Farmer Stories

Support Your Local Farming Communities

Andre Poulin with his family at Greenbelt Farms near Wainwright. The farm is a real family affair, as Poulin works with four uncles and other family members to raise 160,000 chickens every eight weeks. Photo supplied by Alberta Chicken Producers

By: Shelley Boettcher

Postmedia Content Works

Scott Olson, Garry Olson Farms, Wetaskiwin

 

After graduating from high school, Scott Olson worked in the oilpatch. But it didn’t take long before he realized he missed life at home on the farm.

“I like working with my hands,” Olson says. “And I like being outside.”

Life at his family’s farm, Garry Olson Farms near Wetaskiwin, allows him the freedom to be his own boss and to get outdoors.  He and his family raise turkeys — around 10,000 birds at a time, or 400,000 kilograms of meat each year — for grocery stores throughout Alberta.

His favourite way to eat them? “Deep-fried,” he says with a laugh, although he also likes his wife’s turkey chili, too.

For Olson and his family, eating locally raised food is about knowing exactly where it comes from; knowing the farmers who make it happen; and the fact it is raised humanely and with pride.

“It’s nice to eat local,” he says. “There are lots of family farms out there, doing all they can to grow these healthy products.”

Support them, and you’ll eat healthier, he says.

“The closer you can get it, the better it is for you, and the fresher.”

Andre Poulin, Greenbelt Farms, Wainwright

 

Andre Poulin, his four uncles and family operate Greenbelt Farms near Wainwright. They raise chickens — 160,000 birds every eight weeks — which are then marketed to Lilydale.  They’re just one of 250 farms in Alberta. 

They work hard to ensure Albertans are getting “high-quality local food, produced and processed in Alberta,” he says. “The majority of our chicken stays within the province and is locally consumed.”

“We follow really high standards of care for our animals in Alberta,” Poulin says. “In fact, Alberta’s chicken producers led the way in creating the first on-farm animal care and food-safety programs that are now a national standard.” It’s not surprising, then, to hear that Poulin and his family eat plenty of chicken. “It’s a good, high-quality, high-protein meal that you can prepare fairly quickly,” he says.

“And there are so many different things you can do with it.”

Lee Markert, Markert Seeds Ltd., Vulcan

 

Fourth-generation farmer Lee Markert, 31, doesn’t hesitate when he’s asked why he has stayed farming in the same area his great-grandfather settled, near Vulcan, in southern Alberta. It’s all about having a lifestyle that’s right for him and his young family, he says.

“I have the opportunity to be my own boss,” Markert says. “And I can raise my family in a safe, educational space where they can learn about the world around them.” 

 

At the same time, he and his family can be an integral part of their community, too. They grow canola, wheat, barley and peas that are sold to markets in the United States, Mexico, Japan and here in Alberta.

 

When it comes to purchases, they like to go local. “We get locally raised meat, farm-raised meat,” says Markert, adding they also purchase vegetables in season. “The closer things are to home, the fresher they are.” And, of course, when they cook, they use canola oil at every opportunity.

“Canola oil is one of the healthiest oils out there. We know where it comes from and we know how it’s produced,” he says. “Combined with the fact we’re supporting our own industry, it’s obviously a win-win situation.”

Jake Vermeer, Vermeer’s Dairy, Camrose

 

About a year ago, Jake Vermeer finished college and returned to the family farm. There was never any doubt, says the 21-year-old, that one day he’d go back to his parents’ dairy farm and, eventually, take it over. “I grew up on the farm and I love the lifestyle,” he says.

Plus, he notes, he comes from a long line of dairy farmers. His parents moved to Canada from the Netherlands in 1991 to set up their own farm and generations of Vermeers before them were in the business in Europe. “It runs in my blood, you could say,” Vermeer says. “It’s definitely a multigenerational career choice.”

Every day, three times a day, Vermeer and his family milk about 420 Holstein cows. He’s busy, but he loves what he does, and what his fellow farmers are doing, too. “We as Canadian farmers hold ourselves to really high standards,” he says.

That’s why he believes in supporting Canadian dairy producers — not just his own family business. He’s a big fan of yogurt from Bles-Wold Dairy near Lacombe, as well as Sylvan Star Cheese near Red Deer, too.

 

“If you support a local farmer, you’re supporting the local economy,” he says. “And you know where your food is coming from.”

Shelley Boettcher is a writer for Postmedia Content Works, a custom content studio that creates, deploys and measures programs for brands.