Farm Visits in Alberta
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
"A great way to connect you more to where your food comes from..."
With summer just around the corner, I thought I would compile a list of my favourite local farms that you can visit. If you follow my Instagram (@culinarycalgary) and that of my partner (@cookcanada), you’ve probably seen how much we like to visit nearby food producers. I’ve been so impressed with the variety and quality of the products available in our province, as well as the producers' passion and willingness to share what they do. Alberta has an abundance of producers that you can buy directly from, and in some cases, you can even harvest your own products. Doing this is a great way to connect you more to where your food comes from, and it is fun for the whole family too. The list below only includes farms and producers that we have already visited, but I know there are plenty more out there that we have yet to visit (I will update this list as we go), so please comment and mention your favourites. Make sure to check your destination’s website prior to visiting, as opening hours and product availability can change. It is always worth following farms on social media (Instagram/Facebook), as this is often where they post their most up-to-date information. So, here is the list for you to get out there, and support local:
What they are known for: Berries What they also produce: Vegetables (pre-picked) & sea buckthorn berries Pro tip: If you are interested in the sea buckthorn, bring clippers. Clip the berry laden branches into a bucket, freeze these once you get home, and knock off the berries once frozen. The name says it all, they come with some very nasty thorns. About: Billy Co. Junction is a berry-lover’s paradise, growing raspberries (red and yellow), honeyberries/haskaps, saskatoon berries, black currants, and sour cherries. Their quaint farm store sells pre-picked veggies, and a wide variety of preserves and pickles they make. Another very unique element of this farm is that they also have a Bed & Breakfast suite on-site. We stayed a night and went berry picking in the morning, and since it was early in the morning, we had the entire u-pick to ourselves.
Chinook Honey Company & Arch Meadery
What they are known for: Honey
What they also produce: Mead
Pro tip: Check out the “Okotoks Erratic” while are you are nearby (even pack a picnic for it).
About: Art and Cherie are incredibly dedicated to their bee hives and their craft of beekeeping. Their impressive gift shop boasts honey and bee themed gifts, and features the local multi floral and mint blossom honey they produce. The honey that bees make are flavoured by the botanicals they collect their pollen from. Honeys range from pale in colour to deep mahogany colour (like buckwheat honey). Mead is also something they are known for, which is alcohol made from fermented honey, and Arch Meadery has truly mastered this ancient form of alcohol production. Their meads vary from dry to very sweet and come in a range of flavours. Chinook Honey Company & Arch Meadery is located just south of Okotoks and they even offer a “Backstage with the Bees” program which allows you basically be an assistant beekeeper for the day.
What they are known for: Potatoes & Sunflower Maze What they also produce: Strawberries, u-pick vegetables (carrots, beets, beans, peas, cucumbers, zucchini), & cut flowers Pro tip: Get up early and go early in the morning! It can get very crowded. About: Probably one of the most “insta-worthy” places around, Eagle Creek Farms is also known for their late season “Sunflower Maze”. It is pretty spectacular, but I will say it does get incredibly busy, sometimes with parked cars lined up down the road. Their vegetable u-pick is very impressive, I was thrilled with the unusual colours and variety of potatoes they offer, and I was especially dazzled by their “candy cane” potato varietal (white fleshed with rings of bright pink). If you haven’t dug for your own potatoes, you are missing out! It is so much fun, if a bit dirty, and it isn’t very often you get to dig your own food out of the ground. I like cooking them up that night by simply boiling them and lathering them in butter and fresh dill. The produce they grow is organically and sustainably produced.
What they are known for: Asparagus What they also produce: Peas, beans, and beef Pro Tip: Don’t miss their pickled peas! About: Edgar Farms is owned by a lovely couple, Doug & Elna. Doug was so kind to show us around the farm and explain to us their harvesting and processing of asparagus. In some cases, when they harvest asparagus in other countries, they cut the stalks below ground level to have a higher yield. This is why you always have to take off the woody end of your asparagus. They don’t harvest that way at Edgar Farms, meaning the entire stalk is edible. When they harvest, they immediately “shock” their asparagus in a very ingenious cold ice bath, the cold prevents the sugars from turning to starches and keeps the asparagus incredibly sweet. Asparagus is also an incredibly time-intensive crop to grow, with it not yielding viable crops for five years. The season is also very short, beginning mid-May and ending at the beginning of June. Edgar Farms hosts an Asparagus festival for the Sundays during their short season. The Country Store on site sells their fantastic pickles and preserves, pre-picked vegetables, and frozen products (including the pies Elna is famous for). If you don’t have time to make the trip out there (it is approximately one hour drive from Calgary), you can find some of their products through Innisifail Growers (in Calgary you can get their products at the Calgary Farmers’ Market).
What they are known for: Mushrooms
Pro tip: You can purchase their “mycologs” (mushroom growing logs) to grow your own in your backyard.
About: Check out their Instagram to see the stunning array of colours their oyster mushrooms grow in, from a steely blue grey, to sunny yellow, to blushing pink?! Located near Nisku (south of Edmonton), this farm is quite unique! Their mushrooms are very visually appealing, delicious, and it is pretty neat to purchase Albertan grown mushrooms.
Hidden Valley Garden Website (with opening hours), Instagram, & Facebook What they are known for: U-pick/pre-picked vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, beets, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, potatoes, peas, kohlrabi, rutabaga, squash, pumpkins, & herbs) What they also produce: Berries (saskatoons, raspberries [red & yellow], honeyberries/haskaps, chokecherries, currants, cherries, & rhubarb) Pro Tip: Cash only!!! If you don’t know how to properly pick something, ask and they will be happy to teach you. Also, there is a beautiful campground right across the road from this farm (Jarvis Bay). So, plan ahead, make a weekend of it, and cook your beautiful u-picked veggies over a campfire. About: This is probably my favourite u-pick within driving distance of Calgary, located just outside of Sylvan Lake. Jim and Lesley run the farm, and their daughter and son-in-law recently joined them (they are doing a great job with their branding, website, and social media). The family puts so much passion into what they do and they have an incredible variety of what you can pick yourself. What I love about their garden produce, is they don’t just grow “beets”, they grow “round, cylinder, golden, and candy cane” varieties. There are beautiful colours and varieties of beans, cauliflower, and other produce. Hidden Valley Garden has all the tools you need to harvest your produce, and if you don’t feel like u-picking, they have a brand-new refrigerated farm store offering pre-picked products.
What they are known for: Strawberries What they also produce: U-pick pumpkins and vegetables Pro Tip: Order pre-picked strawberry baskets to guarantee you have berries when you get out there. About: The Jungle Farm is a destination for families, and as such it can get quite busy. I definitely recommend ordering the pre-picked strawberry baskets to save yourself any disappointment. I’ve checked their Facebook (which I do recommend doing they day of) in the morning for whether strawberries were available, and they were already picked out by the time I got there. It is worth your efforts, as the strawberries are so juicy and red right through. My favourite way to enjoy them is drizzling heavy cream over cut strawberries, and adding a spoonful of brown sugar. The Jungle Farm has a cute farm store that sells other local products and some of their pre-picked vegetables and preserves. They offer u-pick vegetables also, and have everything from potatoes, to rhubarb, and even pick-your-own fresh corn.
Old West Ranch Facebook
What they are known for: Water buffalo mozzarella Pro tip: This farm shop is a short drive from Waterton National Park, so make a day of it and visit this beautiful park. We made a night of it and stayed at the Prince of Wales hotel, enjoying their High Tea service. About: Old West Ranch offers by far some of the most intriguing and surprisingly Albertan products; water buffalo mozzarella. James, the farmer and owner, is an incredibly intelligent, passionate, and welcoming individual. He showed us his new, state-of-the-art cheese making facility as well as introduced us to his water buffalo! I’ve never seen one up close before, they were very sweet and it was so thrilling to get to pet them (this part was a bit of "behind the scenes" tour). The water buffalo mozzarella that James produces is absolutely exceptional, very fresh and milky. We enjoyed ours in a simple caprese salad. As a seasonal treat, Old West Ranch also produces amazingly creamy and rich egg nog (I’ve picked it up before at Say Cheese at Crossroads Market). Old West Ranch just opened up their brand-new farm store in Mountain View, approximately a 2 ½ hour drive south of Calgary.
Purple Ridge Farm Facebook (with opening hours):
What they are known for: U-pick vegetables & raspberries (appointment only) What they also produce: Cut flowers, saskatoon berries, & cherries Pro tip: They only offer u-pick by appointment, so make sure to contact them to make one before you head out.
About: Located immediately outside of Airdrie (who knew!?), this is definitely one of the more conveniently located farms for Calgarians. Purple Ridge Farm is one of my favourite hidden gems and is run by a lovely couple. They have beautiful raspberries, saskatoons, and a wide variety of vegetables. I was really impressed with their bright pink-fleshed potatoes, shelling peas, and stunning selection of fresh flowers (many of which are edible and very inspirational). With how close it is to Calgary, make sure to make an appointment and visit this lovely u-pick.
Red Lodge U-Pick Website (with opening hours) What they are known for: Honeyberries/hakaps What they also produce: Raspberries & cherries Pro tip: Bring sunscreen… I made that mistake once… About: This tiny little farm is close to Red Deer and has three varieties of u-pick berries. If you have never tried a haskap berry, I liken them to a very juicy, more-sour saskatoon berry. They look like elongated blueberries and are nice and tangy. Some people also describe them as “raspberry-blueberry” flavoured and they have a gorgeous deep purple pigment. You can use them anywhere you would use saskatoon berries or blueberries. The rows of berries (the farmer told us they do best when several varietals are planted nearby and they have very Canadian names like “Aurora”, “Borealis”, and “Tundra”) are covered with nets to keeps birds away. The bushes are quite low hanging so you do need to stoop to collect the berries, but they have some stools available. The owner and farmer of this u-pick was very helpful and he even gave us some copies of some haskap recipes. If you haven’t tried these berries, or you are already a fan, now you know where to pick your own, and all just a short drive from Calgary. Saskaberry Ranch
Website (with opening hours) & Facebook What they are known for: U-pick saskatoon berries & strawberries What they also produce: Assorted vegetables, eggs, lamb, beef, & free-range chicken Pro tip: Cash or e-transfer only. About: I haven’t been to this place in years, but I remember it well, situated along the “Cowboy Trail” (a very picturesque and quintessential Albertan road). They have u-pick strawberries (which are hard to find close to Calgary) that are planted in raised beds. If you’ve ever picked strawberries before, you know how back-breaking it can be, so these raised beds make the experience all the more enjoyable. Phil also has a variety of vegetables (they have a greenhouse on site), beautiful free-range eggs and chickens, and their website says they also offer lamb and beef based on availability.
What they are known for: U-pick (saskatoons, cherries, currants, and apples) What they also produce: Strawberries & assorted vegetables Pro tip: Try going here early in the morning to avoid the crowds (this seems to be a recurring theme) and don’t miss their homemade sour cherry ice cream! About: This is probably one of the most developed farms, offering a restaurant, bakery, an eclectic gift shop, general store, event hosting (cooking classes, weddings, parties), and they have an extensive garden centre. They have a market garden store offering their pre-picked vegetables and BC fruit, and they have some products you can pick yourself. They used to offer u-pick strawberries but had to discontinue this because some people weren’t treating the fields properly, and their plants were getting damaged. I will say this place does get super crowded, nothing against this property, they must be doing something right to always be so incredibly busy! Oh, and they always seem to have kittens running around (*squeal*).
What they are known for: Gouda cheese What they also produce: A variety of other cheeses Pro tip: Don’t miss their unique flavoured goudas! About: Sylvan Star Cheese was started in 1999 by a family from The Netherlands, with extensive cheese making experience. They produce award winning goudas and are particularly known for their “Grizzly Gouda” (a sharp, tangy, and crumbly gouda). If their 30 years of cheese making experience wasn’t enough, the couple’s son raises the Holstein cows that supply their cheese production with milk. It isn’t very often a cheesemaker also has a say in what the milk-production cows eat! Their shop boasts a wide array of their cheeses as well as some international counterparts.
If local Albertan food is something that interests you, I definitely recommend checking out Karen Anderson’s Food Artisans of Alberta. It lists lots of local places and producers that you can check out. I will also mention that while some farms do not allow visits, Alberta Open Farm Days is a fun annual event in August when many of these farms open their doors to the public. It is a fun weekend idea to plan out a couple of these spots and make a mini road trip of it, checking out some hidden food gems of Alberta.