Thursday, 23 May 2013

We say goodbye and I say Hello

As many of you know by now we said goodbye to Carmen Ditzler, the Farmers' Market Manager here at the Millarville Racing & Ag Society a few months ago. She has embarked on an amazing family travel experience exploring the United States and Canada. We miss her dearly and I will admit we were all envious and maybe a little jealous, of her courage to leave a life as she knew it and be so adventurous! You go girl!
I have had the honour of replacing Carmen as the Market Manager for the Millarville Farmers' Market for this upcoming Season and beyond.  I have been with the Racetrack since Sept 2011, so this is not completely foreign to me, but I definitely have some gigantic shoes to fill. I am really excited about this Summer and getting to know all the new vendors, the existing vendors better, and rubbing shoulders with visitors from near and far.

June 15th is opening day!  9am - 2pm.  We will be open every Saturday until Thanksgiving weekend, Oct 12th.

I will update you about the excitement here at the market and of the grounds themselves throughout the season.

So, to start, there have been a few changes to the grounds themselves. We have expanded the concession a little bit in order to offer more food options to our visitors. The concession will now be host to a variety of ethnic options like: Eats of Asia, Sichanis Mediterranean Grill, A Touch of India, Hold the Mustard featuring gourmet hot dogs and Gluten free options, and Primal Eats.   We are expecting to knock your dining experience out of the park this year with fast and friendly service and of course, super delicious food!

Another big improvement that is well underway is that we have knocked down an old storage building beside the concession in order to build the brand new Legacy Picnic Area.

It's going to provide all of our visitors with a shady, dry and during the Christmas Market, a warm place to enjoy the great new food from the concession.

23 more sleeps until opening day, but who's counting?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

One of a Kind People

Laughing on Friday and freezing!

One of the reasons that I am passionate about my work is that it is one of a kind!   I never know what the weekend will bring- good weather, lots of visitors, or the opposite, or a surprise.   
This last weekend was the coldest Christmas market since we started in 1988 and there were still the vendors indoors and out and still the trooper visitors in the cold and snow, indoors and out.  Friday morning was -15 C with wind.

 But also one of a kind in the people who are behind the tables- farmers, chefs, artists, crafts people- not one of them the same and all renegades in their own way.    There are so many awesome vendors here and it's a pleasure for me to have them laughing, talking and selling to their customers.
Photo: I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite.

I was interviewed by Morton Molyneux of FarmTV on Sunday and still managed to be coherent.  He did a great job capturing the feeling of the market on Sunday afternoon when it was a bit warmer at a mere -6 C.
You can watch the clip here: 
Millarville Christmas market on Farm TV
Don’t get me wrong- dealing with this many strong minded, independent entrepreneurs is no picnic!  They keep me on my toes.  By Sunday evening I took this photo of myself and, if I do say so myself, I look like I was run over by a truck! 

One toast market manager self portrait

If you didn't make it out to see us this year- put us on the calendar for next year.   If you were here....thanks for coming out!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Look how much we have done!

Remember the photos a couple of days ago.   Well we've come a long way.
The tent is up:

Arena floor done!
The floor in the arena is done with the help of an awesome team.

Leaning on the sledge and talking on the phone.  He did a ton of work too!

The tables are up in the arena

In the Hall;

The wind breaks are up around the eating area.

How many community service workers does it take?.....

Vendors are beginning to set up- some of them take a full day and a half their booths are so amazing!
under construction

We even have hoodoos.

You'll have to wait to see what's under here....

I'll be posting more of our progress photos tomorrow- you'll never look at the market the same way again.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Get your taste buds ready.

Come to Eat!
Get your taste buds ready because in addition to all the delicious samples from vendors we have five new food options at our concession.   Hold the Mustard – is gourmet hotdogs with all the fixings.  Gluten free options here.   
Hold the Mustard

 Sichanis Mediterranean Grill- Greek with a twist. 

Eats of Asia is the home to the Aimless Cook.  
Eats of Asia menu.

Primal Eats is North American Comfort food where you will find traditional breakfast, soups, fries, and more:  
Primal Eats Menu

and A Touch of India – featuring curries, naan and butter chicken.  

Margaret from Primal Eats will have here famous Roast Turkey 'n' Cran Sandwich

 “5 incredible new food vendors will be bringing their signature flavours using local ingredients, in a street food concept from their world to yours.” - The Aimless Cook

What will you be having?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Behind the Scenes Monday

Did you ever think that a tractor would come in handy for Christmas market set up?   This one's borrowed from a kind neighbour down the road as our tractor is too small to lift all the plywood for the floor in the arena.   Bill Jackson is the energizer bunny with his sidekick Myrna getting the floor into the arena.  Leveled, fit together, screwed down.   That’s 20,000 square feet of plywood!

This week continues the marathon of preparation and details and now the physical set up begins with decorating, tents, tables, the floor in the arena, rugs, electrical cables, generators, porta potties, septic pumping, dumpsters, recycling….all the behind the scenes stuff, that by the time you get here as a visitor this weekend will be seamless and part of the background.   
Our maintenance man JB is busy running around getting everything for everyone.   The truck looks like a whirlwind was in there by the end of each day.

Krystal- our Events Manager is pinch hitting and cooking lunch for volunteers.

One vendor has been here and build their booth under the grandstand.

The hall isn't ready yet.

This is where the big heated tent will be....

Check back tomorrow for how we're doing.  

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Our Community

The events at the Millarville Racetrack, including the upcoming, much anticipated Millarville Christmas Market, are hosted by the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society.   People have been working together around here for over 100 years to build community and have fun together.   We’re a non-profit governed by a board of volunteers,  so that means that your $10 at the gate helps to pay for the heat, the lights, the maintenance, the garbage, the septic, the water….quite frankly the place eats money for breakfast!   So thanks for your support and I really hope you have a great time!  

As we speak vendors are working furiously to have enough products for the weekend, to get their display and signs ready and make some money.   When you come here and shop you know that your hard earned dollars are going directly to other amazingly talented hard working people from right around here.    It keeps the money within our communities and our province for a few cycles longer than going directly to a large corporation.   I challenge you to become a localist;

Here’s a great clip that I first saw from my friend Tad Hargrave- who is part of a localist group in Edmonton.

Check back everyday this week for more behind the scenes information and photos.   

Friday, 5 October 2012


Salsa is never as good as when you make it yourself.  October is the last chance for cases of tomatoes, and big bags of mixed peppers and the freshest garlic and onions.  Salsa just saves all the flavour for a cold winter snack with family and friends. 

My sister-in-law Kath and I have been on the hunt for the perfect salsa recipe for about 15 years.   We’ve tried lots of different versions and used to spend hours stirring the pot to get it to reduce and thicken.  But as a tomato grower I had tons of cull and left over tomatoes.  We started roasting and freezing them for sauce.  Then there was no need to buy tomatoes for salsa so we became super geniuses and used roasted tomatoes for salsa instead of chopping up fresh ones!  The other great part is that you can do it in two stages.  Roast and puree the tomatoes one day or evening and keep it in the fridge or even freezer and then make the salsa later. (see the Roasting Tomato post earlier this week for details on roasting tomatoes)

Finely chopped garlic
The other handy tool for making salsa is some friends or kids with chef's knives and maybe a small chopper or food processor.  One of Kath's friends got to come and learn how to make salsa just because she had one of those Pampered Chef chopper thingys.   It makes it so much more fun to work with other people.  And some sort of chopper gets the garlic, onions and hot peppers chopped up nice and fine. 
Small food chopper

Hot peppers

WARNING: Wear gloves when dealing with the hot peppers.  I went to a conference about 15 years ago where I heard Lois Hole (Former Lt Govenor of Alberta and greenhouse/garden guru) tell a story about her husband helping her chop hot peppers for salsa and then taking a break to go have a pee.   Well apparently it transfers from hands to other body parts!!!!  She laughed, we laughed...I'm sure he wasn't laughing. 

The cool part about salsa is that you can vary the ingredients to use what you have. 
So this year’s version was
8 L of roasted tomato puree- approx. 25 lbs of tomatoes.
3 large onions
4 heads (not cloves) garlic
30 fresh roma tomatoes chopped (sometimes I use green tomatoes as they stay in chunks better)
10 sweet peppers- red, green, yellow, banana
15 semi-hot/hot peppers (remove most of the seeds- set aside some seeds as they are the hottest part to adjust to taste later)
2 ½ cups vinegar
4 Tbsp salt
4 tsp smoked paprika
Combine in a large stock pot and simmer until desired thickness- or you get tired of waiting.  (be sure to scrape the bottom so it doesn’t stick and burn) 
Taste to see if it is spicy hot enough for your taste.  If not then add some of the hot pepper seeds that you set aside.  Transfer into hot jars- top with sterilized tops and then add the screw top just finger tight.  
Jar grabber and canning funnel
Canning pot for water bath processing.

I process my one litre jars at a rolling boil for 15 minutes and the 500 mL jars for 10 min. 
Hot hot hot
 Set aside to cool.  Tighten the lids and check that the centres have popped down to seal.  If any don't seal properly just store it in the fridge and use it first.  

This batch ended up with 8 x 1 L jars  and 9 x 500 mL jars.  If you don't want to tackle the processing yet- just make a small batch and keep it in the fridge.  It should last up to 3 weeks if you don't eat it all first.

You will be a superstar if you give this as gifts for Christmas.  Keep the 1 L jars and give away the smaller ones.  A lot of work and love goes into homemade salsa which you'll find out if you try it, but it is so worth it in the middle of winter.