I’ve been noticing the names popping up on all of the best menus—Grandora Gardens tomatoes, Pine View Farms duck, Over the Hill Orchard’s Carmine Jewel cherries, Earth Bound artisan breads, Wild West Steelhead trout, Lily & Rose Farm (306-335-2210) organic lamb.
The locavore landscape is changing quickly in Saskatchewan. There’s a new prairie cuisine emerging, with innovative stuff like lentil brownies; sauerkraut tart with house-cured local cabbage, bacon and cream; sour cherry and Canadian rye whiskey Manhattans.
It hasn’t always been this way here in the breadbasket of the world, where appetites tended more to basic meat ‘n potatoes. But it looks like Saskatchewan’s flat farmland is no longer just for growing grain. Small farmers and local chefs are now cooperating in a symbiotic new “farmers-to-chefs-to-families” program they’ve dubbed Local Bounty.
“We’ve come a long way in two years,” says Ryan Marquis, executive chef at the venerable Delta Bessborough hotel in Saskatoon. “I’m trying to push gourmet community cuisine. The farmers are still in the growth stage—but our customers are getting it.”
From the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, featuring a vast range of Saskatchewan products and set in the city’s new indoor public market, to chefs like Regina’s Moe Mathieu at Beer Bros. plus The Willow on Wascana and Saskatoon’s Rémi Cousyn of Calories plus newly opened Souleio Foods Inc., the early adopters are sprouting here like winter wheat in spring.
Dean and Sylvia Kreutzer are pioneers on the food side, their Over the Hill Orchard, a windy acreage near Lumsden, now a blossoming cherry orchard. Thanks to Dean’s obsession with gardening—and the University of Saskatchewan’s work creating a prairie-hardy cherry—the couple has 3,000 trees producing fruit, especially cherries for their organic Prairie Cherry brand products: home-style cherry pies, chocolate-covered Cherry Delights, fruity cherry spread, dessert toppings and juices.
“We are focused on diversity and what we can do here in Saskatchewan,” says Dean, surveying the apples, apricots and plums now producing fruit in his prairie fields. There are experiments with almond and peach trees.
“I’m not betting the farm on peaches,” he admits, “but if you don’t have anything to strive for, life gets boring.”