Circumventing Rising Food Prices

By Joan Janzen

We’ve all heard the old adage, “history repeats itself”, to which someone added their own comment … “and every time it does, the price goes up.” Canadians are now gaining first hand experience in rising prices.

While gas prices continue to rise, the government continues to increase carbon taxes. Canadians are not only paying for their own inflated cost of living, but are also footing the bill for government extravagance. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed the governor general’s $80,000 in-flight catering service for herself and 29 passengers on a trip to the Middle East in March. It’s one example of many.

Now it appears that consumers are looking back to their homesteading roots for solutions. Here, on the prairies, we have benefited from the hard work of our many Hutterite neighbours, who make their produce and meat available in towns and villages throughout the prairie provinces. By purchasing their products, consumers not only avoid costly freight rates that drive up prices, but also support local producers.

Although people haven’t consistently grown their own supply of food for over a hundred years, we are now witnessing the concept of self-sustainability gaining popularity. Some home owners are growing bigger and better gardens in their backyards; others are choosing to buy from their local farmers market or cattle producers. And young students are learning how a hamburger is made from start to finish.

On a larger scale, there are acreage owners, who are not only becoming self sustainable, but are growing produce and cattle for their communities. Hartell Homestead in the foothills of Alberta, near Black Diamond is one of those growing business enterprises. It started off small, but has kept on growing.

They have a display garden, showcasing what they have to offer, and have expanded, including multiple market gardens where they grow vegetables for their store. They have poultry, goats, and Highland cows. They are a fully sustainable farm, growing all their own oats and wheat.

When they opened a farm store on site, they were surprised to find out it was the first of its kind in the area. They wanted to showcase what was raised in the foothills and let people buy locally.

Their store stocks locally produced cheese, sausage, coffee, honey, pork, and has partnered with a bakery. Each package of meat is labeled with the name of the farm where it was produced, and what it was fed. Customers are able to taste the difference between grain fed and grass fed beef. The Highland beef produced on Hartell Homestead is one of the top five types of beef in the world, and is 38% more tender because it takes three years to finish.

Customers, not only shop at their farm store, but can check out the gardens, the livestock, and ask the producers questions. This growing movement of entrepreneurs is interested in raising the best quality food they can, and teaching their customers how it’s done.

Their teaching efforts include hosting various events such as classes on garden planning, canning, homesteading, sustainability, and even chicken 101. More and more producers are offering helpful tips online, including recipes, and local petting zoos are gaining popularity.

The owners of the homestead proudly share its history. Hartell started in 1929 as a growing 1500-man tent city where workers and their families lived, while working at a refinery down at the valley. In 1944 a grass fire came through and burned it down to the ground, however it was never rebuilt because trucks were used to ship the oil. What was once a pile of burnt rubble, is now a thriving homestead.

George S. Patton once said, “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” This quote from nearly a century ago may help explain the growing homestead movement, and efforts to circumvent rising costs and inefficient supply chains

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