Imagine you’re in a five-star restaurant. The ambience is elegant, the service impeccable; you’ve just ordered a gourmet filet of beef, seasoned and cooked to perfection. Complimenting this feast are garlic mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots and fresh green beans. For dessert there’s a rustic berry tart, brimming with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries all topped with a maple whipped cream. Every last ingredient is fresh, locally grown and bursting with flavour. Does this sound like something you’d only find in southern Ontario, where the summers are longer and farms dot the landscape for miles in every direction? If so, think again. Every morsel you’ve just savoured came from right here in Algoma.
The Algoma Region is vast, stretching from the rolling, agricultural hills of the east, through communities such as Blind River, Thessalon and Iron Bridge, to the imposing landscapes of the north shore of Lake Superior with the towns of Wawa and White River. Over all, it boasts some of the best locally grown and raised products you’ll find anywhere in the country.
As farmers and restaurateurs’ alike embrace an organic and sustainable approach to food production and sourcing, epitomized by such trends as the 100-mile diet, it has become much easier for the average consumer to also enjoy such food. In fact, you can find a surprising variety of local fare being used in a number of restaurants throughout Sault Ste. Marie, as well as Wawa, Iron Bridge, Echo Bay, Bruce Mines and other communities. Some Sault Ste. Marie restauranteurs prefer to use only local pasteurized meats such as beef, pork and chicken, along with fresh produce when in season.
No doubt, many people are quite surprised to learn about this region’s plentifulness when it comes to locally grown food.
Take beef, for example. Alberta may be cattle country, but that’s a long way to go to look for the freshest product. Now we no longer have to travel so far afield for quality Grade-A beef. There are a number of local sources available, such as Penokean Hills Farms, a cooperative of beef farmers located just east of Sault Ste. Marie. They take their name from the Penokean Hills, where all of their farms are situated. They are a huge supplier of organic beef to both restaurants and families across Algoma, and don’t treat their herds with antibiotics or growth hormones. All of their cattle are born and raised in the area and they keep all of their meat in the region as well. This allows them to support local business, helping achieve the goal of sustainable farming.
It’s not just free-range beef that can be found in Algoma. There are a variety of other products as well. At farms east of Sault Ste. Marie, such as A Little Bit Family Farm, Valleyfield Farm, Collholm Farm and many others, you can find pastured pork, lamb and poultry. If you have more exotic tastes, you can also discover bison from local suppliers, such as Grand North Bison. And there’s nothing like the taste of farm fresh eggs; those too are available year-round on many of these farms.
When many people think of Northern Ontario, they imagine trees, rocks and lakes.
The rocky soil in many of the northern areas of the Algoma region actually offer prime growing conditions for a variety of wild berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Wawa, in particular, is famous for its wild blueberries; growers such as the Algoma Highland Wild Blueberry Farm supply a yearly crop of natural, sustainable, low-bush blueberries to the Algoma region, every year. There are also a host of small farms in the area that offer pick-your-own raspberries and strawberries in season. Thomson’s Strawberry Farm in Sault Ste. Marie and Flood’s Farm in Thessalon are local institutions. Every summer people wait anxiously for the word that the berries are ready!
Whether you’re all about natural, organic food, a ‘foodie’ craving gourmet cuisine, or you just like your meat and potatoes, it’s clear that you don’t have to leave the Algoma region to find whatever you’re looking for!