Between the parallels that outline the borders of Saskatchewan lie some of Canada’s most productive farmlands and notoriously predictable weather. The vast plains that form the geography of this province are an invitation to appreciate the food that magically appears on your grocery store shelves. Whether you are looking for a family outing, a gastronomical experience, or views of the famous prairie landscapes, there are several ways to get intimate with our country’s agricultural hub. We opted for a bit of each – making our visit to Saskatoon one full of discoveries, good food and great people.
Little Farmers on the Prairie
Renowned for its agriculture program, the University of Saskatchewan is also set up to educate younger scholars. A ritual for any local school-aged kid is a trip to the University’s farm. Our guide has a particularly vivid memory of his grade 3 class sticking their hands in a cow’s stomach to feel it digesting grass (this is for feed research purposes, not just school kid fun!) The Reyner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility uses dairy farming as a model to teach the public about agriculture alongside animals, researchers and farmers. Call ahead for a guided tour, where you’ll get a closer look at the animals, and the insider scoop about ongoing research. Kids can learn about the life of a dairy cow, and the work that goes into making their morning-cereal milk. In short, the tour provides an informative link between field and table. We had a mild existential crisis about artificial intelligence while watching the milking robot at work – but were comforted by the frozen dairy treats to come. The next and most logical step was a visit to Saskatoon’s best homemade ice cream parlour: Homestead.
Eating Farm to Table
Plan a visit to the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market on any given Wednesday,
Saturday, or Sunday and you’ll find your fill of baked goods, fresh fruits and veggies, and world cuisine. Many of the first settlers of Saskatchewan were eastern European immigrants, so a plate of perogies and sausage may, in fact, be the one of the most authentic local specialties.
We went on Saturday, the busiest day, where the electrical garage-turned-market was buzzing with families munching on their gastronomic finds. The bulk of the farms in the area produce grain, so our visit was pastry-heavy. With our bellies full from monster cookies from Donna’s Country Kitchen and Okanagan peaches, we had to take some treats to go. Don’t leave without getting a Saskatoon berry pie for the road – after all, the berry came before the city.
For dining on the other days of the week, there are more options than ever. The restaurant and café scene in Saskatoon is undergoing a revival, with chefs flocking to the up-and-coming Riversdale district. Make sure to stop in at Ayden’s Kitchen Bar (hailed as one of this country’s best restaurants and run by the original Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay), Drift (a local favourite for brunch, located near the Farmer’s market), and The Hollows (lots of veggie-friendly dishes celebrating the International Year of the Pulses). We enjoyed a particularly indulgent meal at Calories, on Saskatoon’s Broadway Ave. If you go, there is one caveat: don’t skip dessert.
Chasing Prairie Sunsets and Sights
While the views of the fields from the train are stunning, a close-up view is even better. With 42% of Canada’s farms located in this province, we didn’t have to drive long to find a place to take in the rural views. We were lucky enough to have a friend from Queen’s take us for a country drive to the cabin, a ride which was incredibly scenic. We felt surrounded by nature, right down to the dashboard covered in flies. There are a few sights that you
can’t leave without experiencing and capturing on your camera:
1. The grain elevators. These amazing structures would store the grain during the winter, then load it into rail boxcars for transport to the markets. Most are no longer in use, and are reminders of the farming technologies of the past.
2. The yellow fields of canola. If you are travelling with an Instagram junkie, you won’t be short of fodder (heh heh).
3. Sunsets! You can catch a sunset with a grain elevator in the background and canola fields in the foreground for a triple-whammy, or you can opt for a less traditional landscape of the sunset over Lake Diefenbaker. Either way, you’ll realize why Saskatchewan is called ‘the land of the living skies’.
After a day of eating and learning, taking in the landscapes is the best nightcap you could ask for.