Today, Jenna and Thomas are in the process of rebuilding the market vegetable and herb garden, while focusing on restoring health and vitality back into the compacted hayfield. Their goal is to expand into an heirloom flower farm to offer a CSA program to the community (with organic, unsprayed flowers), while providing food for their honeybees and the native bees. They also want to create access for community members to grow their own food and forage for wild foods. “Everything works together,” explains Jenna, “And we’re building on this already incredibly resilient ecosystem.”
If you’re enjoying a bag of potato chips in Western Canada, there’s a 1 in 5 chance the potatoes were grown by Harold Perry and his family at the Perry Family Farm, a fourth-generation operation located in Lethbridge County in southern Alberta.
Together, Harold and his brother, Chris, and his father, Gerald, work collaboratively as partners to manage 5000 acres of irrigated land producing potatoes—varieties of chippers, russets, and red Mozart potatoes—along with other field crops, including hard red spring wheat, winter wheat, barley, sunflowers, green peas, seed canola. The Perry family prioritizes environmental stewardship through their approach to soil management and a number of exciting renewable energy projects that they’re implementing on the farm.
Tracey Smith grew up near North Cooking Lake in Strathcona County and in Edmonton. During her undergrad degree in conservation biology at the University of Alberta, she became intrigued by questions of food security in the North. After graduating, Tracey moved to Fairbanks, Alaska to pursue a Master’s of Arts at the University of Fairbanks. Her research on the North compared the carbon footprint of raising backyard laying hens compared to that of importing eggs from the lower 48 states. Around the same time, Tracey began volunteering on a vegetable farm near the university. The farmer also kept a few hives for pollinating the vegetables. At the time, Tracey was living in a rustic cabin – no running water – and becoming disenchanted with academia. She wondered what kind of career to pursue.
Janice and her husband, Ty Shelton, have been running Sand Springs Ranch, a certified organic operation, with a philosophy for biodiversity for over 35 years. They raise grass-finished beef, pasture-raised pork, and grow organic vegetables, and both table and seed potatoes in northeastern Alberta. “We are a small family farm. We consider ourselves small compared to the big guys.”
Biodiversity and diversification are at the heart of what the Sheltons do at Sand Springs Ranch, from relying on the unique skillsets of every family member to feeding their cattle a blend of hay from a variety of fields – all with different soil biology and nutrients – to diversifying their products and marketing strategies, to cultivating lesser known varieties of potatoes.