After accessing the free, confidential, one-on-one counselling offered through the MFWP the farmer expressed, “A true highlight of the 2022 growing season for me was finding out about and using the counselling services provided by MFWP. Not only was it encouraging to hear that such a program exists, my sessions with Kim provided me with valuable perspective and insight towards how my own mental health is connected to the health of my farm.”
The unsolicited feedback was valuable confirmation for the MFWP board that they were providing a useful and needed service.
This impactful program was created by farmers for farmers to offer a safe, flexible way to get help. Why? They understand the many challenges that come with farming. They know how difficult it can be to know where to turn for help when stress on the farm begins to feel overwhelming.
A 2021 survey of farmer mental health found 76 per cent of farmers said they were currently experiencing moderate or high perceived stress. Suicide ideation was twice as high in farmers compared to the general population.
Research has found three main reasons to explain why many farmers do not seek the support they need: a lack of accessibility to mental health supports and services, mental health stigma in the agricultural community and a lack of anonymity.
The MFWP has addressed these three concerns. Improving mental health, increasing accessibility to support and decreasing stigma are their pillars to achieve the goal of safe, strong, healthy farm families.
Since March 1, 2022 they have offered free, one-on-one, short term counselling to farmers and their immediate family members. This year, the non-profit organization would like to raise funds to support 160 Manitoba farm families, and increase awareness about the program with industry, farmers and health care professionals.
Currently four counsellors, all with an understanding of agriculture, are available — during the day, evenings or on weekends to accommodate farmers’ unique schedules. It can be in person, by telephone or video chat depending on preference.
With spring arriving late in Manitoba this year, anxiety and stress are already starting to build in the ag community. Whether it be the stress of farming, or any other life circumstance impacting mental health and wellness, having the MFWP available to farmers and their families in our province is invaluable.
Appointments can be booked online here or by using this QR code.
If you would like to support this much-needed service, donations can be e-transferred to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
Garden tomatoes are ripening and soon the saucy scent of simmering salsa will be wafting from my kitchen. For those of you who’ve asked, here’s the recipe!
Salsa was my very first venture into canning. The initial result was decent, but my husband said, “It’s good, but not as good as Donald’s.”
Donald was a teammate in rec hockey. When it was snack night, the other players always counted on Donald bringing his salsa. One fall, I asked if would share his recipe. He didn’t really have one, but gave me some direction, “Blanche and peel tomatoes until the pot is full.” Okay, how big a pot? “5 quarts, I think.”
He offered some rough guesstimates on the amount of peppers, onion and celery, and said he’d often add some oregano and basil. My garden herbs are usually past their prime by the time I make salsa and I found it didn’t really make a difference, so I omit them.
I did my best to follow his guidance, added more peppers and onions to get the ratio I preferred, and this is the result.
You can do the same thing here. Adjust the recipe to your taste, or what you have on hand, and make it your own!
I know this is a lot of chopping, and yes, you can use a food processor if your really want, but it’s not what I recommend. I prefer to have the veggies more intact in my salsa. Chop according to the size and consistency you prefer.
It does take time, but if you put on a good playlist or podcast, pour a beverage of choice and/or enlist someone to help, the time goes by fast. And trust me, the results are worth it!
This recipe has received rave reviews from friends and family. It’s made its way into many care packages and is often a gift when we’re invited out to dinner. One set of friends actually hides it when their adult kids come over to visit so they don’t have to share!
It’s been called, “The best salsa ever!”, but I’m not sure about that. I think I must be a missing secret ingredient, because I never did manage to get quite as good as Donald’s!
12 cups peeled & chopped fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons pickling salt
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups chopped peppers (8 to 12 seeded & chopped jalapeno peppers plus enough green, red or yellow peppers to make 4 cups in total)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups pickling vinegar
1 — 156 ml can tomato paste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Set a standard, 5-quart, colander in a large bowl. Peel and chop tomatoes until colander is heaping full (about 12 cups). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp pickling salt and set aside to drain while you prepare your other vegetables.
Chop onions, celery, peppers and garlic. Check the colander of tomatoes, if there’s a large amount of juice in the bowl, remove 1 to 1 1/2 cups and set aside. (See note below.*)
Combine chopped tomatoes, remaining juice, celery, onions, spices and vinegar in a 5-quart dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes.
Add chopped peppers and garlic. Simmer another 20 to 30 minutes. Add tomato paste to thicken. Stir well and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Set on a cooling rack for 24 hours.
Enjoy with your favourite corn chips, on tacos, nachos, burgers, baked potatoes, in omelettes or soups — wherever you want a bit of zip and a taste of summer from the garden!
*Note: The amount of liquid will depend on the the variety of tomatoes you’re using. If you’re using all roma tomatoes (they are fleshier with less juice) this likely isn’t necessary, but I use a mix of varieties from my garden. Setting the excess juice aside prevents a watery salsa and reduces boiling time. You can always add more back in at the end to get your desired consistency. I freeze the leftover juice to add to soups in the winter.
Proud of our family’s contribution in growing food and ingredients for you!
Beyond that beautiful sea of yellow canola blossoms, within the bluff of trees on the horizon, is home.
Our house. Our farmyard. The place we plan, dream and hope. Where we’ve made, and are still making memories. Where we watch the weather. Wish for rain, for sun, and for both in the right amounts, at the right time.
My husband’s great-grandparents and their family came from Scotland and settled here over 90 years ago.
June 2021 will mark thirty-two years of it being my home. Thirty year-two years of marriage and farm life — of learning and adapting, of challenges and rewards. I fell in love with my farmer and this vast, beautiful prairie landscape. We raised our two children here, cultivating values which have enabled them to follow their dreams.
This photo evokes many memories and emotions. Among them — gratitude and pride in being part of a family farm, caring for the land entrusted to us by our ancestors, growing food for Canadians and people around the world, all while making a living on the land we love.
Some people see dirt, but this is soil — a living, dynamic ecosystem. The foundation of farming. Caring for it is crucial for growing healthy crops, now and into the future.
Farmers work with agronomists and soil scientists to make decisions which will create and keep our land healthy. We are continually learning how to best do this by testing our soils, choosing proper tillage techniques, rotating the crops we grow, incorporating organic matter, reducing compaction and loss of nutrients.
Education is ongoing and when we know better, we do better. Soil type, texture, structure and density vary from field to field and farm to farm, so techniques to care for it will also vary. But ultimately farmers strive to be stewards of the land and do our very best to care for the soil that sustains us all.
Hands down, one of my favourite farm pics to date.
Like the majority of my photos, I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time. I was out for an evening walk with our dog, and as the sun was setting, my farmer stopped to make sure he had enough canola seed and fertilizer in the seeder (planter) to finish the field he was working in that night.
The light was magical, the cool spring air was still and rich with the scent of freshly worked soil. This photo elicits so much emotion. It speaks to the dedication and determination it takes to farm. To the advancements we are fortunate to have compared with our ancestors. To how my life has been enriched by living here, being a part of our family farm and this amazing industry.
Wheat in the early stages, months before it turns into the iconic waving fields of gold many people envision when they think of this crop.
As farmers we do all we can to ensure that our crops stay healthy and flourish over the growing season. But despite our best efforts, we also need faith, hope and optimism. Ultimately, Mother Nature holds the key. The right amount of rain and sunshine are beyond our control, as are hail, frost or other adverse weather conditions that can damage or destroy our crops.
But at this point, I choose to see the potential of this ‘food in progress’. I like to envision a healthy crop of wheat being harvested, then finding its way to flour mills around Canada and the world. A small portion is always reserved for my pantry, to be used in the cookies, cakes and muffins I like to bake.
Miss Sage, sitting attentively in our truck, waiting for the tractor and seeder (planter) in the distance to come around the field to where we are parked. We had brought lunch out to the field for my farmer. Sage knows he’s in there, and also knows there’s a good chance he’ll share a bit of that lunch with her!
She is our second dog — both were city-dogs who came from owners who were moving and looking for a good home for their much-loved pets. Both adapted to farm life well — lots of space to run and play, long walks and even tractor rides.
A wonderful transition for them, but so much more for us. Yes, they warn us when someone comes into our farmyard, but they also provide companionship. And when things go wrong — whether it’s machinery breaking down at a critical time or crops being damaged from drought, hail or flooding — our farm dog plays the role of counsellor. Either with a goofy smile and playful greeting, or simply sitting silently beside you, guiding your hand to the top of their head. That, along with unconditional love and joy they bring into our lives makes them an invaluable member of our farm family.
Up until 11 years ago, cattle were a part of our family farm. Our herd was small, only 30 to 40 cows and calves. This time of year would be filled with the excitement and challenges of cows giving birth.
But there came a time when it no longer made financial sense to keep our small herd. We either had to acquire more animals, which meant a large investment in them, shelter, equipment and more pasture, or sell our herd and focus solely on the grain and oilseed part of our operation.
Economically, it was an easy decision. Emotionally it was difficult. Cattle had been on our farm for generations. It requires dedication and a love for animals to work with them. And there are always those extra special animals who form an exceptional bond with you. There were many mixed emotions the day they left our farm.
I’ve walked countless miles on this country road — almost always with camera in hand. It’s exercise, but it’s also a moving meditation. A time to clear my mind and reset. A time to focus on what’s around me. To capture moments and memories — of crops growing, native flowers in the ditches, butterflies, birds, wildlife, the ever-changing prairie skies and in the winter snowscapes and drifts.
Last October, we had a day of sunshine, scattered showers and temperature swings. I didn’t have high expectations for photos with the growing season over and the unpredictable weather. But as the sun and rain clouds grappled for dominance in the sky, this rainbow arced over our farmyard, behind the bluff of trees. No pot of gold, but a beautiful surprise that brightened my day and made for a memorable walk. Views like this are one of the side-benefits of farming and living on the Canadian Prairies.
A September evening during harvest. The sky made a beautiful backdrop for the silhouettes of grain bins and trees in our farmyard. A peaceful look for a very busy spot that time of year.
Harvest is the ‘red carpet’ event of farming. The combine (harvester) in the field gathering crops is the ‘star’ of the show.
The farmyard is where all the ‘backstage’ hustle and bustle happens to keep the show going. It’s where equipment is stored. A place for repairs, maintenance, refueling, organizing. It’s where the crop is hauled to by truck, then unloaded into storage bins until it can be sold.
It’s where everything harvested is double checked for moisture content and quality. Where samples from each truckload are collected and kept to share with the Canadian Grain Commission and companies who buy our crop.
When harvest conditions aren’t ideal and the moisture content of a crop is too high to store safely, this is where it is ‘dried’. Using a grain dryer adds to the hustle and bustle with extra steps, time and cost. But when the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s a neccessary step to ensure crop quality.
The farmyard is where plans are made and days are organized. It’s a place of frustration when things go wrong and gratitude when everything runs smoothly.
This ‘backstage’ is often overlooked during harvest, but it’s the driving force behind the show. And while I do love a beautiful combine silhouette shot as much as the next person, I was happy to capture our farmyard in this magic evening light. 🙌
Harvest is an exciting time of year as you reap the rewards of a full year of planning, working and hoping the weather is favourable. Not only to grow healthy crops that yield well, but also weather which allows you to quickly and efficiently harvest those crops in top condition.
This photo captures both the beauty and significance of harvest. The setting sun is over top of the “hopper”, (the part of the combine where the harvested seeds collect after they have been separated from the stems and leaves of the plants). One of my favourite harvest sunset shots to date.
This old black and white aerial photo shows our farmyard four generations ago.
My husband’s great-grandparents settled here in 1926, a second move after immigrating from Scotland in 1922. They wanted a farm with trees, good drinking water and soil without stones. This site fit the criteria to make living and farming here better.
Much has changed since then, but reminders of our past remain with some of the buildings repurposed or repaired. The barn loft was lowered and became our machine shed. Old steel wheels and pieces of harrow bar grace my flower beds and garden. Picture frames have been made from discarded barn windows. Our kitchen table and chairs are crafted from wooden barn beams.
It’s important to remember our history. To look back with gratitude on the hard work, determination and resilience of our ancestors which ensured we too could farm, make a life and a living here.
What the heck is Cowboy Caviar? I’d never heard of it before stopping for take-out from one of our favourite restaurants, Farmhouse 50 in Minnedosa, Manitoba.
I was picking up their fabulous pizza and wings special when I spied “Cowboy Caviar” in their Grab ‘n Go section. Intrigued, I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it a try!” This innocent looking bean-veggie-salsa-combo was AMAZING and devoured by our family in no time flat.
And then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! But, with the restaurant an hour and a half away, it wasn’t possible to just pop back for more. So the next day, I started experimenting. Once I came up with a combination of ingredients and a dressing that was a hit with the family, I asked a few friends to recipe test for me. The reviews were great with one suggestion to add the zest from the lime. Genius! Thank you Ellen Pruden!
With a little research I found out Cowboy Caviar, originally named Texas Caviar, was created in the 1940s by Helen Corbitt, an accomplished and formidable Home Economist, teacher, chef and cookbook author. She made the dish, after a request to serve a dinner with Texas-only products, using black-eyed peas, garlic, onion, vinegar and oil. When you search ‘cowboy caviar’ today, there are over 3,000,000 results. Reading about Ms. Corbitt, I’m not sure how she would feel about the evolution and popularity of her creation.
You’ll find no black-eyed peas in this recipe. It uses Canadian-grown pulses — lentils, black beans and chickpeas, and of course, Canadian canola oil.
Feel free to put your own spin on this recipe. Don’t like chickpeas? Replace the amount with more lentils or black beans. Hate cilantro? Use parsley. Not sure about the garlic? Try it without. Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Drain and chop canned tomatoes.
Just so you know this recipe makes 12 cups. Yes, it seems like a lot, but it’s addictive. And versatile. And delicious.
I love it as a salsa with tortilla chips, but it’s also fabulous on its own a side salad, or a snack to avert becoming hangry. Toss it with greens or pasta. Use it in omelettes or quesadillas. Get creative!
And if you really can’t see yourself using 12 cups, share away! Who wouldn’t want a surprise delivery of this tasty, satisfying snack with a bag of tortilla chips delivered to their door?
Canadian Cowboy Caviar
1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed
2 cups sweet corn, frozen & thawed, or canned
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped or ¼ cup finely chopped bell peppers (any colour)
1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup canola oil
3 tbsp lime juice (1 — 2 limes)
zest from lime(s)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
*Chop garlic and set aside.
Drain and rinse black beans, chickpeas and lentils. Put in large bowl. Add corn. Chop tomatoes, red onion, peppers and cilantro. Toss all ingredients together, including garlic.
In a small bowl, whisk together dressing. Pour over top of ingredients, and mix.
Makes 12 cups. Serve immediately or store covered in the fridge.
Appetizer with tortilla chips
Salad topping on your choice of greens
Perfect with pasta, hot or cold
*Pro-tip for garlic from Professional Home Economist Mairlyn Smith – “For its antioxidants to become more bio-available, garlic needs to oxidize before it is added to a recipe. By letting it sit there “breathing” the oxidation can take place.”
A crop which would have gone to waste in 2016, inspired an act of giving. It then became an intentional event — with over 120,000 lbs of potatoes donated in three years.
In 2019, it was a welcome, joyful way to end a trying, exhausting year for one Manitoba farm family. It speaks to the importance of community, giving back and reducing food waste while creating a positive, uplifting environment to make connections and share farm-to-food stories. This story is an example of the kindness, determination and resilience of farmers.
Giving away 44,000 lbs potatoes was the highlight of 2019 for Mark and Yanara Peters of Spruce Drive Farms. They grow certified seed potatoes on their farm 12 miles northwest of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
With a less-than-average crop and a year filled with challenges, the Peters family wasn’t sure they would have enough potatoes to fill their contracts, let alone any to give away.
The growing season was filled with adverse weather conditions — far too dry when the crop was developing, excessive rains, early, heavy snowfalls in the fall — and mud. So. Much. Mud. Then an unprecedented 10-day power outage from an early October storm added another layer of stress — keeping generators running so potatoes already dug and in storage did not spoil. Harvest was incredibly slow, difficult and late. Overall, the farming year was physically and emotionally draining.
Yet, late in the fall, when Mother Nature gave a brief window of opportunity, the Peters family took advantage and dug two extra truck loads of their crop, specifically for a Community Potato Give-Away in Portage la Prairie. From past experience, they knew it filled a need and also how good it felt to give.
“This year more than ever we were good and ready for a pick-me-up,” Yanara Peters expressed as she smiled and patted Mark’s hand.
People gathering spuds along the 36-foot conveyor at the Community Potato Give-Away
It all began in 2016 as a result of circumstance. Seed potato production standards are very precise. That year, some of the Peters’ crop did not meet seed specifications but was perfectly suitable for the consumer market. However, without a contract to sell consumer potatoes, there was no place for those spuds to go. They could have left them in the field and avoided incurring more costs, but that type of waste didn’t sit well with them. They opted to dig the crop and the “Community Potato Give-Away” was born.
Fueled by its success, and the gratification they felt afterwards, the event continued in 2017. “It’s only potatoes, but it just brought so much to the community,” Mark said. “It’s a great opportunity to interact with people and hear their stories. The most basic need is being met with the most basic vegetable.”
But in 2018, Mother Nature had other plans. After an extremely wet fall, cold temperatures on October 11th froze 5,200 acres of unharvested potatoes in Manitoba. The Peters family was disheartened to lose what remained of their crop. What they had hoped would become an annual event was now not possible.
“We had them in the field, but when we got that early frost, that was it,” stated Mark. “We were disappointed, but that’s how it (farming) is. People understand.”
Mark Peters overlooking the crowd while unloading potatos onto the conveyor
Then, smiling, he went on, “I didn’t expect to be able to do it this year, because it was so late. After the power-outage and storm, I really didn’t think we’d be out there again. Once we realized we could, every load was just a gift — not expected at all, but so appreciated.”
It speaks volumes about the Peters family that they really don’t want to discuss the extra effort, time and cost it takes to do the give-away, but they were quick to acknowledge their employees who helped dig and grade the potatoes (removing mud and spoiled potatoes). When their crew knew those last loads were slated for giving, they generously donated their time.
So on Saturday, November 2, 2019, Mark and Yanara hosted their 3rd event. Family and friends readily volunteered to help. The day was cool, but thankfully the temperature hovered just above the freezing mark. They loaded two potato trucks and a 36-foot conveyor and drove the 12 miles to Portage la Prairie. They arrived early to set up, but with word spreading through social media and the local radio station, a crowd soon gathered.
Carrots donated by Connery Riverdale Farms
Peters and his volunteers moved quickly to get potatoes rolling out from the truck onto the conveyor to ease pick-up. Two large totes (about 3,000 lbs) of carrots donated by another local producer, Connery’s Riverdale Farms, added an unexpected bonus for those stopping by for spuds.
People came with bags, boxes, containers of all shapes and sizes to fill, not only for themselves, but for others — relatives, friends, shut-ins, those in need but with no transportation to get there. This is exactly the kind of giving and community building the Peters hoped to inspire when they had their very first give-away.
Conversations about why the potatoes were so muddy, and smaller than normal, created opportunities to talk about the realities of farming. Yes, the give-away is usually in mid-October, but the potatoes were still in the field then.
What makes the day so special though, is hearing the stories: potatoes going to a school lunch program and to families from that school; a young mom from India who has been here for nine years, delivering spuds to eight new Canadian families; a couple not taking for themselves, but for those in need in their neighbourhood. One gentleman driving by, saw the crowd gathered and stopped to inquire, “Free potatoes? Really? And carrots too?” He’d been asked to make food for a wake — it would now be a potato and carrot soup.
The atmosphere was jovial, light-hearted and welcoming. Smiles, hugs, waves and heartfelt thank yous were abundant. Someone commented, “You’re making a lot of people very happy today.”
That continued —9,000 lbs were loaded into bulk bags for First Nations communities across the province — delivered for free by Principle Supply, a local company serving those communities.
Yanara Peters enjoying one of many conversations during the give-away.
“It felt good — to see people, to talk to them,” shared Yanara. “At the end of the day we felt thankful — that we could do it, for our community, for all the people who showed up. We had so many volunteers, but others who came to get potatoes ended up staying to help because it was so much fun to be there. People of all ages, from all walks of life, helped each other.”
This act of giving is a deliberate one for the Peters family. Their potato storage bin was not overflowing — they could’ve sold those 44,000 lbs of potatoes, but wanted to give. Faith plays a huge role — this is what they feel called to do. They also remember being on the receiving end of help when they were young.
Mark reflects, “It was a tough, very poor year. It would’ve been easy not to do the give-away again, but we chose to do it and want to continue if at all possible. It’s how it should be.”
In a year which wore so many down in the farming community across the country, the Peters family created a way to fill their cup, make connections and build community —one potato at a time.
This prairie girl loves her wide open spaces, endless horizons and spectacular skies. But…there’s something special about being among the trees. Especially in the depths of winter. Their beauty, strength and imperfections all exposed. No rustling dress, no camouflage. Just resting giants reaching skyward. 💙
Into the woods, among the trees, a calm descends.
Narrow trail winds, beckons me… keep moving.
With every step, tensions, worries — disappear.
I pause, look up, admire tall aspens reaching skyward.