Anyone searching for a Canada Day activity slightly off the beaten track can head towards the second annual Sturgeon County Bounty local food event at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.
It is a celebration of local cuisine and crafts that gives producers, chefs and artisans within a 50-mile radius the opportunity to showcase their products and skills.
“The goal has been to encourage and build added value agriculture. It’s been a huge success with producers and chefs both in Sturgeon County and the Edmonton Garrison, which is a small town in itself,” says Tam Andersen of the Sturgeon Economic Development Board.
Poised to become a culinary destination in coming years, about 24 producers and chefs, along with six artisans, are breaking ground and setting up booths at the garrison in anticipation of large crowds.
“I’ve been told Sturgeon County is on the tipping point of being an agri-tourism mecca, much like the Okanagan was 40 years ago and Prince Edward County [PEC] in Ontario was 25 years ago,” Andersen says, adding PEC is renowned for their active regional cuisine movement.
At the County Bounty, visitors can look forward to a variety of tapas-sized foods ranging from stuffed mushrooms, barbecued bratwurst and beet stackers to Inca burgers, spinach salad and sweet Saskatoon-and-rhubarb pie.
The Sturgeon County Bounty was kick-started when the Canadian Armed Forces hosted a workshop for county producers. The goal was to show producers how to navigate the government procurement system.
“For us, it was an another opportunity to encourage local protein and vegetable farmers to market their products locally and establish connections with a new set of people,” explains Andersen, adding that about 15,000 people live and work at the base, many of which frequent the large mess halls.
One product that’s picked up a lot of interest is Mountain Meadows’ nut-free, gluten-free spread that tastes similar to peanut butter and has developed a strong following.
For meat lovers, Rafter2M Farms is bringing in their slider burgers; Rose Ridge Land and Cattle is whipping up their barbecue beef on a bun and Allium Foodworks plans to tempt the palate with Asado-rubbed beef in a Chimichurri sauce.
And anyone with a sweet tooth has their choice of mouth-watering pies, jams, sorbets, cookies, cupcakes and cake.
“If it’s successful, it will be part of the Canada Day celebrations in the future. We will review what kind of impact the products have and what we can do better,” Andersen says.
While the County Bounty is a fun celebration for all ages, Andersen is looking at the big picture: “When consumers spend money locally, it ripples along the community in a big way. It encourages employment, new services or it starts something complementary to a tourist service. There are lots of good reasons for an event like this.”
It runs this Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Admission is free; food tickets are $1 each. For an extensive list of producers and vendors, visit www.sturgeoncountybounty.ca.