It was a sunny summer morning in the Spallumcheen valley near Armstrong, BC as I drove into the farmyard, stepped from the car and followed the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. As Director Of Marketing for Nutters Everyday Naturals, most of my days are spent at a desk. So, it is a treat to join team members from Nutters stores in Dauphin, Prince Albert, North Battleford, and to represent our head office team in Medicine Hat. You’ll see several photo’s from today’s adventures which identify some of our group who attended.
This is not your typical farm. The 600 acres is all certified organic and its relationship with nature is magical. Natural Factors is well known as a producer of premium quality vitamins, supplements and other healthy lifestyle products. What is less known, is the length the company goes to in order to ensure the integrity of its brand and its diverse line of products.
This farm is what we commonly refer to as ‘bottom land’. Rich, black soil that runs as much as 3.5 metres deep. You can literally smell the richness of the earth. You can also see nature at work with its own pest management program. Ponds and streams are home to thousands of frogs. Marigolds are planted in large plots and companion planting is simply standard practise. Various fields lie fallow, resting until resident scientists determine that they are suitably refreshed to bear another crop.
Our group learned how just 5 Heritage Echinacea seeds were acquired and lovingly coaxed into reproduction until sufficient seeds were generated to make commercial size field planting a reality. Heritage seeds ensure a purity of product as there is no modification to the original seeds.
As I look up the valley over fields planted in tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, Echinacea and other crops, I spot a small lake and when I enquire, am told this is the source of all irrigation water for the crops, but not from the lake itself, rather from the spring, or aquafir under the lake. The Natural Factors farm team located this pure water source, tapped into it and now feeds all crops from this aquafir. This means no livestock or human fecal matter, no drifting weed seeds, or other materials that could foul the organic fields. It also means less weeding which is the most labour-intensive aspect of organic farming.
Our tour group is led through row upon row of experimental plots including trees, fruit shrubs such as Red Gooseberries and Elderberries, vegetables, and flowers from around the planet such as the Konjac plant from Southeast Asia which is shown in the photo gallery of our visit.
The test plots are part of the ongoing quest by Natural Factors scientists who are constantly searching for natural elements and compounds that could be used to improve human health. Because the location of this Natural Factors farm offers somewhat of a micro climate, the farm team have been able to succeed in growing many plants that should really not find a home in our part of the world.
The farm also manages its own beehives which serve a practical purpose for pollination around the farm, but also enables ongoing research into the properties of Propolis, or bee glue as it is sometimes called, used to help the bees assemble the hive and protect it from bacteria and other invaders.
As we are strolling back from the field area to enjoy an outdoor lunch one of our guides mentions that at least 3 families of bears also live on the farm or in the adjoining woodlands. Apparently, the bears have been spotted numerous times foraging for food during the evenings, even advancing to the experimental berry plots for a few tasty treats. We’re also told the bears have always been respectful, taking only a few berries during each visit.
An idyllic setting where humans and nature co-exist beautifully, and where the outdoor farm table luncheon put a giant exclamation mark on this organic experience with half a dozen different salads prepared directly from the fields, followed by ice cream topped with freshly picked berries.The Nutters team appreciated that second servings were allowed!!