A Family Farm: Greens, Eggs and Ham

About a month ago, Mack and I drove out to the Greens, Eggs and Ham farm in Leduc County on a Sunday afternoon. I had arranged to interview Mary Ellen and Andreas Grueneberg that day for a Vue Weekly story about their businesses and the challenges they face, and they were nice enough to invite us to stay for dinner as well.

Green, Eggs and Ham farm

Sometimes, 900 words isn’t enough to tell the whole story. This was one of those instances. Also – though I loved the images Gabe Wong produced for the Meat Issue, I was hoping they would showcase at least one of the photos I took that day. Thankfully, I have no such space restrictions on my blog!

Mary Ellen and Andreas (my favourite photo from that night)

Though I’ve buying from Greens, Eggs and Ham for a few years now (and just started my second year as a member of their Community Supported Agriculture, called the Greens, Eggs and Ham Futures Program), this was the first time I had the opportunity to sit down with them and learn how they entered the farming business. 

We had already toured some parts of the farm back in November, but in warm weather, we were able to see some of the land that would be seeded shortly, and check out the status of the greenhouse since our last visit.

Andreas finishing up with watering duties

We also took a quick peek inside the duck barn, containing a flock that would be processed at the end of the month (I think the duck legs we had last week were actually from animals we saw that day…).


More pets than food, the last stop was to check out some beautiful birds and not-so-quiet guinea fowl.

Whatcha lookin’ at?

The small family farm is referenced so often in current literature that it almost seems cliché, but Mary Ellen, Andreas, and their two daughters Ariana and Megan are a great example of how each member of the family contributes in some way.

“Ariana has an absolute way with fowl,” shares Mary Ellen. “She keeps them calm and friendly. One of the reasons our birds are so great and tender is because when we load them, there’s minimal stress. Usually when people are loading birds for processing, they wait ‘til dark and then they turn off the lights, put the black light in and hold them upside down by their feet so they can hold more in their hands, then throw them in the cages.”

“Because of Megan, my bird person, we go with their natural rhythm,” continues Mary Ellen. “At dusk, the birds lay down and go to sleep. So we load them before dusk. And the birds are all calm. We walk towards them with boards to corral them other than the turkeys who follow Ariana everywhere. Megan and I just stand in the back to make sure they don’t go away and they all follow her. Any changes are going to be stressful, but we try to minimize that because with adrenalin, it takes eighteen hours to get it out of the system so you will end up with tougher meat.”

Megan being a “bird person” isn’t an understatement either (she learned about birds primarily from working at The Bird Shop in Edmonton). They have ten parrots, in addition to the fowl kept outside as pets (turkeys, guineas, ducks, geese, chickens and peafowl), two dogs and three cats. Having grown up in a virtually pet-free house, it was a nice change to be surrounded by animal companions.

Too cute parrot

Yukon looking fully satisfied after his dip in the pond

We also talked about the increased distribution role Greens, Eggs and Ham has recently adopted. Because of her marketing skills, Mary Ellen has often promoted other small producers to potential buyers. This year, however, they have a formal contract to source and deliver local products – everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to Wagyu beef, alpaca and ostrich – for ZINC.

“It’s very important that the producers have their names on their products,” says Mary Ellen. “Other than the alpaca will go through us because I work with the Alpaca Association, the elk will come from Amber Lane Game Farm, Wagyu from Jordan Valley Farm, rabbit from Sean Anam Farm. I never want to be the kind of distributor who avoids using producers’ names because I want a local, vibrant, sustainable system and I want them to get a pat on the back for their product.”

This van gets things done

Dinner that night was a delicious turkey stew, made entirely with products from the farm – turkey drummettes, carrots and potatoes – coated in a flavourful jus. It’s a recipe I will definitely have to try myself.

Turkey stew

There was also dessert – a sinfully rich chocolate cake from Eco Cafe in Pigeon Lake (an upside to Mary Ellen’s distribution role is picking things up to bring back home).

Chocolate cake

Thanks again to Mary Ellen and Andreas for having us over!

Greens, Eggs and Ham are at the City Market every Saturday until Thanksgiving from 9am – 3pm, but their products can also be found at Careit Urban Deli and Ocean Odyssey Inland (10027 167 Street).

A Love Letter to Local Food: Farmers’ Market Dinner at Madison’s Grill

When I saw the menu for the third Farmers’ Market Dinner at Madison’s Grill, I couldn’t look away. Sylvan Star Cheese fondue? Nature’s Green Acres short ribs? Greens, Eggs and Ham duck confit? Not only did every dish sound delicious, but the ingredients for nearly the entire dinner had been sourced locally. Moreover, several producers would be joining us for the meal. We were in.

The fact that the dinner cost $70 per person (plus $30 for wine pairings) was a moot point when I made our reservations two weeks prior. But after the fact, I can wholeheartedly say that the experience was worth every dollar.

It was a little comical that we made our way to the Union Bank Inn on Friday via public transportation, but then again, it didn’t make sense to drive, particularly in the dinner’s context of sustainability. After our coats were taken, we joined a couple seated at one of the two tables in the Vintage Room, right by the fireplace. Meals at a communal table have to do with the luck of the draw sometimes, but fortunately for us that night, Monique and Patrick and Slow Foodies Nicole and Steve provided us with good company, and enhanced our evening with lovely conversation.

My only criticism was the packed quarters – I felt bad for the servers who had to work between a too-narrow space between the two tables (resulting in a few dropped dishes). I had to wonder if the decision to include an additional eight seats beyond their original limit of twenty was the right call.

The cocktail hour was accented by dainty hors d’oeuvres – including smoked salmon, beef tartar, and Fairwinds Farm goat cheese tartlets. The beef tartar was particularly excellent.

Smoked salmon tartlets

Before the meal began, Chef Blair Lebsack invited the two producers up to provide some background on their farms. Andres Gruenberg (of Greens, Eggs and Ham) and Eric and Ruby Chen (of Peas on Earth), gave us snapshots of their production, and were ever gracious about the work that they do. Blair then proceeded to introduce the appetizer course – descriptions also accompanied every subsequent dish, and was much appreciated. It was obvious that Blair has a lot of respect for local producers (having visited their farms and all), so it was great to hear about some of the cooking processes he used to create the dishes.

The Sylvan Star Cheese fondue came in individual servings, much to my delight (not that I wouldn’t have shared, heh). The grilled apple, Saskatoon berry compote and spicy pine nuts were fancy accompaniments, but I probably would have been happy just with baguette slices and cheese. Yum.

Sylvan Star Cheese Fondue

The Northern Alberta Pike fillet (from Lesser Slave Lake) was a favourite of some around our table. Wrapped in Pembina Pork bacon and topped with candied bacon(!), it was a surprisingly subtle course, with each element holding its own. The fish had been cooked perfectly, and the underlying shellfish and golden beet broth lent an earthy note to the dish. Not surprisingly, Mack loved the candied bacon.

Northern Alberta Pike Fillet

The cleverly named Duck, Duck, Goose was my personal favourite. Andres had asked Blair why he hadn’t been ordering goose, which spurned experimentation in his kitchen. Both birds were served two ways – in-house smoked duck breast atop potato-onion hash, an absolutely sublime pulled duck confit with braised leeks and parsnip puree, slow roasted goose breast with sour cherry pan jus and goose rillette on toast points. The servings may look deceivingly small, but it packed a hefty punch – and had Mack been momentarily distracted, I would have swiped some of his duck confit.

Duck, Duck, Goose

As I had the chance to visit Nature’s Green Acres last summer, I was looking forward to trying their Nouveau Beef again (butchering at seven months lends the beef its name). The braised short ribs did not disappoint – meltingly tender, the flavour in the meat was inherent. The mushroom confit and mushroom-marrow farce were great accompaniments, and mirrored the beef’s richness.

Braised Nouveau Beef Short Ribs

By that point in the meal, I’m sure I would have been satisfied with flavoured whipped cream for dessert, but of course, Blair did not disappoint, and ended the dinner with a bang. The white chocolate pecan brownie had been doused in a duck egg-EnSante wine sabayon and macerated berries – every bite was a textural firework of nutty, tart sweetness.

White Chocolate Brownie

The dinner was a love letter to local food, no question, and I was especially thankful for the opportunity to share a meal with some of the city’s wonderful producers. Shopping at a farmers’ market or even visiting a farm is one thing, but breaking bread is something else altogether. Blair said that another Farmers’ Market Dinner is in the works for March, though patrons would probably get something similar by ordering the chef’s 6-course “Menu Surprise” – a tasting menu that allows the chef to utilize producers that cannot offer great quantities of ingredients.

Thanks to Blair and the staff at Madison’s Grill for a wonderful evening!

Madison’s Grill (in the Union Bank Inn)
10053 Jasper Avenue
(780) 401-2222

Farm Visit: Greens, Eggs and Ham

I’ve been buying products from Mary Ellen and Andres Gruenberg of Greens, Eggs and Ham for a few years now, and joined their Community Supported Agriculture project this year in order to help them expand their operations. I had been meaning to visit their farm at some point, but timing just never worked out. So when they announced that they would be hosting a greenhouse open house to be held at the end of November, I was ecstatic that I would actually able to attend!

My parents wanted to come along for the ride as well, so this afternoon, we piled into a car and drove to the farm, located just over a half an hour outside of the city in Leduc County. Greens, Eggs Ham is a ten acre mixed farm – in addition to various produce (salad greens, baby zucchini, squash and potatoes, among others), they also raise several types of poultry, including ducks, cornish game hens and turkeys.

Farm (with a shell of a new greenhouse set to be finished next summer already up on the right)

As the focus of the open house was the greenhouse, it was no surprise that we found the other visitors in the second-floor greenhouse, built above the barn that holds the majority of the egg-laying ducks. Though Andres said he is continually making improvements to the greenhouse, they started to grow greens indoors about three years ago.

Greenhouse interior

The wooden beds contained nearly two dozen varieties of greens, from swiss chard, kale, and beets to sorrel, spinach and lettuce. Both Mary Ellen and Andres encouraged us to taste the leaves, and we took advantage of the opportunity. My Mum loved the sorrel, while I found the purple oracle plants (explained to be a predecessor to spinach) to be interesting – all the leaves have to be hand picked instead of cut by shears. Though to be honest – when would fresh-picked greens ever not taste good?

Rainbow swiss chard

Lettuce (relatively boring compared to some of the other exotic varieties)


Can’t remember what this green is called, but so pretty!

The most jarring thing about the greenhouse were the swarms of ladybugs inside. Greens, Eggs and Ham employs natural pest control methods, and to remedy an outbreak of aphids last week, they released 35,000 ladybugs to eliminate the problem. Apparently, a combination of two types of wasps and the ladybugs will eradicate the aphids, and as opposed to pesticides, are more effective, given that sprays cannot reach on the underside of leaves. Eventually, when the ladybugs run out of their food source, they die off.


I think it is amazing that Mary Ellen and Andres can produce high-quality products in the dead of winter. So for those that think that fresh, locally-grown produce can only be had in the summer months – think again.

Mary Ellen also took us to visit the barn that held the birds raised for meat. Upon our entry, the birds welcomed us by sounding off, noises that were quite harsh to unfamiliar ears. The head goose in particular was quite friendly, and came over to greet us.

Inside the poultry barn

Mary Ellen said that while in the summer, the doors are open to allow the birds free access to the outdoors, she said the birds are actually really finicky, and in certain weather conditions, will refuse to leave the barn.

The group also visited with the other animals on the farm, including two beautiful goats who weren’t people shy at all, two adorable dogs, and a cat named BunBun who loves car rides so much we found her in our van after leaving the door open for a minute.

Opi wants attention

My parents playing with Yukon

Before we left, Mack and I helped Andres harvest a bag each of sorrel and spinach as a part of our order – the joke was that any ladybugs within the mix were a testament to its freshness.

Harvesting sorrel

Thanks to Mary Ellen and Andres for your hospitality, and your willingness to open up your farm to us!

If you’re interested in picking up some Greens, Eggs and Ham products when the City Centre Market is off-season, both Careit Urban Deli in Crestwood (9672 – 142 Street, 780-488-1110) and Ocean Odyssey Inland (10027 167 Street, 780- 930-1901)  stock their eggs and proteins, but if you want to make sure they have what you’re looking for, or you want a full product list, just e-mail Mary Ellen.

The Best Weekends are Fresh: City Centre Market

This post is coming a bit late, covering our trek to the City Centre Market on its opening day of May 17, but as the market is open every Saturday, from 9am-3pm (rain or shine!) until Thanksgiving, there’s no excuse for you not to check it out!


Market Day

We started the day with brunch at my favorite pre-market haunt, Blue Plate Diner (10145 104 Street). It was filled to the brim, but they managed to clean and clear a just-vacated table for us almost immediately. While I originally thought I ended up with a dish outside my usual repertoire, it turns out my order of the Pancake Breakfast ($11.50) was the exact dish I ordered back in September – after my last trip out to the market. Mack decided on the Eggs Benny ($12), and of course, we both asked for coffee to start us off.

The kitchen was on an absolute roll, so despite the packed house, our food did not take long at all. The pancakes were great – giant by any comparison, they were thick and fluffy, perfect for sopping up the real maple syrup supplied on the side. Mack liked his benedict for the most part, though wanted the dish, particularly the hollandaise, to have been served a little warmer.

Pancake Breakfast

Eggs Benny

Full and ready to walk off some of our morning meal, by the time we got back out to the market (104 Street, between Jasper & 103 Avenues), it was already past 12:30pm. And as they say, only the early bird gets the worm, so many of the popular vendors had already sold out of their wares.

“Sorry, Sold Out”

Luckily, one of my favorite vendors – Greens, Eggs and Ham, had plenty of duck eggs still, and I picked up a few for my Mum. Mary Ellen Grueneberg was super-friendly, as always, and said that the piece that Judy Schultz did a few weeks ago resulted in many calls – from interested employees, pet owners, and of course, those keen on their duck products.

Greens, Eggs and Ham truck

Doef’s Greenhouses also had a beautiful array of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber (all grown year-round) that looked so tempting, especially in the face of the winter vegetable remnants sold at stands next door. As with most growing seasons though, things will look up in just a few short weeks – with fresh berries, beans, and corn just around the corner.



For those with a green thumb, there were plenty of potted plants available as well, though really, I can’t wait for the spicy edible flower salads from Inspired Market Gardens.

Plants from Inspired Market Gardens

Between the entertainment and the stalls, the samples and the snacks, there is lots for everyone to see. Mack, however, was waiting to pounce on the mini-doughnuts, and was rewarded for his patience.

Live music

First doughnuts of the season

Mack savours the last one

City Centre Market

There’s just nothing like a Saturday at the market.