Sep. 12, 2012 - Issue #882: Down On The Farm
Down on the farm
A day at Sundog Organic Farm
Sundog Organic Farm
56030 Range Road 225, Gibbons, AB
On a 10-acre piece of land just outside the town of Gibbons is Sundog Organic Farm, run by husband and wife team James Vriend and Jenny Berkenbosch. The farm has been in operation since 2009, with the first two growing years occurring on land borrowed from Vriend's parents. In 2011, Vriend and Berkenbosch secured their own land and grown a plethora of fresh vegetables and herbs, which they sell each week at the City Market Downtown on the 104th St Promenade and supply to Corso 32 and Creole Envie.
However, farming wasn't always in the cards for the couple. Vriend began a career as a cabinet maker straight out of high school and grew vegetables as a hobby with friends. He went back to school to obtain a social science degree and began his own cabinet making business, but soon realized the limitations of the career choice and decided to take things in a new direction, moving to farming full-time. Berkenbosch is a teacher with a fine arts background who taught junior high and elementary art and English before moving to farming full-time. She plans to home school the couple's children and continues to paint during the winter months when farm duties are less demanding.
The fields at Sundog hold between 30 and 40 different types of crops, with multiple varieties of lettuce, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables. Vriend says this is done as a fail safe. If one variety doesn't pull through, there are still others to fall back on. Different varieties also have unique characteristics that are an improvement on standard seeds. He says overall, the focus of the farm is to take things out of the earth and show its beauty, so it really didn't make sense to grown just one of each vegetable.
To give an idea of what a typical day on the arm is like, Sundog let Vue tag along while the staff harvested vegetables for a shipment to the Organic Box, which delivers boxes of local and non-local organic and fair trade fruits and vegetables to customers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
The 10-acre plot that Sundog Organic Farm is situated on includes several fields, a man-made pond and a greenhouse, which is used to plant vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, leeks, lettuce and cabbage before the crops are transplanted to outdoor plots. Vegetables such as beans, peas, corn and carrots are planted outdoors to start.
On a rather chilly Tuesday, which is Organic Box day at Sundog, the team got to work at 7 am to get red onions ready for this week's shipment. The task involved digging onions and tying them into bunches of two in preparation for delivery.
Varieties of carrots were picked, washed, bagged and weighed. In addition to typical organ carrots, Sundog also grows white satin and purple haze.
In the fall, the greenhouse is used to dry items such as garlic and onions, which allows the vegetables to be stored. If parts of the garlic split or are unable to be used for sale, they are kept to use as seed for the next crop.
Corn was picked and bagged for the Organic Box shipment. It is one of the crops at Sundog that is planted directly into the soil outdoors, rather than in the greenhouse first. The farm grows several varieties of corn, including luscious, sunny bee, double standard and painted mountain, which is an ornamental variety due to its abundance of colours.
On a rather chilly Tuesday, which is Organic Box day at Sundog, the team
got to work at 7 am to get red onions ready for this week's shipment. The
task involved digging onions and tying them into bunches of two in preparation
Varieties of carrots were picked, washed, bagged and weighed. In addition
to typical organ carrots, Sundog also grows white satin and purple haze.
Sunchoke flowers grow in abundance at Sundog. The roots can be eaten and the flavour is similar to that of a potato.
Varieties of beets outside the standard varieties can also be found at
Sundog. The farm produces chioggia, which are an Italian variety recognized by red and white stripes on the inside; golden, which are very flavourful and not readily available at supermarkets; common red beets and bull's blood, which are recognized by purple tops.
Grightmire's pride tomatoes are a favourite at Sundog. They are a heritage variety that are not readily available in supermarkets. Other varieties on the farm include viva italia, sweet baby girl, chocolate cherry and early Canadian beef.
Kohlrabi is a cultivar of cabbage and is also known as a German turnip. They come in green and purple varieties and have a flavour similar to broccoli stems. The bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked. Berkenbosch says her kids eat them like apples.
Once everything's been picked, washed, boxed and bagged, it's loaded up to take to the Organic Box for another week's order.
More stories in front »vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy