Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Alberta Open Farm Days: Wild Country Gardens


Paulette Sparks, Owner/Operator of Wild Country Gardens

This year marks 10 years since Paulette Sparks moved to Wildwood.  While her husband Rennie lived on the farm most of his adult life, it wasn't until Sparks moved in with him that their fruit farm began. 


Honeyberry bushes that will eventually lead to a U-Pick

"We first started introducing Cherry and Honey Berries developed by the University of Saskatchewan.  The university's main intent was to open up the prairie provinces with some fruits to grow, and to get some of the fruit industry out of BC and into the prairie provinces.  They are developing weather hearty fruit that we can grow here." says Sparks.  "We're learning a lot - and always looking at new fruits that bring in hardiness, and can grow it into an orchard fruit."

Honeyberries - one of 80 bushes currently growing on the farm

Many local farmers also have raspberries on their farm, prompting Sparks to add some of her aunt's raspberries to her own farm.  Starting with just a few runners, she has now grown her farm to nearly 200 raspberry plants, and hopes to eventually expand into a U-Pick site.  After successfully growing raspberries, Sparks moved on to other fruits, which include black current plants.

"What we were trying to do is pick fruit that's really good for you and full of antioxidants.  The black current to me is just a hidden jewel.  It's a darker fruit so it has tons of antioxidants, with all of the properties that we were looking for. You can make all kinds of wonderful things with it, including mayonnaise, barbecue sauces, and teas from both the fruit and the leaves". 

With so many fruit bearing bushes, trees, and plants on her property, it only made sense to add honeybees to the farm, something the Sparks' introduced for the first time this summer.  Since they started with mature cones (the habitat in which bees lay their eggs and store their food) and knowledge that they obtained from an experienced beekeeping neighbor, they already have honey available this year,  which Sparks incorporated into 3 varieties of jams that she sells at local farmer's markets. 

Beehives that Sparks hand painted
  A bumblee bee mid flight.

A honeybee harvesting pollen from a raspberry cane.

In addition to canning jams, jellies, and sauces to sell, The Sparks' value having fruit readily available well into the winter months.  "We can all of our fruit in a sugar bath so we can use it all winter in smoothies and just to eat so we're having our fruit all year round."

Everbear Strawberries, a hearty strawberry that fruits all season

400 garlic bulbs were planted last fall, and will be ready to harvest in August. 

You can find Sparks selling her farm creations at the following Farmer's Markets:

Seba Beach - Saturdays from 10:30am - 12:30pm
Alberta Beach - Sundays from 12:00pm - 3:00pm
Drayton Valley - 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month  from 11:30am - 1:30pm
Mayerthorpe - 1st Wednesday of each month from 12pm - 7pm

The Sparks' will be inviting the public to their farm on Saturday, August 19th Alberta Open Farm Days, a weekend aimed at bringing Albertians together to learn a bit about how food gets from the farm, to your table.

Over 90 farms across Alberta will be participating, and will open their farms to the public for a weekend of learning, experiencing, and tasting.  I've partnered with Yellowhead County and Community Futures West Yellowhead to share the stores of 4 local farmers in our region.

If you'd like to participate, you can plan your route online, or stop in at: 

Yellowhead County:
2716 - 1st Avenue, Edson, Alberta
 53404 Rge Rd 92A, Wildwood, AB

Community Futures West Yellowhead:
221 Pembina Avenue, Hinton, Alberta


Photobucket 
 
This post was sponsored by Alberta Open Farm Days.  I received monetary compensation in exchange for this post. As always, all thoughts and options are my 100% my own.
 

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