Lori and Vince Toker operate Rocky Meadows Country Getaway on their farm near Bonnyville. They started a saskatoon U-pick several years ago, and now farm several kinds of berries, offer fruit pies at the café and operate a campsite and mini golf course created from vintage farm equipment. It’s a relaxed country paradise off the highway, two and half hours from Edmonton.
The Tokers are typical of many family farms today — they had taken over the family farm (cattle and grain) but the reinvestment in new equipment wasn’t worth it. Now they work (Vince is an electrician) and farm in a different way.
“My husband loves saskatoons,” says Lori. “That’s how it all started. My husband wanted a place where it was easier to pick them. We grow raspberries, sea buckthorn, cherries, black currants, honey berries, rhubarb and apples, as well as the saskatoons.
“My mother in law wanted a place where people could come and have pie made from the berries,” Lori says. “At first, she made the pies, then she taught me how. I still use her pie crust recipe.”
The family has been participating in Open Farm Days for four years. They started because they thought it was a good way to let people know what they were doing.
“Open Farm Days has brought more business in. It’s not hard to sign up and our kids help with the extra work,” says Lori.
“All ages come here,” she says. “We’re starting to see younger mothers. They want to pick fresh berries with their kids and it’s easier to walk up and down the rows.”
Lori learned that participating in Open Farm Days allowed them to show off the entire business. “We found that people would come for one thing, but didn’t know we had berries, or didn’t know we had mini golf. The kids will play mini golf, or pick berries, then sit and have pie and ice cream. It’s a nice day out. People discover how peaceful it is here,” she says.
“On Open Farm Days we offer a lot of samples and make sure we have samples of the less well-known jams such as honey berry and the sea buckthorn tea.
“A lot of the fruit is done by then, and the sea buckthorn isn’t ready yet, so the event brings in people at a time when we might not have as many people visiting” she says.
“Right now, I’m making apple pie,” says Lori, getting ready for her trip to the Bonneville Farmers’ Market. “Our apples are a nice sour, like a granny smith apple and an orange together. This year they were amazing.”
Lori’s pies, available at the café in the summer and year-round at the farmers market, are all made from their own fruit which she freezes for winter pies. “Except for the strawberries, they are from the U-pick down the road.” Along with the pies, Lori makes jams, jellies, preserves and salsas from their fruit and her vegetable garden.
The café is open seasonally, May to September. “It’s not insulated,” says Lori, “and our busiest time is July and August.”
Rocky Meadows Getaway Café, U-pick and mini golf are open May to September. The fully-serviced (power, water, sewage) campground is open year-round. Visit the website for more information. https://www.rockymeadows.net/campground-1
Author: Mary Bailey
Food, wine and travel writer Mary Bailey is the publisher of The Tomato food & drink. Mary started the Tomato (then called City Palate Edmonton) in 1996. The Tomato has profiled the unique people in Alberta’s food scene, shining a light on their accomplishments and challenges. She has championed heritage eggs; asked the tough questions about local food; held the hands (or the wine glass) of budding oenophiles. Mary is a 2015 Global Woman of Vision, a 2016 Famous 5ive Notable Woman and was honoured with the GALA (Growing Alberta Leadership Award) for community spirit in 2007. Mary is a monthly guest on Edmonton’s top-rated Global TV Morning News. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications and she co-authored (with Judy Schultz) two best-selling books on Alberta food: The Food Lover’s Trail Guide to Alberta, Volumes I & II. As Alberta Food Guides, Judy and Mary worked with Alberta Agriculture to create and execute Dine Alberta (2002‐2008) a series of public and industry events to get more Alberta food into the food service sector. She is also a national Canada’s Kitchen Party/Canadian Culinary Championships judge.