Sunworks Farms: The Story of a Great Canadian FarmerPosted: April 20, 2014
This month on the Canadian Food Experience Project, we were asked to write about a Canadian Farmer or Producer that we believe is quintessentially Canadian. I found it hard to narrow down just one producer to write about. There are so many farmers and producers that make all of my favourite local foods and if you’ve been following along with my blog, you would definitely have encountered one or two over the years. I left it up to fate and headed to the market, armed with phone as a camera and a voice recorder. I decided that I would write about the first producer I encountered.
I was very lucky that my favourite chicken farmer, Ron Hamilton of Sunworks Farms was at the Strathcona Market, as he is every Saturday. You can always find him behind his portable BBQ at his booth, cooking up some of his famous chicken sausages. He had some time to stop and chat with me.
Ron and his wife Sheila lived in the city before they decided to move out to the farm. Their family was experiencing a multitude of health problems and allergies and they wanted to grow good, clean, pure, real food for their family. In their first year, they farmed 80 chickens. When it came time to process, they brought the chickens to a plant near Andrew, Alberta, and, as Ron said: “It was quite the sight to see Chickens being processed for the first time.”
Ron and Sheila believe that everyone needs good, clean, real pure food, and that is why they are a certified organic and a certified humane farm (an animal welfare certification I didn’t even know existed until I chatted with Ron.) They are also working on building the first certified humane poultry processing plant in Canada. They feed their animals only organic feed and even have their own certified organic feed mill. They have a butcher shop close to their farm in Camrose, where they break down the chickens and make all of their products. They also produce beef, pork, lamb, turkey and eggs.
They have quota for their chicken, turkey and eggs, which allows them to grow and make sound financial decisions for their family and their farm. (For some background on the quota system, check out Alberta Supply Management.) With the freedom to grow under supply management, Ron wonders where he should stop. He uses his values as a benchmark for when to quit, and he would quit before compromising those values. By working to his values in agriculture, he is able to gain his consumer trust in what he does.
Next time you’re at the Strathcona market, pop by Ron’s booth for some good, clean, pure, real food. I would also highly recommend the Rosemary and Garlic chicken sausages (maybe try them in some homemade mac and cheese?) They are to. die. for!