Interview with Alberta Farmer - James Heitzman

It's hard to believe that with 90 head of cattle and 720 acres of acres of land, that James Heitzman considers himself a small farmer. But it's true - compared to some of the large scale farming that happens in Alberta, James' farm is small. It's so small that it doesn't even have a name. Or could it be it doesn't have a name because James has no time to think about pesky little things like marketing? Whatever the reason, James is one farmer you are not going to be able to find with a quick Google search, but you will wish you could after you read this post.

On their combined 720 acres, James and his dad grow canola, wheat, barley, oats and hay for the cattle. When asked, Why the variety in crops if you consider yourself such a small farm?, he didn't even hesitate with the answer "We rotate our crops to cut down on things like disease. If you seed canola from year to year on the same land you risk bringing disease into the crop". He went on to explain how hay puts nitrogen back into the soil, which cuts down on the need for fertilization and fertilizer costs money. When you are small, you need to think about how you spend every penny "Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves", says James.

When running a small farm, James tells me that if he can get 50 bushels to the acre and keep his costs down and his product top quality, he would much rather do that than get 70 bushels to the acre with higher costs and poorer quality. And rotating his crops is just one of the many things that allows him to do just that.


James got into farming at a very early age. His dad was (and still is) a farmer and his grandpa raised cattle. His grandpa used to buy orphaned cattle and feed them by hand. They were called 'pailbunters' and James says they were more like pets. When he turned 18, James had managed to save $10,000 and with that money he bought himself 10 head of cattle and he has never looked back. Now it's his full time SECOND job. Oh, didn't I mention that James also works full time at the Edmonton International Airport.

That's right, James puts in a full time work week, usually working 4 days on and 4 days off. But even when he is on, he comes home from work and can put in an additional 5 hours, especially when they are haying or calving. He says that a lot of small farmers have second jobs; some have gravel trucks or are welders, etc all because it's too hard to support a family with a farm alone.

When I asked him why he does it, his answer was simple "Because I love it" and there was no hesitation. Raising cattle helps offset the cost of raising a family, but it doesn't come without it's sacrifices. During calving season, James and his wife Yvonne tend to take turns sleeping on the couch so that they can go out every 3-4 hours during the night (sometimes in bitterly cold temperatures) to check on the cattle. And they do it without complaint. "It's a hard life, but it's a good life. We enjoy the family farm lifestyle and are happy for the values it has taught Harley (their son). He understands the value of food and where it comes from."


I asked James why he thought Alberta Beef was so darn good and this is where he got a little too technical for this farming novice ;). He listed a lot of reasons; Alberta Beef is grass fed, a lot of Alberta farmers raise Angus cattle which are born smaller, get up and feed faster, tend to be smaller with better cuts.

But James just doesn't know a lot about farming, to be a good farmer you also have to keep abreast of what's happening around the world and James does just that. He explained to me how Canadian farmers have a hard time competing with countries like Australia and Brazil who can feed their cattle grass all year long and don't have to supplement their feed with hay. You see - grass is cheap and keeps the cost of raising cattle down. We talked at length about how a lot of the smaller grain terminals have closed down, which puts additional pressure on the small farmer because the remaining terminals cater to the 'big guy' with larger yields. Bumpercrops of grain in other countries drives down the price of grain in Canada. It's a constant shifting of variables and then you throw disease, illness and weather into the mix and it's amazing James gets any sleep at all.


The one question I really wanted an answer to when I was speaking with James was this "What's the one thing you wished more people understood when it came to farming" and his answer really resonated with me. "Lots of people don't understand where the food they eat comes from."

I couldn't agree more with this simple statement because it is true. If people would sit down and look at that loaf of bread on their table and think about all of the work that it took to get it there, from the farmer that took the time to grow it, to the work it took to get it off the field, to the baker who put it all together and made the loaf itself, they might better understand it's true value.

We spoke a bit about the 'farm to plate' movement taking place right now and while James knows it could be good business for his farm, he also mentioned that a lot of small farmers just simply don't have time to look at new opportunities, get involved with social media or really market their product well. I guess that's what happens when you have two full time jobs.

The small farmer may face a lot of challenges, but James doesn't think they are going anywhere. They may be small, but it has also forced them to be more resourceful and to do more with less. As a small farmer he believes you take more pride in what you are doing because you aren't doing it for money, but because you genuinely enjoy it. He knows he is not going to get rich off farming, but says it is just a part of who he is.

My husband and I buy a half a side of beef from James' farm on a yearly basis and every single one of our dinner guests who have been lucky enough to have us share it with them can attest to the fact that it is some of the best beef they have ever tasted.

It's important to know where our food comes from and I am thankful for small farmers like James Heitzman.


This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.


The 25 minute raspberry tart


In times of stress - I bake. Mostly because in times of stress I want to stuff my face with anything that is sweet and can make me feel better even for a moment. This past week, I have made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, breakfast bars and now this - the 25 minute raspberry tart.

This tart is especially dangerous because it literally only takes 25 minutes from the moment you stand up out of your chair to walk to the kitchen to start making the tart - to the moment you return to that very same chair with the warmed tart, fresh out of the oven, in your hand. Trust me - I timed it!

I don't want to get bogged down in the 'why am I so stressed' conversation, because we are here to talk about tarts, but I feel like a little history is required so you can understand how we ended up here with raspberry jam and frangipane being licked off my fingers at a rate that is surprising even to myself.

For the past month, my bull mastiff Betty has been in a fight for her life. It started off with a breast cancer scare - which turned out to be benign. We thought 'whew, that was a close one' and then a few days later she slipped on the ice and hurt her front elbow. Fast forward 2 weeks and we are still having to carry her outside, she is only able to put the slightest amount of pressure on her leg and the vet is telling us we are approaching the end of the road.



So I turn in moments like this, to things that give me comfort. My mom used to fill the house with the scent of fresh baked bread, homemade raspberry jam, our deep freeze was always full of cookies she had made and her cinnamon buns to this day still haunt my dreams with their deliciousness.

I knew I was looking for the ultimate 'nostalgic comfort sweet' and what better way to get there than to bake something using raspberry jam - which has always reminded me of home, of my nona's garden and of summer (which we all need a reminder of at the moment).

Please note that below, I say the Double Devon cream is 'optional'. I don't really mean it ;). It absolutely should be included, but let's just assume you don't have a jar in your fridge at all times (not saying that I do), the tart is still delicious on it's own.


The 25 minute raspberry tart (adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver)


12 frozen tart shells

1 egg

1 cup flax meal

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 tbsp unsalted butter

Zest of one large orange

English Style Double Devon Cream (optional)

1 tbsp of brandy vanilla extract

Good quality raspberry jam



Preheat your oven to 375 and get your tart shells out of the freezer and place on a cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, flax seed meal, sugar, butter, orange zest and brandy vanilla extract and stir thoroughly.

Add a small dollop of the egg mixture into the tart shell, layer a small dollop of raspberry jam and repeat one more time.

Place in the oven and cook for 18 minutes until nicely browned. Remove from oven and serve with a little bit of English Style Double Devon Cream.


This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.


February 2014: A Canadian Worth Watching

Photo credit: Sauer and Steiner Toolworks

In my previous life, before I became a full time preserver, pickler and jam maker I worked in Marketing. I started off my career in packaged goods, spent a while in traditional marketing and eventually ended up in digital marketing. In the span of years where I was working in traditional marketing I had the pleasure of working with Konrad Sauer. He was an art director at an agency where I was a Project Manager. Kon and I got along like a house on fire. Not only did we work well together but we enjoyed one another's company. He got my sarcastic sense of humour and I think I can go so far as to say he even appreciated it.

Kon took the leap and followed his dreams well before I even knew what my dreams were. See, not only was Konrad an extremely talented designer but Konrad had a talent for woodworking like few others and he had a passion for wood planes.

He had been doing woodworking for long enough to realize that there were not a lot of people out there making quality wood planes and he decided to start a business doing just that. Like me, Konrad didn't just quit his day job and launch into his new business overnight. He moonlighted for quite some time. Being an art director by day and a husband, father and wood plane builder by night. Eventually the time came where he knew it was time to transition and he hasn't looked back since.

Photo credit: Sauer and Steiner Toolworks

I cheered Konrad and his decision to follow his dreams on from the sidelines, and occasionally sit down to read his blog and admire his work. I believe him to be one of the most talented people I know and I am thrilled for the success he has achieved. And I know that Konrad is sitting on the sideline cheering me on in my new venture. 

You should really take a few moments and get lost in his blog. His projects are amazing, his approach is fascinating and the work he does is astounding. He is a Canadian to keep an eye on.

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

January 2014: A Canadian Resolution

I love lists. Yes, that may sound strange, but it is true. Nothing pleases me more than a well thought out list, except maybe the joy of crossing things off that list. What a sense of accomplishment that simple act of putting a line through something on your list produces.

So it may now seem strange for a list lover like myself to admit that I have never really been the type to make New Year’s Resolutions. It almost seems like when you make a resolution you are just putting something up on a ‘What I will Fail at This Year’ list. And while that in itself is a list, it isn’t the kind of list I love.

Instead I try to set goals for myself that include a sublist of all of the steps required to help me achieve that goal. These goals don’t get set out at the onset of a New Year, it is an ongoing process; things get added, things get removed.

There are a couple of items on this list that I will share with you. The first is something I knew would be a struggle the moment I decided to hand in my resignation at my full time marketing job back in May of 2013 and go full time on my small preserving business. 

1)   Work/life balance.

While 2013 was a wonderful year filled with many great and wonderful exciting things for Manning Canning, it was definitely a year that fell heavier into the work side of the pendulum. It was to be expected and I weathered the storm, but in 2014 I am going to make a real effort on swinging that back over just a touch.

2)   Carry on family traditions.

Just over a year ago, my nonna passed away. She was 96, she went peacefully in her sleep as she always wanted and she had lived a good life. But after she passed, the hole that she left behind started to feel larger and larger with each passing day. I thought about all that our family had lost with her passing. Not just her presence, but the memories of the past and the skills she brought to the family unit.

I started to want to learn to make all of the wonderful things that she used to bake, I wanted to somehow carry on whatever bits of her knowledge that I could. Last year, I took on her infamous butterhorns and cream puffs and on the list for this year is her Italian Sweet Bread and her gnocchi to start.

My first attempt at the sweet bread produced a heavy, dense bread that was nothing like the light, fluffy bread she would make in her coal/wood burning stove. I could blame my instruments but in actuality I know it is my own personal skills that need tuning. I am not fazed by my failure, quite the opposite. It feels like a challenge and one that I am going to enjoy facing head on. After all, my nona made that bread hundreds of times. I am sure her first batch was not the 'light as air' loaf that I remember from my childhood.

Whatever your approach to your New Year's Resolutions may be, I hope you all succeed at the one's that are the most important to you.

Happy New Year!

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

December 2013: A Drayton Valley Christmas Tradition

I grew up in a small town in Alberta called Drayton Valley with my mom and 4 older sisters. Christmas was generally a very busy time of year as we spent it with my Mom’s brother (Uncle Rudy) and his wife (Auntie Dena) and their 3 kids as well as my nona (grandma).

We alternated locations each year. One year everyone descended on our house and bedrooms were overflowing, couches transformed into beds and the house was filled with the smell of Christmas cake, polenta, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti sauce, etc. And then the next year, we would pack up the car and travel to Sparwood, BC where we would all stay at my nona’s house and travel back and forth across the yard to my Aunt and Uncle’s. Here the food wasn’t that much different, except you could always count on a bowl of hot soup for lunch.

 As you can imagine, a house filled with 4 adults and 8 kids got pretty rambunctious at this time of year. We were in and out of the house all day long traipsing snow across my mother’s porch when we were told to come in for lunch. The sound of someone running up and down the stairs was almost a constant, like a drum beating. Laughter (or cackling) practically shook the windows as stories were told, Christmas movies were watched and the teasing commenced.

As a child, my nona had a wood burning stove in her basement. And this is where she would bake her bread, her butterhorns and something so delicious that to do this day my mouth waters simply at the memory – cream puffs.

Christmas, simply would not have been Christmas without them.

Quick and Delicious Cream Puffs

Cream Puff Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour

1/8 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

Filling ingredients

2 cups Whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pot and then add butter and salt. Stir over heat until butter melts and then bring the mixture to a vigorous boil. Add the cup of flour and continue to stir until dough forms a soft ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Fold in eggs one at a time and stir them into the mixture briskly until the mixture thickens and becomes quite stiff. Repeat this process with the remaining 3 eggs. Using a spoon,  place the mixture on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the puffs cool on the counter, you can make the filling. Place the 2 cups of whipping cream into a medium sized bowl and using an egg beater, whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and the vanilla. You can also choose to add chocolate or raspberry jam or a combination of other tasty ingredients should you choose.

Slice the cooled cream puffs in half and spoon in your filling of choice.

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary


November 2013: The Canadian Harvest in Ontario

I took the dog out for a walk yesterday as I do every day. We are fortunate that we live in an area of the city where we are only 5 minutes away from great paths through the forests which are perfect for her. I have been able to watch the changing of the seasons on my daily walks. In the spring you get to watch with excitement as the young buds begin to poke their way up through the dead leaves and everything begins to peel back the brown and become vibrant green once again.

In the summer each week seemed to produce a different flower in bloom and countless types of birds tweeting, chirping and fluttering through the trees.

And now fall has arrived and the leaves are changing colour and falling back down to the earth to start the cycle all over again.

I put my vegetable garden to bed last weekend. It was a great year for my garden. The cucumbers and green beans went absolutely wild and I could barely preserve fast enough before it was time to go outside and pick some more. Lettuce, arugula, sorrel and rocket grew like weeds and in such quantities that the few rabbits in our backyard could do little to spoil our harvest, although they certainly tried. I made pesto from the basil, hung lavender and sage to dry in the kitchen, pickled the cucumbers and crunched on the carrots. I never wanted it to end.

Our 12 tomato plants grew heavy with the weight of tomatoes in late September but sadly their season started too late so we ended up with a lot of tomatoes that stayed green right up until the first frost. In previous years, I have always picked the green tomatoes and simply added them to the compost. But last year this changed. I couldn't bring myself to compost all of these beautiful tomatoes and so my experimenting in the kitchen began.


I dug out my husband's grandmother's recipe for pickled green tomatoes and made a batch. I adapted that recipe and made another batch. But then I stumbled on green tomato gold - a recipe for green tomato salsa. After reviewing the recipe I decided right off the start to make a few changes. First off, if this was going to keep me warm through the winter months it needed to be spicier. So I got to work and I think if you get to work with this recipe you will not be disappointed.

Green Tomato Salsa (adapted from

5 lbs green tomatoes, chopped small
4 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup jalapenos, chopped with seeds
3 large red bell peppers, chopped small
8 large garlic cloves, minced or chopped small
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 -2 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large pot, stirring to mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until you reach desired consistency.

Bring salsa to a rolling boil.

Ladle salsa into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe lids and jar edges clean before finger tightening lids and placing them back in the hot water bath. Process (boil) jars for 15 minutes.

OCTOBER 2013 Preserving: Our Canadian Food Tradition

I can't believe a month has passed and once again it is time to post for the The Canadian Food Experience and that this month I get to talk about something that means so much to me personally.

Sometimes I take my preserving skills for granted. It is just something I feel like I have always known how to do without actually remembering being taught. I feel fortunate to have grown up in a family where jam was always homemade, peaches were preserved so they could be enjoyed in the middle of winter and pickles were always available and on a shelf in the basement.

I always assumed that it was the same in everyone’s house. That when you ran out of jam you went downstairs and could choose from the selection of jams that always seemed to be there; raspberry, peach, cherry or blueberry.  Not that you ran to the grocery store or put it on the grocery list.

I remember vividly sitting on my nona’s front step with my mom and my aunt shelling peas that had just been picked from the garden, making raspberry jam from the raspberries we just picked out of my aunt and my nona’s garden.

I never thought it was weird that I knew the meanings of words such as suspension, headspace, set and waterbath at an age when my friends were talking about smurfs, then Sweet Valley High or Flowers in the Attic.

I spent almost 2 decades working in packaged goods, fashion and digital marketing before I finally found what I now consider my “calling” and it turned out to be preserving. And of course, it was something that had been sitting there right in front of my eyes for years.

Recently I was asked what my favourite thing to preserve was and without hesitation my answer was Raspberry Jam. I love absolutely everything about it. I look forward to raspberry picking from the moment the last snow flake melts, I love the smell of the raspberries as they cook, I thoroughly enjoy beating the crap out of the berries to release the pectin from their seeds and I love spreading the deliciousness on my morning jam.

This recipe was the very first jam I ever made and I love it for it's simplicity. It is how my mom made her raspberry jam and one day, I hope it is how you will make your own raspberry jam. Just remember…if you don’t feel like making your own you can always just buy it from me ;).

Super Simple and Delicious Raspberry Jam

600 gram bag of fresh or frozen raspberries

3 cups granulated sugar

Sterilize your jars and lids.

Place the sugar in a pot or pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes at about 250 degrees. Warming the sugar helps it to dissolve.

Place the 600g of raspberries in a large saucepan and heat over medium high heat. While it warms mash it furiously with your potato masher. The seeds in the raspberry contain pectin and beating the crap out of them helps release it. :) Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly for one minute.

Add the 3 cups of warm sugar, stir constantly and bring it back to a boil. If you have a candy thermometer you can use this to make the whole process even easier. Keep stirring until it reaches 200-220* F. Don't have a thermometer? That's ok, just put a glass plate in your freezer at the same time as you start to sterilize your jars. After the jam has been boiling for about 5 minutes, take the plate out of the freezer and drop about a half of a spoonful of jam on the cold plate and let it sit for about a minute. If a gel forms then your jam is ready. If not keep cooking and try it again until you are happy with the set.

Ladle into hot jars, wipe the rims and seal. Place in hot water bath for 10 minutes and then remove. Now comes my favourite part - when you hear the popping of the lids as they seal.

This recipe yields 3-4 jars of delicious home made jam. That's your FACE store bought jam.



September 2013: My Most Cherished Canadian Recipe

This month’s challenge for The Canadian Food Experience really had me spinning my wheels and asking myself the same question over and over again. “What IS my cherished Canadian Recipe?” Having grown up in a predominately Italian household I struggled to even determine what would make a recipe qualify as ‘Canadian’.

Did it need to include Maple Syrup, venison or poutine in order to fit the bill? Would my mother’s gnocchi recipe not qualify (even though when I know she is making it I tend not to eat anything past breakfast so I can completely gorge myself on dinner)?

I was born and raised in Alberta, so I contemplated putting forth my Auntie Dena’s meatloaf recipe which I always make with Alberta beef that my sister ships to me from her farm every year. If the ingredients are Canadian does that make the recipe Canadian?

After a while, I decided that really there is no right answer. I am Canadian and even if this recipe happens to have been passed down to my mom from my Nona and then passed down onto me, it is still the Canadian recipe that I cherish the most.

Why do I cherish it? There are many different answers to that question. The most obvious being that it is delicious and every single person who has ever tried it – loves it. The less obvious reason is because this recipe has so many different memories interwoven into it.

My nona used to make these on her wood burning stove in the basement and as a child I wouldn’t even wait for them to fully cool on the counter before I ate them. My mom taught me how to make them and each time I make they get closer and closer to being as good as hers, but I know I still have a long way to go. And finally, my mom made them for dessert at my wedding and it was great to be able to share them with all my closest friends and family on such a wonderful day.

You may be wondering what these delights are – well they are called Butterhorns and I am really excited to be sharing the recipe here again on my blog.

Mouthwatering Butterhorns


Yeast mixture

1 cup of lukewarm water

2 tbsp yeast (2 packages traditional not quickrising)

2 tsp sugar

Butterhorn Mixture

1 cup milk

1 cup butter

4 cups flour

3 tbsp sugar

1tsp salt

2 egg yolks



2 cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp milk (if you need more add a little at a time)

1 cup of walnuts



Scalp one cup of milk in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove. Add 1 cup of butter, stir and then cool in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.

In a separate bowl combine lukewarm water, yeast and sugar and stir until fully mixed. Sit on the countertop for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to rise.

In a medium sized bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt and egg yolks and then add the fully risen yeast mixture and the cooled scalded butter/milk mixture. Stir until fully mixed. Cover the top of the bowl with saran wrap and leave in the fridge for approximately 5 hours or overnight.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and on a large cutting board or flat surface, sprinking a light layer of flour to ensure the dough mixture does not stick. Cut a softball size piece of the mixture using a small knife and using a rolling pin, roll the mixture out to the size of a medium pizza (approximately 8-10 inches in diameter). Grabbing one side of the mixture roll the dough into the shape of a sausage roll and cut into 2" strips. Take the individual strips and put down into a small flat ball and place on a cookie sheet coated with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

Cover with clean dish towel and let rise for 40 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and cook for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

While the butterhorns are in the oven, prepare the icing mixture. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl including the walnuts. Add additional milk slowly if the mixture is not spreadable.

Once butterhorns have cooked fully, remove from the oven and add the icing mixture immediately. And if these babies straight out of the oven with the icing sugar mixture still melting don't make your eyes roll back a little in your head, I don't know what will.

So make yourself a batch, sit down somewhere nice and quiet and take a look at all the amazing Canadian stories being shared through the Canadian Food Experience from east to west. We hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.



Ontario Canadian Food Hero: Brian Hamlin

Photo: Fairmount Farmer's Market

There are only a few flavours that I have come across in my lifetime that no matter how many times I taste, I just can't convince my tastebuds that they are anything less than horrible. I have swayed them over the years that olives can be enjoyed and they are even starting to believe that venison is edible, but the two flavours resisting all attempts are watermelon and honey.

But now I have someone else on my side working to convince my tastebuds that not only is honey delicious naturally but once flavoured it can become otherworldly and his name is Brian Hamlin.

I have the pleasure of being at a couple of the same Farmer's Markets in the Greater Toronto Area with Brian and even though his honey hasn't fully convinced my taste buds to enjoy the flavour, Brian has my husband and I contemplating keeping bees ourselves. He speaks passionately and articulately about the importance of bees and breaks down any mental barriers one might have when it comes to the thoughts of keeping bees yourself. We all know how important bees are to agriculture and articles like this that came out earlier this summer simply reinforce their importance.

But honey is not only important to our local agriculture, it has huge health benefits, that Brian talks about in this article.

Brian is a self described hippy who has been keeping bees for almost four decades and his passion for his bees is completely contagious. His bees are raised as naturally as possible. He keeps them away from sprayed fields and uses no antibiotics or sugars. But it wasn't just his delicious honey which my husband eats by the heaping spoonful or his laid back personality that has us leaning towards beekeeping.

First off Brian has hives in suburban as well as downtown locations. They are not all out in the country as one would imagine. He has hives on the Toronto Islands, at the UTSC (University of Toronto Scarborough Campus) and even the 8th floor of University of Toronto's New College at College and Spadina. According to Brian, the diverse vegetation in the city changes the flavour of the honey leading to more complex tastes than honey from rural areas, where bees generally gather pollen from mono-cropped fields.

Photo: Fairmount Farmer's Market

He uses his beekeeping as an educational tool to promote awareness of local food sustainability and the importance of pollination for environmental health. Honeybees pollinate crops and flowers, and have taken on greater importance lately given the population decline of other pollinators like butterflies and wild bees. He is active in the Urban Toronto Beekeepers Association and the mentor of the University of Toronto students bee club.
He talks a lot about how even though bees are just small insects that they play a huge roll in our survival and when he talks, others listen. He may just be a small Ontario beekeeper, but he is collecting a hive of followers in his path.
Brian's passion and commitment to Ontario bees, his local presence at farmer's markets and his mentorship of students is why he is my Canadian Food Experience Regional Food Hero for August.

Photo: Fairmount Farmer's Market

The Canadian Food Experience is a collection of Canadian bloggers sharing our stories through regional perspective bringing clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.