Bee-keeping comes so naturally to Phil Veldhuis, it’s like he entered the world with the skills to do so. Having been born into a bee-keeping family, his talent in handling bees was nurtured at a young age and at 16 years old was already working alongside his uncle kept bees near Treesbank, which is where Phil spent most of his childhood. “I’ve been doing this basically for as long as I can walk – nieces and nephews usually get suckered into it- some stick around and others don’t.” Phil continued to shadow his uncle until he started his own venture in Starbuck, where he has been living and running his business now for over 25 years.
He sells his “ordinary delicious” honey through Bee Maid, a Canadian co-op of prairie bee-keepers, and saves his “super delicious” honey (about the top 5%) for retail sales and for selling at the St. Norbert Farmer’s Market every Saturday, where his son also often busks with his violin.
This year, Phil is maintaining 750 hives in 17 locations in the Starbuck area, although last year had been managing 30 sites. Phil manages an average of 1200 hives every year, and still plans to aim for that amount each summer, but he lost a substantial amount of colonies this past winter, the factors of which he measures by symptoms the colony exhibits. For example, if it looks like there are only drones left in a hive, Phil will take that as a sign that the queen has reduced her fertility; the largest number of cases pertain to hives where Phil said it looks like the bees have “just dwindled away” or are “scattered throughout the hive” which is abnormal for a colony. Anyone who meets Phil understands in a moment that he cares deeply about what he does, yet for him bee-keeping has never been political. “Bee-keeping is for a detailed-oriented person, and so talking about it politically is like a forest for the trees.”
Breezy Way Farm, unsurprisingly, sits on a hill in one of the windiest spots in the Pembina Valley, overlooking wheat and canola fields and surrounded by the deepest snow drifts in the area during the winter months. The 5 and a half acres is the perfect spot for the prairie-loving Penner family to run a small mixed farm.
The Penners have been gardening and raising animals since 2003. They are passionate about gardening without the use of chemicals relying on compost and hand weeding alone. As time goes on they have been continually adding more and more to their farm. They currently have chickens, pigs, turkey and even rabbits! They have also have started an orchard with plans for opening it to U-pickers. Be sure to follow them on Facebook for more updates.
Blue Lagoon Organics began when Lori Ann and Rene decided to take a lead role in what went into their food. “It’s so important to know what you are eating,” says Lori Ann, a retired elementary teacher who became allergic to penicillin during her career. After altering her diet to avoid conventionally-produced meats and dairy, she was inspired to help others find better alternatives as well. The couple bought the family farm, located just across the road from their home, in 2000. The plan? To build an organic farm from the ground up amidst a vast expansion of conventional fields, one that would remain viable and resistant for generations to come. They started by planting vegetables and herbs such as echinacea, eventually opening up their farm as a U-pick. In 2003, Blue Lagoon was officially certified as the first organic vegetable farm in Manitoba.
Stefan, Lori Ann and Renee’s son, became involved with the farm in 2004. As a chef, Stefan was energized by the freshness of the food produced on the farm. “He had never seen a cabbage the way it looked in the garden,” Lori laughs. The food pushes me to work harder, says Stefan. My whole love is harvesting and bringing that food back to the kitchen – but you have to do all of the other jobs to get to that point.
Blue Lagoon has been a CSA since 2005 and has been a home to many WWOOFers who have helped it grow over the years. The Regniers also raise chickens, turkeys and ducks that are fed organic grains purchased from DeRuyck’s Top of the Hill Farm and mixed on-farm. Thanks to Stefan’s passion for wholesome food, the farm now produces a wide range of value-added products as well, all made with the freshest organic ingredients in the province!
Roger and Cathy Desilets have been learning about the secret life of bees for almost thirty years. They started with 25 hives and now operate about 60 colonies along the Riding Mountain National Park, producing honey mostly from organic crops, raising queens from their best breeding stock and continually learning how best to prevent losses in the winter. Their steadfast dedication and energy for small-scale bee-keeping has given way to opportunities involving the sweet stuff, creating a multi-product business for them and their family.
Cathy and Roger moved to the area of Oakburn in 1983 and started a market garden and greenhouse in addition to their bees. After one growing season they decided to focus on the latter two of the three, putting the majority of their energy into bee-keeping. In the early 1990s, while attending craft shows, they met a bee-keeper and candlemaker from England who also made skin care products utilizing honey, beeswax, royal jelly and a by-product called propolis, a sticky substance collected by the bees mostly from the buds of balsam poplar. Propolis is known to contain healing properties and has been found to be very effective in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, rosacea as well sunburned skin.
When their friend decided to retire, he invited Roger and Kathy to learn first-hand how to manufacture the skin care products. He eventually gifted them with his business. The couple has continued to attend craft shows, bringing with them their honey, candles and the skin care line. They have built up a customer base that stretches far across Canada. Their products are also carried in select retail outlets.
Jeanne Berard has been gardening for 35 years and the last four years researching and developing an organic vegetable production, creating a business for herself that she enjoys with her whole heart. She is the only female market garden entrepreneur in Manitoba who has been organically-certified since the beginning and maintains a self-sufficient venture apart from her farming lifestyle. Her and her husband farm about 1000 acres of non-organic grain, hay and pasture near Notre Dame du Lourdes. Jeanne plays both a supportive and partnership role in the farm, jumping on the combine when an extra hand is required or staying back to send out meals, coordinate phone calls and filling in anywhere she is needed.
In 2008, Jeanne began working on the DeRuyck’s Top of the Hill farm, at the time were producing vegetables on a few acres of their land. She dove into each aspect of their operation, from planting to weeding, to then harvesting, packaging and making deliveries with them into Winnipeg. She became well-acquainted with each of the chefs and store owners who ordered produce from the DeRuycks on a regular basis, enjoying the blend of building connections and improving the transparency of the business. By the end of the summer, the DeRuycks were offering to help and mentor Jeanne so that she could continue to fulfill their orders but transition the production to her farm. She spent that fall and winter taking courses on organic vegetable growing and acquiring the materials she would need in order to work towards gaining organic certification on her own land.
Jeanne’s 4-acre garden was certified in 2010 through OPAM after she enrolled in the Manitoba Organic Transition Program (MOTP) to ensure she was taking the right steps. The plots are now home to some of her infamous favourites like rainbow carrots (five colours!), banana fingerling potatoes, various winter squashes (grown for Tall Grass Prairie Bakery!) and heirloom tomatoes. Over half of the seeds she plants have been saved from varieties she has come to know and trust and the rest she purchases are non-GMO and untreated.
The roots of “THE FARM” begin as far back as 1906, when Pawlo (Paul) Ditz and Maryna (Sytynk) decided to immigrate to Canada. They left their beloved village Soroka in Husiatyn, a district of the province of Halychyna in Western Ukraine. They travelled many miles by wagon to Ternopol, Ukraine, then by train to Hamburg, Germany. After 18 days on a stormy rough sea, they landed in Halifax. The couple preceded to Manitoba, where they were met by Michael Sytynk, Maryna’s father. They stayed in his home, eight miles northeast of Oakburn, where “THE FARM” officially began as a homestead. It continues to produce a bounty of vegetables every year under the Ditz name, now owned and operated by Paul and Maryna’s grandson, Kelly.
On several occasions, while Kelly was preparing to leave Winnipeg and visit his family’s homestead for a few days, he would be asked by a friend where he was going. Kelly’s reply was always “THE FARM” – since then, the name has been imprinted on the third-generation piece of land. For Kelly, producing food using only organic methods come second nature. Having grown up on “THE FARM”, Kelly is very familiar with the 227 acres of the soil that surrounds his family’s homestead. The land which has grown alfalfa, barley, canola, oats, peas, wheat and vegetables has always been grown organically. Kelly understands and appreciates the value of organic farming as he has served on the Manitoba Organic Alliance (MOA) for two years.
Kelly uses environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. This involves the saving of seeds from past healthy and natural plants for next year’s crop. He continues to produce and sell a wide variety of vegetables every growing season that he sells to a variety of customers in Winnipeg and the surrounding area of “THE FARM”.
Products: shallots, magnificent Manitoba winter garlic, seasonal root vegetables, squash, beans, cucumbers, onions
Meaghan Lomax, owner of Wildfire Farms since 2010, raises and sells free roaming chickens and pork and sells 100% grass fed and finished beef from the family farm. The Barnabe family has been raising beef for over 40 years.
Throughout the year, Meaghan manages sales and coordinates delivery/pickup dates to Winnipeg and surrounding areas. Check out Wildfire Farms online store for locations, dates and times of deliveries/pickups.
Products available at the St Norbert Farmers market and farm gate:
-100% grass fed and finished beef. Wildfire Farms has a variety of cuts such as steaks, roasts, ground, soup bones, organ meats and gluten free sausage, nitrate and sugar free.
-Free roaming heritage pork with cuts such as chops, roasts, hams, hocks, bacon, crackles and lard, nitrate and sugar free
-Free roaming broiler chickens, breasts, thighs, drums, ground, wings, organs, feet and soup bones.
Will Braun and Jennifer deGroot moved to Big Oak Farm in 2012 with a passion to grow trustworthy food and raise their children in wide open spaces. Both grew up rurally and market gardened near Winnipeg for several years. They were involved in the West Broadway Good Food Club as well as organizers of 100 Mile Manitoba. Will, Jennifer, Zavi and Matoli live off the land raising vegetables, herbs, fruits, honey, meats, eggs and fibre. Their flock of Icelandic sheep provides purebred registered breeding stock, wool and pelts.
We are a U-Pick strawberry and raspberry farm with a petting zoo and picnic area. We offer school tours in May, June, August, September and October. We have a corn maze open in September and October.
Located near Elie, MB on Treaty 1 territory, Hearts & Roots is a small-scale, certified organic vegetable, fruit and flower farm.
We are passionate about growing food organically and looking after the health of the land we call home. We grow more than 45 different fruits and vegetables on five acres without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. All of our seed is either organic or untreated and none of the species are GMO. For weed control we cultivate, hoe, flameweed or plant into biodegradable mulch. For soil health we use compost, organic fertilizers, and crop rotation. The farm is committed to responsible agriculture and the role it plays in an inspired community.
Come find us, friend us or follow us @heartsandroots on Instagram and Facebook and at www.heartsandroots.com.