Little Known Way to Get Fresh Organic Food Right to Your Doorstep in Canmore
Canmore, in the Canadian Rockies, can’t count on the 100-mile diet as ‘100 miles in most directions takes you further into the alpine’, explains Chrystel Vultier and Avni Soma, the creators of Farm Box, a grass-roots food initiative located in Canmore and attending the Bow Valley communities. ‘But we are uniquely nestled between two fertile bioregions: the fruit basket of the Okanagan, and the grain belt of the Alberta prairies, and conveniently located along a main artery (Trans Canada highway) linking the two’.
Do you have any idea of how long your food traveled to get to your plate? Between 1,500 and 4,000 kilometres is the answer for an average North American home. The local food movement was created as an effort to build a more locally based food economies, based on a sustainable food production, processing and distribution. But, what is local? The US Department of Agriculture considers local or regional a product that is marketed from less than 400 miles from its origin.
‘Local refers not only to the distance that your food travels, but the degree of connectedness that you have to the source of your food. Farm Box strives to facilitate a transparent exchange between producers and consumers so that you experience a greater connection to your food’. ‘It is so different from the grocery store!’ says Justine Denison, from Denison Farm, US, adding that ‘farmer’s market is giving this opportunity to people to see real food with the farmer in a setting that makes them feel they have stepped into the farm’. ‘I am scared not to do the right thing because we are feeding our friends’, says Michael Kilpatrick, from Kilpatrick Family Farm, US.
Four years ago, Chrystel Vultier began harvesting food in Carstairs, AB, to bring back to about 20 Canmore families. This is how Farm Box was created. ‘Farm Box works within local bioregions to establish a sustainable supply of fresh, organic food to the Bow Valley. Our network includes urban farmers from Canmore and Calgary, vegetable, grain, poultry & dairy producers from Alberta, as well as fruit & vegetable growers from Southern and Central, BC’, explains Chrystel. Farm Box did the research for us, lucky customers, so we can shop from their website and get it delivered to our doorsteps. They served 200 customers last winter in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise and they expect to serve 350 during the summer of 2014.
Farm Box also has a relationship with half a dozen restaurants in Banff and Canmore. ‘Sometimes we are sourcing specific produce for them, other times they are happy to transform what we have left over from our weekly markets into daily specials. As our storage capacity increases, so will our relationships with local restaurants’, explains Chrystel, who has a bachelor degree in Political Science, and interned on organic farms throughout Central America, India, and the west coast of North America. ‘It was my exploration of the concept of permaculture that spurned my interest in organic & sustainable food as a university student, but I have a long history and passion with food and the food industry. My father was the Executive Chef at the Banff Park Lodge for 26 years, so food was always a priority in our household and most of the action in my family took place in the kitchen. I also put myself through university and funded my international education by working in the service industry in the Bow Valley. It feels like I have worked in most of the restaurants in Canmore.’
The Alpine Edible Schoolyards Project is another way that Chrystel and Avni are contributing to inspire a real food movement, being a source of mentorship and education to the kids in Canmore’s community, and a ‘unique opportunity for them to develop entrepreneurial skills by being involved in a local sustainable urban farming business’. It started in 2013 on the roof of the Canmore Collegiate High School and this year they will build a ¼ acre farm at Lawrence Grassi Middle School in downtown Canmore. The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Education Society funded the project and this new installation will be a ‘truly community endeavour’. The result can be seen on the Farmers Market in Canmore and in each Farm Box during the summer.
Moved by a deep sense of imbalance in the world, Chrystel has always sought to be a force of change. This led her to pursue an education in Political Science, International Relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, close to the hub of the political