Emma Cawthorne-Kozlowski and Sara Kluthe are Urban Agriculture students at Morinville Community High School. This article is part of a series written by students enrolled in the Urban Agriculture course.
Ice cream, cheese, whipped cream, yogurt and butter are foods that most people don’t think a lot about. We buy them at the grocery store in the refrigerator section and never bother to think about where they came from. Many people work hard raising cows and collecting milk from them just so we can enjoy an ice cream every now and then. On March 6th the MCHS Urban Agriculture class visited the Lakeside dairy farm just outside of Legal to learn more about dairy farming and where our milk comes from.
Next, we went to see the automatic milking system they have, which is run by a computer and a robotic arm. The cows at the Lakeside farm as well as many other dairy farms are trained to go to these automatic milking stations as they receive a treat when they do as an incentive to go get milked. When the cow decides to enter the milking unit, a cow ID sensor reads an identification tag on the cow and passes the cow ID to the control system, this sensor can also tell if the cow has any infections. If the cow has been milked too recently, the automatic gate system sends the cow out of the unit. If the cow may be milked, automatic teat cleaning, milking cup application, milking, and teat spraying takes place. The robotic arm hooks up the cups to the teats and in about 10 minutes, 30L of milk are collected from one cow.
The arm takes off the cups from each teat when they are finished and it pushes the cow out and allows the next one to enter. Each cow gets milked a different number of times each day and they are free to go to the milking unit whenever they want. These milking systems are helpful because they allow the cows to be milked 24/7 and it can tell whether or not the cow has a disease or when it was last milked. As well, most of the system is automatic like the waste removal, and the milking so they do not have to spend so much time with the cows. These machines may cost a lot to buy but they are economically sustainable in the long run because they do not need to hire anyone to milk the cows and it is much more efficient as it can track the cows, scan them and milk them in a matter of minutes.
Next, he took us to go see the cows who just gave birth. The cows who are injured or who just gave birth have special treament.They get to relax on hay, and they still get milked everyday. Then Mr.Nonay took us to go see the calves, to see their habitat and their way of life and how they grow up in their environment. The calves live in a very important environment. This determinds whether or not their going to be a strong cow or not.The calves were a lot more curious with us than the cows. They were a lot more friendly and not shy. They licked our hands and were biting our clothes. All of us enjoyed playing with the calves. It's about $8.00 a day to feed one cow. They’re very expensive; but so worth it in the end if you love to do it.
We learned many things at the Lakeside farm such as how we get our milk and the process that goes into it. But one very important thing we learned about is sustainability. Lakeside farm is very sustainable and well run. For example, Jeff makes his own compost by using drywall, which he picks up from the city and combines it with chicken manure from a neighboring farm and cow manure from his own farm.This compost contains gypsum which has positive long lasting effects in soil. The sulphate in the drywall lowers the pH of the manure, reducing ammonia and greenhouse gases. When this mixture is spread on the land, it adds sulphate and calcium, and retains nitrogen, all of which are nutrients plants need to grow. Also, by using drywall in their compost, they get rid of much of the drywall that goes to landfills.
The Nonays even grow their own crops to feed their cows. That is why it was important for the MCHS urban Agriculture class to go to the Lakeside Dairy Farm, to learn about where our milk comes from and sustainable practices.
Click here to learn more about dairy farming in Canada
I had the great privilege of attending the Travel Alberta Industry Conference last weekend, and came back to work inspired and excited to put many of the ideas from the conference and discussions into action. Connect and Collaborate was the aptly named theme for this year's event, as there were many great discussions, networking opportunities and awareness that came out of the conference.
One session in particular struck a chord with me as our Sturgeon County Economic Development team works on our tourism and business support plans for 2014. This session was presented by Alberta Tourism and Parks and Recreation outlining a significant study that was done, defining the "Potential Demand for Rural Vacation Experiences in Alberta by Residents of Alberta." Although the study is 180 pages, there are several key points that I pulled out of it such as:
This got me thinking... if potential visitors from Edmonton or other urban areas in Alberta don't know what we have to offer or what they can expect, will they come visit, shop and experience our events? How many "hidden gems" exist in Sturgeon County that we should be telling people about? More than 70% of people prefer and trust a recommendation from a friend or social media over traditional advertising... What Sturgeon County experiences would you like to recommend to your friends? Maybe there is an amazing restaurant, a fantastic annual event, an interesting historical site, the list is endless.
The study also showed that people from urban areas had a lot of interest in exploring rural activities and destinations, but there were a number of factors that steered them away from going rural. Some of those factors were:
This website, www.sturgeoncountybounty.ca is in the early stages of becoming a hub for information. This is the spot that is featuring upcoming events, local producers and attractions, but it is only the start. There will be two Sturgeon County Bounty events next year - one in the spring and one in the fall, and we are looking for vendors to help get the word out about why local and fresh is better. We are also building a database of all the businesses and attractions in Sturgeon County to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. We are looking for local businesses to feature on our blog and share insight... we want to connect with you!
Please leave your comments below and share your Hidden Gems in Sturgeon County!
Welcome to our blog!
This is an exciting time, as we are ready to launch our new website, and also get the fifth Annual Sturgeon County Bounty underway at Prairie Gardens & Adventure farm in Bon Accord on Saturday, September 28, 2013!
It has been a lot of hard work and planning for the Bounty Taste Event, but it is very rewarding to meet so many producers and business owners in the Sturgeon County area and see all of the support that exists for our local initiatives. We have many things planned for the next year, and are hoping to talk with as many local producers, processors, chefs, farms and artisans as possible to find the best fit for growing local tourism and culinary experiences.
Please join us between 11am - 3pm on Saturday at Prairie Gardens to experience delicious dishes prepared by our local producers and restaurants. You will be served fresh food cooked to perfection, and you should come hungry because we have A LOT of tasty options to offer! Food tickets will be for sale ($1 each) and most vendor booths are serving dishes that are between 3-5 tickets. You will also be able to get a fantastic fall family photo taken for 5 tickets!
Saturday, September 28 is also the opening day for Prairie Gardens' Haunted Pumpkin Festival, featuring TONS of great family activities such as a petting zoo, corn maze, face painting, music and entertainment, wagon rides, and of course... the Pumpkin Cannon!
It should be a beautiful fall day, we look forward to seeing you there!
For more information on The Sturgeon County Bounty including maps and menus, click here
Today's blog is brought to you by Sturgeon County local Valerie Loseth, The Wheelbarrow Gardener. Valerie makes the world a more beautiful place, from backyards to weddings to planters, to workshops and more!
Potiuk's Paradise : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener
In the year and a half since moving to their acreage, Darren and Tasha Potiuk along with their four daughters have turned their 3 acres into a very productive small-scale farm that produces meat, fruit, vegetables and even honey for the family.
I visited them on a gorgeous morning as they were out and about feeding and tending to the several types of animals they have chosen to raise on their farm. I asked Tasha, why is it important that the family raise and grow their own food?
“People are far too disconnected to their food supply these days. It started very simply by growing a garden, and getting a few hens for eggs, then you start to look into where your food comes from. How it’s grown, processed, stored, shipped and handled. I know where our food comes from, I know how and where it was grown, how our meat was raised, what goes into everything. I know how our animals are treated, how my daughter plays tag with the pigs or that the chickens can run loose and love to take dirt baths and hunt bugs in the garden. I know our fruit and veggies aren’t sprayed with who knows what, and our bees dine on dandelions and fruit and flower blossoms. The amazing sense of peace we have when we are home. There’s a reason we call it Potiuk’s Paradise! Now that we have come this far, I can’t imagine ever going back.”
Sustainable farming means that whatever is farmed, raised and grown on the farm is consumed by the farm dwellers themselves. They are living off the land and providing the food they need for their own consumption.
What started out as a garden and a few hens has expanded to pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits and bees. All of the animals other than the family dogs, some farm cats and one particular bunny are all raised to either produce food or to be food. Everything around the farm has multiple purposes, and a food chain is created between the animals and the plants. Weeds become food for the rabbits and pigs, the hens scratch up the soil, eat the bugs and fertilize the garden, rabbit pelts become mitts and hats, nothing goes to waste. They live as sustainable as possible, butchering their own animals, canning and preserving fruits and vegetables and even processing their own meat. Always finding ways to live with the smallest footprint on the environment Tasha even makes her own hand soap and has graciously agreed to share her recipe for it (see below).
With both Darren and Tasha working full time shift work, time is a challenge. On average it takes an hour in the morning and then again at night to do all the animal chores. “We can get it done in twenty minutes if we really rush, but I prefer to take my time and interact with the animals, everyone helps including our five year old. Our greatest success is how close we have become as a family. The day we put a meal on the table that was all homegrown, that was a pretty big success” said Tasha proudly.
I was interested in how much research she must have done before she started, but she shared that she often acts before she knows all the facts and that animals often find their way to the farm before Darren knows they are there. They explained that they are constantly learning and gaining knowledge through friendships with like minded people, mentors and groups on Facebook that share common problems and goals. When asked what is next for them and the farm Tasha said after a quick smile and glance at Darren, “Looking at adding a heifer calf next spring. She would be a 4H project for one of our daughters. A few more fruit and nut trees and a wood burning stove.”
Not all of us are blessed with owning an acreage, living within town or city limits there are some constraints, but urban homesteading is on the rise, people want control over their food. Growing their own vegetables and raising small livestock (where permits allow) can be accomplished on a small parcel of land if people are willing to make some changes. Dig up the lawn and grow your lunch. Plants trees and perennials that are food based. Raise rabbits, chickens or bees to feed your family. Shop local, visit your Farmer’s Market, or better yet visit the farm. If you are interested in any of these things there are plenty of support groups and people like Tasha and Darren who are willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes, you just need to be willing to take that first step to food freedom.
One cup filtered water
3 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
1tsp veg glycerin.
Drops essential oil or tea tree oil (optional)
Mix and pour into foaming pump bottle
One cup filtered water
3 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
1tsp veg glycerin.
Drops essential oil or tea tree oil (optional)
Mix and pour into foaming pump bottle
You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at www.thewheelbarrowgardener.com
This blog post is written by Morinville Community High School teacher Neil Korotash. This article is the first in a series that his students will be sharing over the school year. Follow their urban agriculture adventures here!
Over the next several months, Urban
Agriculture students from Morinville Community High School will be posting various articles in this space. These students will be sharing with you some
of the field trips and activities that they are participating in around the
County as part of the new course. You’ll be able to see through the student’s
eyes what they are learning about gardening, agriculture, local businesses, and
the sustainability of our food system.
The course, new to MCHS and the region, is
designed to teach students in a hands-on way some of the homesteading skills
that seem to be less and less commonplace these days. Students are learning how to grow food
including everything from raised vegetable beds and cold frames to hydroponics
and everything in between. These skills
are then connected to Foods credits where students learn to pickle, butcher,
cure, and make homemade pastas and breads.
Some of this year’s activities will
Chicken – We’re very fortunate to have several students who raise chickens in the County and a visit to the Krupa farm will allow students the opportunity to kill and butcher their own animal. Students will also be visiting Tri-West Poultry and a local egg farm to fully understand how these birds go from farm to our table.
Pork – Similar to the chicken experience, students will buy pigs from Ron & Karen Sobey’s Belle Valley Berkshires and visit to learn about pig farming. Nestor at Country Quality Meats will then dress and split the pigs so that students can butcher them, and learn to make their own bacon, ham and sausage.
Small scale crop production – Students will continue to learn how to grow indoor greenhouse crops such as basil and mint and sell those at local farmers markets and retail outlets. Currently, MCHS grown fresh basil & mint are available at Morinville Sobeys!
These are but a few examples and others
activities will include pressing apple cider at Sprout Farms or picking pumpkins and
enjoying some farm fresh ingredients at PrairieGardens!
This will be the second year for the course
and we have had tremendous support from businesses and farms in and around
Sturgeon County and Morinville. Major
sponsors include Sturgeon Valley Fertilizers,
Champion Petfoods, and MorinvilleSobeys while the County and the Town have been very supportive as well.
We hope you will check back often to see
some of the great things that are happening in the County and how MCHS students
are learning all about it!
This course continues to evolve and we are
always looking for new and exiting ways to teach the students about their food,
healthy eating, and sustainable living so if you have any ideas or suggestions,
please let us know! I can be reached at MCHS by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Growing Rural Tourism Conference in Camrose, Alberta. This annual conference connects groups that have embraced innovative tourism strategies and partnerships, and those looking at how they might bring new sources of revenue and employment to their own communities. I met some great new people, collected heaps of information, enjoyed a tour of Camrose and had my imagination sparked with many new tourism possibilities!
I have been working on plans to add more events to our Sturgeon County Bounty roster. I need events that are fun, and show off all of the hard work our farmers do- from growing food, to raising animals, to operating a tourism destination on their working farm. Well, did I ever find the perfect fit- Alberta Open Farm Days! This is a province-wide two-day event that gives Albertans an opportunity to experience the farm and understand where their food comes from. As explained in the conference workshop hosted by Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation, Open Farm Days is a "backstage pass to meet the farmer, experience Ag-tourism in Alberta and taste local foods direct from the producer." I thought this was a great description... our farmers are definitely rock stars, and who wouldn't want an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of what they do every day?!
The demand is identified: People from urban areas want to visit the country, experience life outdoors, learn where their food comes from, buy some of that fresh food, pet some animals and ask the farmers questions. Alberta Open Farm Days offers just that! The event takes place over two days, day one- August 23, 2014 is focusing on culinary events, where talented chefs will team up with local producers to create farm-to-table dishes. The following day, August 24, 2014 will be a province-wide open house for participating farms. All farms that choose to have an open house day will be listed on our website, as well as the Alberta Open Farm Days website and directory.
Last year Sturgeon County had two farms that participated, this year let's make it more! This is a great opportunity to connect with more visitors and potential customers. I will work with you to coordinate a culinary event, driving tour and promotion of your farm - call me today 780-939-8296 and get on board!
I recently visited Christine Boxall on her acreage just west of Legal where she grows vegetables to sell along with some baked items at a couple of local farmers markets. Christine and her husband have approx. 5.5 acres but it was a garden that was 5 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall that had me intrigued and the reason I came for the visit.
Last summer Christine built a herb spiral, and this year she was reaping the rewards of her creative endeavor. A herb spiral is a vertical garden based on permaculture ideas of working less in the garden but reaping more produce. Herb spirals are a great first permaculture project to get your feet wet with, these beautiful and practical gardens are perfect for any homeowner even if your yard is only the size of a postage stamp.
I asked Christine what inspired her to create a herb spiral. “I attended a course hosted by Kenton Zerbin ** on permaculture, and thought this was one part of the course that I could manage to build myself. I like the idea of water conservation and ease of care.” So she did just that, in two days with little to no cost she created her herb spiral, and here are some additional reasons why it was a good idea.
Benefits of the herb spiral:
- Grow more food in less space
- Get the benefits of several microclimates in one spot
- Convenient, easy access for maintenance and harvesting
- Simple to irrigate
- Low cost to build
- Healthy herbs for your enjoyment
Herb spirals can be made from just about any type of material from bricks, stones, willow, pipes and even gabion cages filled with rocks. Any material that will allow you to form a spiral shape and will hold soil in place will work. Christine’s spiral was constructed from 4x4 posts, which she had lying around her property, so the cost to build this was minimal. If you search Google or Pinterest for herb spiral images you will see all the different concepts and designs people have created.
The design for the spiral is not without purpose, by having the spiral raised in the center, spiraling down to ground level, lots of microclimates are created that support different plants. Plants at the top of the spiral will have to be ones that like dryer and hotter conditions. Plants on the north side will enjoy shade and more moisture while plants at the bottom will receive the greatest abundance of moisture so plants that thrive with moisture consistency will do well here. Christine grows several types of herbs such as lavender, basil, mint, chamomile and borage in her spiral, all of which she uses for personal use or for her baking that she takes to the farmer’s markets.
The advantages of having such diversity in a small footprint of space extends beyond convenience to the chef. The nature of the herb spiral with the close planting of different species creates beneficial relationships between the herbs (companion planting) and can create an environment that benefits the garden as a whole. Some plants are great pest deterrents such as marigold and basil, and others such as lemon balm, and marjoram attract insects like ladybugs and bees that are beneficial to surrounding gardens and feed on the pests. Borage and Chamomile are good for improving the taste of neighbouring plants as well as being visually appealing.
Here are some of the herbs that are in Christine’s spiral and what she uses them for:
Borage: This herb has cucumber flavoured leaves that she uses dried for tea or fresh in other drinks, and the blue starry flowers are used fresh in salads or frozen into ice cubes as a drink garnish. Bees love this plant and so it aids in attracting beneficial bugs and pollinators to the garden.
Chamomile: She makes a tea using the dried flowers infused in boiling water, it helps boost the immune system, it aids in sleep and calms upset stomachs. Make sure that the yellow and white flowers are not the scentless chamomile noxious weed variety.
Basil: She makes a pesto using 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, 1 ½ cups of pine nuts, chopped walnuts or almonds, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add all ingredients to a food processor adding the oil in last. Store in the fridge.
Lavender: Add 6 flower spikes of fresh or dried lavender to 2 cups of sugar, seal for a week, then use in the baking of cupcakes or custard dishes for an extra little flavor surprise.
Christine loves her hassle free herb spiral, she is letting the plants get established and is finding out which herbs do well and which ones she needs to find a better location for. It’s easy to water and takes nothing to control the weeds. It’s a beautiful focal point as you drive onto their acreage, it adds interest to what is normally a horizontal garden view and it’s a great conversation piece. Her only wish is that she had built it just a bit bigger so that she could fit more strawberry plants in it.
Herb spirals are only one of the many garden designs that were created based on permaculture principals. Here is a website that you could go to with good info about herb spirals and a video from Bill Mollison and his take on it.
** If you are interested in taking some local permaculture courses and learning about herb spirals and other permaculture design concepts I encourage you to check out Kenton Zerbin’s website http://kzpermaculture.ca . Kenton grew up in Sturgeon County and is now doing amazing things as a permaculture designer and instructor. He often hosts an Introduction to Permaculture workshop in Morninville and surrounding areas, so visit his website, subscribe to his newsletter and be inspired by the permaculture way of gardening.
If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or anything special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me.
Sturgeon County Bounty is a Sturgeon County Economic Development initiative, aimed at providing local producers, chefs and processors with an opportunity to promote and expand value-added agriculture in the region. more
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9613 - 100 Street
Morinville, AB, T8R 1L9