Farm to Fork means Business

More than 40% of the farmland in Canada is in Saskatchewan, which comes as a surprise to many. Among the numerous agricultural exports from our province are cereal grains (wheat, oats, rye and barley), oilseeds (canola and flax), pulses (peas and lentils) and edible oils (canola), and are worth an impressive four billion dollars to our economy annually, according to Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan.

But not all of our bounty is leaving the province. Especially as young entrepreneurs open new restaurants, develop unique local edible products and start businesses aimed at showcasing Saskatchewan food, more attention and dollars are helping grow our food scene even further.

Brand new to Saskatoon is The Local Kitchen, started in the revitalized Riversdale neighbourhood in new development The Blok, by three young women who saw a need for a commercial kitchen space where others could kick-start their food businesses. “We have access to an amazing amount of delicious local ingredients and culinary talent that has lots of room to develop”, says Bailey Wilmot, a co-owner of The Local Kitchen. A food hub like this allows bakers, caterers, food trucks and those with a culinary talent, to have an incubation space and also a place to collaborate, something Saskatoonians typically do very well.

Another facet of this new food-focused business is their cooking classes, which encourages locals as well as visitors to our city, to get engaged with local ingredients. Highlighting how to use Saskatchewan ingredients, the cooking classes are taught by talented chefs, dieticians, nutritionists and butchers, and have been very well-received so far.

In the spirit of collaboration, The Local Kitchen, as well as several other culinary businesses in Riversdale, work with local event planners Barbi Peterson and Katelyn Cochlan from The Black Door Events, on neighbourhood dine-arounds. Barbi says a dine-around like going on a cruise where at each stop people get a taste of what the location has to offer, hopefully enticing them to come back for more.

With so many unique food experiences available, The Black Door Events dine-arounds have surprised visitors with the diversity of Saskatoon’s local food scene. “People have been delighted by the food and intrigued by the vibe at the many local restaurants,” says Barbi.

Typically they customize their dine-arounds for particular groups, such as convention delegates, and with that group in mind select local businesses that best show off our city’s local flavours.

Many of Saskatoon’s local flavours are also shown off in what is now a highly anticipated food festival in September in Riversdale, YXEats. Heading into its third year, YXEats targets those looking for a staycation or vacation, and invites them to experience Saskatoon’s local food scene. For the first time this year, The Local Kitchen and The Black Door Events will work together at YXEats to involve not only Riversdale’s local restaurants, but many Saskatchewan agricultural producers. With such varied food being grown in our province, there is a lot of interest in where our food comes from. Cooking classes and events tied to the producers themselves will help connect people more closely to their food.

Tourism Saskatoon often talks about the city’s burgeoning culinary and craft drink scene, which has garnered a lot of press internationally. Last November, Vogue ran a story online that included mention of some of Saskatoon’s top chefs and restaurants, saying the largest urban city in the province, is “stealthily gathering cred among those in the know.” The Toronto Star writes “A food revolution is underway in Saskatoon, thanks in part to the revitalized Riversdale neighbourhood, which has become a catalyst in encouraging entrepreneurs to set up shop.” Additionally, well-known Canadian culinary writer and cookbook author Amy Rosen wrote in The Globe & Mail about the local food scene, saying “Saskatoon is totally happening.”

While this is still news to many locally, nationally and internationally, there have been many Saskatchewan farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, event planners and tourism employees, working to grow our strong farm to fork culture. The spotlight is finally being shone on Saskatoon’s varied local food scene. With the business it means for our province, we are all too happy to bask in the glow.