Rootstock rocked its third year out at the Flint Rock Ranch.
About 400 people attended the fundraiser — which brings together city folk and local farmers to enjoy a farm-to-table dinner — late last month.
“In the last few years, we’ve started raising grass-finished beef in an attempt to nurture and be good stewards of the land,” said Bette Mitchell, who owns and operates the host ranch north of Pincher Creek with her husband and four sons.
“We thought this was the best way because the animals are very healthy. We treat them very well, and we don’t give them extra stuff they don’t need.”
The annual fundraiser also featured Juno-winning rock band, Wintersleep, other musical guests and a farmers’ market.
First held on a grain farm near Didsbury, the event has grown in popularity and size since then.
Rootstock was created by Kimberly Cornish, an Olds native and executive director of the Food Water Wellness Foundation, which aims to foster farms that are both environmentally and financially sustainable by linking farmers to both extension information and marketing channels.
“I’m a holistic nutritionist, so I believe in the health benefits of grass-finished beef,” said Mitchell, who resides in Calgary when not raising Angus cattle on her 1,000-acre ranch.
“In that vein, we hooked up with Kimberly Cornish from Food Water Wellness. She’s connected us with holistic management seminars and consultants, and introduced us to the whole world of range management.”
Among the participating vendors offering samples or items for dinner included Lethbridge County heritage hog producer Broek Pork Acres, Calgary probiotic drink maker Steep Peak Kombucha, B.C.’s Tinhorn Creek Wines, and Fallentimber Meadery of Water Valley, which served up free mead-jitos (a mix of mead with mojito flavouring). The evening was hosted by Julie Van Rosendaal, a Calgary-based cookbook writer, chef, and food columnist.
“I never want to slam conventional people because there’s a place in the market for everything,” Mitchell said at the event. “We are a niche market and we find people who are interested, who value eating less meat, but what they consider or what we consider better quality.
“I really truly believe that, or I wouldn’t be doing it. This food nourishes our body. And before all of our cattle go to slaughter, I thank them personally for their service.”
The Mitchell family only processes about 30 cattle each year, but plans to increase that number as their market grows.
“We can actually have hundreds of cows on this property, but we don’t have a market for it yet,” she said.
Currently, the family is direct marketing online, taking orders from family and friends, and selling sampler packs to people who want to try the product.
“This is the biggest group we’ve had out,” said Mitchell. “We’ve had a few weddings, but the most people we’ve had is 120.”
She added Food Water Wellness did most of the organizing of the event.
“We just got the property ready and prayed for awesome weather.”