loosen the ‘sauce’.

PicMonkey Collage 3

Drop the strained fettuccine into the pan with the onion, pancetta, and fiddleheads and toss a few times to coat the noodles.  Add the zest and juice of the whole lemon.  Pour in the grated parmigiano reggiano and add a little of the reserved pasta water.  Give it a couple good tosses to coat the pasta.  Add more water if need be, but don’t add too much; it shouldn’t be soupy, just enough to lightly coat the noodles.  Take off the heat while you quickly sear the scallops.

PicMonkey Collage 2

To sear the scallops, remove the small side muscle, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.  Add a dollop of butter and a splash of olive oil to a 12 to 14-inch sauté pan on medium to high heat (about mark 7).  Why butter and olive oil you ask?  Well, butter is delicious but it has a lower smoking point; adding the olive oil prevents it from burning.  Salt and pepper the scallops.  Once the pan is hot* (never put food into a cold pan), gently add the scallops starting at 12 o’clock proceeding clockwise, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side, about the time it takes you to get back to 12 o’clock, they’ll be ready to start flipping.  The scallops should have a golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center.

*To test if your pan is hot enough: touch the tip of the edge of a scallop to the pan , if you hear a sexy sizzle, it’s ready.

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Pile the fettuccine in a large family-style serving dish, top with the seared scallops, and a little more parmigiano reggiano if desired.  Serve immediately with a crisp white wine at a table with family and friends and find out just how everyone’s day went… because that’s what food is all about, no?