Giving Thanks for Where Our Food Comes From

Giving Thanks for Where Our Food Comes From

In Celebration of Saskatchewan Agriculture Month

Every Thanksgiving our tables are full of freshly harvested food to share with our friends and family. If you’ve ever wondered where this abundance of delicious food comes from, you’re not alone. According to a recent Ipsos Reid survey 93 per cent of Canadians report knowing little or nothing about farming and two thirds want to know more!

In the spirit of giving thanks it is an opportunity to acknowledge October is also Saskatchewan Agriculture Month and to thank farmers for the hard work they do to ensure we all have access to a variety of healthy, affordable food throughout the year.

This summer as the Food & Consumer Relations Specialist dietitian for Manitoba Chicken Producers I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a sponsored* Farm to Fork Tour with Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan. This trip took me to the stunning prairie landscape of Saskatoon to experience first-hand how our world-class Canadian agriculture industry operates. On this two-day journey of learning I was immersed in the full realm of farming and food processing along with an enthusiastic group of dietitians, chefs, food bloggers and other professionals.

It is difficult to imagine that just a century ago, over half of Canada’s population was farmers. Fast forward to today, where less than 3 per cent of Canada’s population farms. I’m from the prairies, but admittedly, like many Canadians, I’ve had limited opportunities to spend time on farms. This tour definitely gave me a greater appreciation of the hard work that goes into producing food for our world’s rapidly increasing population.

This tour provided a privileged inside look at just how deeply farmers care about their animals and land. They warmly welcomed us on to family farms and demonstrated how they responsibly produce safe, affordable, nutritious food for consumers, themselves and their families. Their farms are their livelihood and the legacy they will leave for their children. In fact, about 97 per cent the of farms in Canada are owned and operated by families, often with several generations working together.

My tour highlights

Farming 101:

Words of wisdom from farmer, Clinton Monchuk, Executive Director of Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan and third-generation farmer. Clinton farms with his brother on their beautiful farm that is due to receive a century farm award in 2022! He joined us throughout the tour and was always there to answer any and all of our farming questions.

  • We live where we work. We eat the food we grow.
  • We want to leave our land in even better shape than we found it for the next generation. Our livelihood depends on the health of the soil. The land is what will be passed onto future generations. Protecting top soil is of “top” importance!
  • We take pride in growing safe, high quality food and we want to share that message with all. A challenge we face today is to feed people sustainably by growing enough food in ways are the good for people, animals and the planet.
  • Farmers are innovative and use science and technology to advance the way the care for their animals and their land. We have the challenge of producing safe and nourishing food for the world’s growing population. One farmer is now feeding and excess of 150 people and using biotechnology is a necessary tool.

Chicken Farming facts:

Patrick Keith, a third-generation Saskatchewan chicken farmer shared how broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat) are cared for, dispelling common myths related to the industry. Chickens raised in Saskatchewan, like all chickens raised in Canada are:

  • Always free run. Meaning they are never raised in cages. They roam freely in clean, well-ventilated barns where they are protected from predators and the harsh Canadian climate.
  • They eat and drink whenever they want and are grain fed.
  • Most importantly they are always raised without the use of steroids or hormones.
  • And DYK chickens closest living relative is the great Tyrannosaurus-Rex!

Here’s my insider peek into a few fabulous places we visited

Colborn Farms:

 

We had the pleasure of meeting Shawn Colborn and his family, including his 93-year-old grandfather who still actively farms. Shawn manages their fifth-generation farm at Delisle, Saskatchewan, raising crops, beef and eggs.

The Colborn family, like other Canadian farmers take sustainability seriously. They understand the importance of healthy soil, water and air. They eat the food they grow and feed it to their children. They depend on a healthy home and work environment to grow crops successfully. One of their key farming practices to ensure sustainability involves growing a variety of crops and rotating crops that are grown on each field annually.

Star Egg:

Star Egg Company Ltd. a Saskatoon-based business specializing in grading, processing, distributing eggs. We visited their processing plant and learned how Grade A eggs get from the farm, into those convenient cartons and then end up at your local grocery store. It was fascinating to see how they successfully package 1.4 million eggs daily from Saskatchewan’s 67 registered egg farmers! These farmers care for 1.1 million hens that produce over 32.5 million cartons of eggs per year for us to enjoy! It’s important to know hormones and steroids are never used in laying hens. I now have a whole new appreciation for my sunny-side-up!

Elkrest Farms:

  

I  now understand how that delicious, cool, glass of milk gets onto our tables. Elkrest is A beautiful, high-tech dairy farm owned farm and operated brothers Jason, Brad and Trevor Kornelius. With dedication to animal care and sustainability they’ve grown their dairy business over the years from 160 cows to a complement of 700 cows! Each cow is milked three times per day, 365 days per year! Cows are made comfortable during milking by using a “dairy-parlour” system that looks like a carnival carrousel. The cows voluntarily walk onto the carrousel for a “ride” to get milked. The process only takes 10-minutes and an average cow can produce a whopping 40 L of milk/day! I learned milk is tested three times by three different people before it ever reaches your store and milk is always produced without the use of hormones or steroids. You can be assured Canadian milk is not only nutritious and delicious, but safe too!

My story would not be complete if I did not mention that all along the way we were treated to delicious local foods expertly prepared by a number of family owned restaurants including: Latin and Mexican inspired Picaro, the Odd Couple, featuring a delicious fusion of Canadian and Asian cuisine and a Ukrainian classic Baba’s Homestyle Perogies, the only drive-thou perogie restaurant in Canada.

    

These reflections are just a mere snapshot of my experiences. We also learned about complex issues such as sustainability, GMOs, pesticide use, animal care protocols and innovative food product development at the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc.

I would like to sincerely thank Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan for this unique opportunity to be an invited-guest and see first-hand how farmers, their families and food processors take pride and care in what they do to produce safe, affordable food for us to enjoy. This weekend when you sit down with your family and friends to a beautiful Thanksgiving table filled with a bounty of fresh, delicious food, pause for a moment and thank all the farmers that were involved in producing it!

To find out more about great Canadian agriculture in Saskatchewan search the hashtags: #LoveSaskFood #OurFoodHasaStory #FFC18 and visit: @FarmFoodCareSk on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

At Manitoba Chicken we’d love to connect with you. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube at: @manitobachicken

Gina Sunderland, MSc, RD, Manitoba Chicken Producers Food & Consumer Relations Specialist

I joined the friendly, dynamic team here at the end of May and have been having a great time engaging with consumers in a variety of ways to promote delicious Manitoba chicken and healthy lifestyles. If you have a question about chicken farming or how to cook with chicken I’d love to hear from you!

*My travel expenses were paid for by Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan  and the information shared and views expressed are my own.