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.
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.
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.