02 August, 2008

Backseat Adventure - Innisfail Growers

Gas prices be damned, today was a day for a road trip. The family loaded up into the new car (it's still new to us after 6 weeks) and headed north to the Innisfail area. It was Customer Appreciation Day for the Innisfail Growers. The producers that make up this group opened their farmgates to customers for tours, treats, and sales.

The Innisfail Growers sell at the farmgate and in farmers' markets throughout the province. Our Sunday morning haunt, the Calgary Farmers' Market houses them in a prominent booth at the front entrance. Currently they are the first stop on my weekly grocery shop. I want to see what they have, what's being grown here before I stop anywhere else. This means I can get asparagus, crisp lettuce just picked, crunchy and sweet carrots, juicy tomatoes, baby potatoes, beef, lamb, and the Monster's favourite: peas.

There are five farms that make up Innisfail Growers. We made it to two farms: The Jungle Farm and Edgar Farms. A two-year old can only handle so much travelling, and will fight tooth and nail when you try to take her from the goats, pony, piglets, horse, chickens, and kitten of Edgar Farms.

At Edgar Farms the Monster and Hubby ate their bodyweights in fresh peas. Hubby said they were the sweetest he's had. Me? I don't do peas. Ask my mother, I've never been able to eat them. My standard excuse is that I am allergic since eating one pea will induce a violent stomach reaction in me. Really, I am like the princess and the pea, detecting just one pea in a serving of shepherd's pie and washing my hands with hand sanitizer every time I shucked some for the Monster today.

Alas, it was too late for asparagus. But we did get a good lesson from Elna, one of the owners of Edgar Farms, on how it grows and is harvested. The above shot is of the Monster exploring a field of asparagus gone to seed. Who knew this is what happens when you don't pick it? It makes me want to plant some myself, for the taste and late summer visual of those gentle fronds.

The Monster was in heaven at Edgar Farms. Beyond the animals to pet and feed was the tour of the fields and the all-you-can-eat peas. Sure these peas were hail damaged, but cosmetics don't matter to her. Sure they were starchy peas if you picked the ones on the bottom of the plant. But it was dirt and peas and tractors. Needless to say, there was a fit to be had when after over two hours there we insisted on heading for home. This nursing mom was starving and the jars of pickled asparagus for sale weren't going to cut it.

We did also make it to The Jungle Farm. This family farm is more than u-pick strawberries and flowers - not that I'm complaining about that! They grow lettuce, raspberries, zucchini, onions, pumpkin, artichokes, and more. They have a beautiful set-up, with a lovely red barn for farmgate sales and treats. Leona, one of the owners took us on a wagon ride with the swank red tractor. Personally, I found it quite interesting as she shared the struggles of our short growing season and extreme weather, but it was a bit much for the Monster and all the other kids. They just wanted a cool wagon ride on the hay bales. It's all worthwhile for the strawberries! Red, red, red. We didn't stay to pick, however, because a) it was damn chilly with a brisk wind and b) I have plans to go strawberry picking later this week.

"Not bad for 35 bucks in gas," was the Hubby's short summary. You can finger paint and take the dogs for a walk, but I think the Monster was much happier on the farm today and anyday. We just have to remember to take lunch with us next time, a few muffins and some raspberries won't cut it. The Jungle Farm had a delicious smelling beef on a bun, but we weren't hungry then. Unfortunately, the sandwich shop we wanted to go to in Innisfail was closed and peas were our option at Edgar Farms. Must bring picnics for adventures, must bring picnics.

I would love to say that we came home laden with food and I cooked this fantastic, simple, farm fresh meal. I would love to say that, but we got home at 6:00 pm and both the Monster and the baby needed to eat NOW. Sadly leftover pizza was the quick option. But we'll be at the market tomorrow to say hello to our new friends and pick up the newly appreciated bounty from the market stall.

Innisfail Growers
The Jungle Farm
Edgar Farms
Country Drive.ca


Anonymous said...

Came here from Dinner with Julie, and I must say your lil one is much too adorable for me to resist leaving a comment! Love the photos :)

Aimée said...

Sounds like my kind of family outing!