When I got an email a month or two after Organic Manifesto came out inviting me to come to Saskatoon and speak at the biannual Organic Connections Canadian Organic Farmers Conference, I thought…now, that sounds like a grand adventure. So of course I said yes. I mean, how cold could Saskatoon be in November?
Checking the weather the week before I left freaked me out a bit. Minus 18?! Minus 33?! Ouch. I soon found out that those were Celsius measurements, not my pathetic stateside Fahrenheit. But even so, on the ground the temperature never went above, say, 5 degrees F—in other words, cold! But it wasn’t too bad. I even went for a run one day along the South Saskatchewan River. On my way out, I ran along with the slow and steady ice flows, and on my way back I ran against them. It didn’t get light until about 8:30 a.m., and it got dark early, so there was this really cool sense of extended dawn and twilight.
But here is what surprised me the most: Saskatchewan is part of what’s known as the Canadian Prairie—no mountains in sight. AND, they grow lentils and chickpeas (also known as pulses), and mustard seed. In fact, they grow lentils and chickpeas to ship overseas to India, where they are packaged and then sent right back. Same with mustard seed (sent to France, to be made into Grey Poupon).
However, we did not see any farms because it was dark, snowy, and cold. Funny, though, we didn’t see a single snow plow (and the roads were not clear).
Anyway, as I’ve said before, I love organic farmers, and I had a great time talking with and learning from those at the conference. My favorite moment was when, after my talk, one older gentleman with a winter-chapped face confided that since he went organic about 11 years ago he finally feels like he’s “taken back control” of his farm from the chemical companies. His satisfied expression told me that was a good thing.
On our last night (Lou came with me because for some odd reason he loves cold weather—fortunately, he was declared by Debbie to be both decorative and useful), we went to an incredible little farm-to-table restaurant called Weczeria. While there weren’t many fresh veggies or fruits to choose from this time of year, what we did have was incredible. A delicious leek and salsify soup with truffle oil was clean and peppery. Pink trout over Canadian lentils with a buerre blanc sauce (and more salsify) was perfect, and yummy for a cold winter night.
Adventure it was. I love the idea of going to a new place—unexpected and largely undiscovered by the masses—and finding so many good things. But everywhere I go, I find the best good thing of all is the same: the people. And that was true in Saskatoon, too.