Taking “Field” Research Literally: Alyson’s Visit to Root & Vine Acres

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Sometimes you’ve just gotta take a morning away from the office. And last week I was lucky enough to visit Root & Vine Acres for a farm tour/sustainability chat/goat milking extravaganza 🙂

This amazing 10-acre-farm is owned and operated by Jessica Piccinin, who pasture raises livestock with a conscience. During my visit I saw all sorts of animals – goats, pigs, ducks, cattle, horses, etc. – who clearly love life and are very well-cared for. I would much rather buy meat that was raised ethically from Root & Vine Acres than eat something from a miserable factory farm – think of it as “Meat with Morals”.

Anyway, I digress. After being greeted by Jess’ 9 guardian dogs, we began the tour and morning chores by milking the goats! Honestly, this was the highlight of my week – I LOVE goats. But I must admit, I was a bit nervous because I had never milked anything before in my life (and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of farmer extraordinaire, Jess) but my worries were all for naught. Huge takeaway from this experience: there’s no better way to keep your hands warm on a chilly morning than by milking goats!

A very happy Alyson

After we had filled a giant jar full of fresh, warm milk, Jess, Jeff, their son, Tommy, a family friend (who occasionally helps out on the farm), and I headed out to do the morning feed. The back of their pick-up truck was PACKED with imperfect pumpkins from Wloka Farms, in addition to some apples. We stopped at each pasture and tossed in some breakfast for the animals, who hurriedly gobbled it all up.

Look at that curly tail!

Jess told me that pumpkins are especially great for the animals because their seeds act as a natural de-wormer — a win-win situation for all parties involved! In addition to the produce that they get from local fruit stands, Root & Vine Acres is also part of the Gleaners food service program. When food is nearly expired, Pealows and Save-On Foods donate it to the food bank. Whatever is leftover (and has passed its expiry date) is distributed between partner farmers. Jess told me how much her chickens love the greens that they get from this organization 🙂 it’s a great way to minimize food waste and give the animals a healthful treat.

Perhaps the most exciting recent addition to Root & Vine Acres is the Mangalitsa (or mangalica) pigs. Jess explained that the meat is like a pork version of kobe beef – very flavourful and juicy with incredible marbling. It’s easy to spot a mangalitsa pig, too; you can find them sporting their iconic curly hairdos (and the piglets have the most adorable stripes holy moly).

Blonde mangalitsa pigs hanging out with their baby daddy
So. Many. Piglets.

Towards the end of my tour, we got to talking about her sister business, the Peppered Pig food truck, which Jess created to be Root & Vine Acres’ #1 customer. She says that whatever she can’t supply herself, she sources locally as much as humanly possible; about 90% of the ingredients Jess uses for the food truck are from the Kootenays! Recently, she purchased the old 1977 Creston Fire Department van and, after renovations, will have plenty of space in this vehicle for a grill. I anticipate sausage consumption in Creston will SOAR once Jess gets this new and improved truck on the road.

Once we had completed all of the chores, Jess generously sent me home with two packages of homemade goat cheese, and let me tell you, it’s the best goat cheese I have ever tasted. Ever.

I had such a wonderful time hanging out at Root & Vine Acres, and it was very helpful in my research for the Sustainability project that I am working on here at the Museum. If you want to learn more about the incredible things that Creston’s farmers are doing today, then please stayed tuned for our updated exhibit… coming soon 🙂

Big thanks to Jess at Root & Vine for hosting me!