Farm-to-Table Musings


Red Exclamation Point - Sensitivity WarningWarning: This blog post is about our farm program, and talks about animals being killed.


by Ben Samann, General Manager

For almost a decade, Viamede has had a farm program. From the first day, the purpose was officially to provide food for the kitchen and interest for the guests. Unofficially, it’s been a way for guests, staff, and me, to remind ourselves on where meat comes from.

For me, raising turkeys, chickens, and pigs for meat has been a way to keep myself grounded. The restaurant industry is full of wasteful practices, and for many, there’s simply a financial incentive to not waste food. By raising pigs, I look at bacon in the garbage and see a small part of a pig that gave its life. If I’m going to eat meat, and source meat for hundreds of people, then I need to make responsible, educated choices on the ethics and my own personal feelings.

Any meat served in our restaurants is killed at a licensed abattoir, which means it’s properly inspected and certified. However, there are times when we kill animals on site, and staff are invited to learn the process, participate, and take a chicken home with them. This is entirely voluntary, and people come away with a much deeper understanding of where meat comes from, and why that matters.

Each year, at Easter, we get our chicks for the season. We raise chickens for fun, mostly, rather than the eggs, and most years, we re-home them to local hobby farmers. The most common breeds we get are Silkies, Brahmas, and other heritage breeds, but this year, we got Cornish Cross, a classic meat chicken. They grow almost too fast for their own bodies, and after a few weeks, are ready for the table.

Recently our sous-chef Mandy, groundskeeper Brad, and I, went to the farm and killed our chickens. It’s not something I enjoy in the least, and it prompts a lot of thinking – hence this blog post.

For a while now, Chef Kyle, Mandy and I have been talking about meat and what it means. We all see it very similarly – meat can be delicious and a fantastic part of a meal, but too often, we end up with flavourless, overbred and poorly cooked meat in a dish that really doesn’t need it. “Tofu’s a poor substitute for meat, but then, so is supermarket chicken.”

I cooked some chicken on the grill without seasoning, and you know what it tasted like? Nothing. If the whole flavour of the dish needs to be added anyway, what’s the point of having chicken in there?

For years now, we’ve worked with the idea that all dishes should be vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free unless there’s a good reason for them not to be – we don’t use beef stock in our soups or flour in our gravies, for example. This makes it easy to accommodate guests with most of our menu, but it’s also highlighted how easy it is to work without these things in many cases. Obviously, our creamy pasta has cream and cheese, our burger is all beef, and our pork chop is amazing pork from the pigs we raised on the property.

Meat should be a feature. We should be sourcing the best meat we can get, and using it in ways where it really stands out. If it doesn’t stand out, we should look at replacing it.

As time goes on, I imagine we’ll be learning more and more about this. In the meantime, it’s a lot of musing, playing, and learning.

Thanks for listening.


Hanging Baskets Plant Care Tips

by Bob the Gardener

Hanging baskets are a beautiful and versatile way to plant mixed blooms. They also make a great gift idea and, once planted, are relatively low maintenance. To keep your plants looking fresh all season, here are some of my care tips for hanging baskets:

Hanging Basket Maintenance
  1. Water often and thoroughly.
  2. Deadhead blooming plants (here is a useful article on deadheading flowers).
  3. In a mixed basket, replace plants as needed.
  4. Fertilize (see below).
  5. Cut back leggy plants.
Fertilization

Second to watering, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your baskets looking great all season. By constantly feeding, you are ensuring that your plants maintain all the nutrition necessary to grow large and produce blooms. You should find your basket weekly with a water soluble fertilizer. I recommend using a 20-20-20 fertilizer (20% nitrogen, 20% phosphorus, and 20% potassium – the remaining 40% is chemically inert).

Learn more care tips and join Bob on a garden tour, held as part of our spring and summer recreation schedules.

 


A Day in the Life of a Pig

As anyone who has been to the Viamede Farm knows, our pigs are friendly, inquisitive, and ridiculously playful.  At two months old, they also love being the center of attention.  And so, without further ado, meet Rosa the pig!

rosa-the-pigHi!  Welcome to my farm!

My day starts just before 8 o’clock, when my sisters and I get up to meet Farmer Jarrod.  He comes and visits us every morning to feed us breakfast, which consists of soya, corn, barley, and peas in tasty pellet form.  Even though there is a lot to go around, my sisters and I love trying to fight over the same bucket.  It’s just more fun that way.

After breakfast, there is a lot of fun to be had.  We can play in the swamp, run around in the sand, or go on an adventure in the woods!  When no one is around, we also like to work on our top secret digging mission.  We have started construction on a tunnel under the fence so we can go visit the turkeys, run out to greet our two-legged visitors, and explore the rest of the farm- just don’t tell Farmer Jarrod!  When it’s too hot to play, we love to laze in our trailer or cuddle together in our shelter.

While I do love all of my playtime, the best part of the day is the Farm Tour.  At 3:30, Ben, or one of his friends, brings down a pail of breakfast slops, pellets, and a whole bunch of new people for us to meet.  My sisters and I love waiting at the fence and greeting all of our new friends, but we don’t stay there for long!  We like to gather at the gate and wait for Ben to climb in with our food, and then we follow him around as he pours it into our pails.

Once we’ve eaten our fill, we make our way back to the fence, getting head rubs, and posing for pictures.  If we don’t have any new visitors, we’ll have fun playing tag or follow the leader with whoever brought us food.  It’s the best part of the day.

We are pretty lucky pigs to have so much space, food, love, and attention, and we take advantage of it to the fullest.  Next time you’re at Viamede, make sure you come down to the farm to say hi!

rosa-and-friends