Berries, bees and bison thrive in Fort St. John
Fort St. John—“The Energetic City”—is so much more than oil and gas. The rich soil of the Peace River has been producing wheat crops since the 19th century. It is the traditional land of the Danezaa people. Built in 1794, Fort St. John was the first non-native fur trading post in B.C. Today, the valley nourishes farms producing bison, berries, honey and all manner of produce. The Fort St. John Farmers' Market at the Curling Club, held Saturdays from May to December (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), is the place to purchase food directly from the farmers.
Blue Acres Saskatoon Berry orchard, located about 80 kilometres north at Prespatou, has 6,500 Saskatoon plants producing 4,500 kilograms (10,000 pounds) of berries annually. We met Barb Geisbrecht at the farmers market in 2011. Her family sells jam, sauces, juice concentrate, candles, pie filling and pies. From mid-July to about mid-August, the farm is open for U-pick. Stop for a picture of the giant Saskatoon berry. Call 250-630-2785.
Also in the Prespatou area, HK Bison raises buffalo or bison—same animal, different names. Harvey Kvile’s animals are organically and holistically raised with respect. He calls them the world’s most perfect animal because they are self-sufficient with no natural predators other than man. A bull can weigh up to 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds). He explained what the expression “To be buffaloed” means. A buffalo will make a false charge, then turn at the last minute . . . just bluffing. They can reach speeds up to 48 km/h (30 mph) so don’t even think about outrunning them. Because they know Kvile’s voice, they are not aggressive with him. Meat can be purchased from the farm gate. Call 250-785-5794.
Rose Prairie Honey claims to be the best honey in Canada. David and Dorcas Stutzman farm about 24 kilometres (15 miles) north of Fort St. John in Montney, where their bees produce about 6,800 kilograms (15,000 pounds) of honey annually. In winter, the hives are combined then taken apart for summering around Rose Prairie. Spring brings in dandelion honey, mid-summer brings wild flower honey, and in late summer the biggest crop is clover honey. They also sell honey combs, honey mustard, cinnamon honey as well as soap and lip balm from the bees wax. Products can be purchased on the farm, in town or at the farmers market. Visitors are welcome but the hives are not visible. A demo hive is shown at the market. Call 250-827-3714.
These producers give you a taste for what is available in the area. Next time you’re traveling through Fort St. John or anywhere else in Canada, think farm fresh food.