Back to basics at Applejack Ranch
It’s a family affair for the Stevensons at the Applejack Ranch near Bashaw. Supplied
In the community of Bashaw, on a 100-year-old family farm, you’ll find Applejack Ranch.
It’s a small farm with a little bit of everything. Les and Mary Ann Stevenson are the owners of Applejack Ranch and, due to family health issues, decided they needed to know what’s in the food they’re eating. What better way than to raise it yourself? According to the Stevensons, they’re “trying to create a holistic environment for the land, ourselves, the animals, and our customers.”
At Applejack Ranch they use traditional farming practices of pasturing and grazing, all the animals are free range with room to move and live without crowding. The pork and beef are grass fed and pastured. Their chicken and hens are free range and have access to the outdoors, weather permitting. They are fed a mix of grain feed and natural forage. None of the animals on their ranch receive growth hormones. The Stevensons also raise Dexter cattle and large black hogs.
These animals supply their family with all the meat they need, and for the past two years have been serving the surrounding communities as well with locally sourced meat, veggies, dairy and eggs from their farm store. By knowing exactly what goes into their food, this family has managed to redirect some health concerns. Staying away from chemicals and eating all farm-direct foods is a practice their customers also appreciate, and as such this family makes it their mission to help fill the need for good, wholesome, farm-direct food.
I first heard about this family business from a friend who mentioned that you can purchase milk at Applejack Ranch. How fantastic to be able to pick up fresh from the farm milk. Upon further investigation I learned that not only do they partner with Primrose to sell pasteurized but non-homogenized milk, they also make their own cream cheese, yogurt, butter, mozzarella, jams, bread, and pasta. As much as possible every product they sell is home grown, homemade, and always fresh. This family has a strong customer base who access their farm store. The entire family enjoys interacting with customers and on every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., they have customers driving into their yard to pick up products from their farm store.
In summer and fall their market garden is in full swing with a you-pick for peas, beans, lettuce, carrots, beets, and potatoes. They are sold by weight so you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s a great way to get fresh vegetables without having to tend the garden.
With close proximity to local campgrounds, in the summer they make up camper hampers based on customer preference. These typically include smokies, beef jerky, homemade buns, sausage, bacon, pepperoni and fresh veggies and salad ingredients, everything you need for your family’s camping weekend.
Fresh bread and pasta are also available if you call ahead and pre-order. Their homemade cream cheese comes in a variety of flavours including herb and garlic, raspberry and plain. So delicious as an appetizer or fresh lunch served on a cracker or baguette with some pesto on top. The homemade pesto comes in plain basil and cranberry walnut. It’s a great product to have on hand for Christmas gatherings coming up.
Their cheese products are all prepped in a commercial kitchen and they send them away to a provincial lab four times/year for quality testing.
Their meat products are processed at a licensed and inspected facility. So much care is put into every step of production at Applejack Ranch.
If you call and find out what you need isn’t at their farm store, the Stevensons will connect you with a number of local farmers that provide other farm-direct products, or they’ll have it brought in for you. It’s important to the Stevensons to support local, buy local and they believe that farmers connecting together is a great option to know what fresh food is out there and to share their resources.
Mary Ann is so passionate about what she does she even hosts a monthly cheese making class where guests sign up, spend five hours (lunch included) and learn to make mozzarella and Italian feather bread. The lunch is made from farm fresh products and participants get to sample fresh yogurt and berries, boccini made with fresh mozzarella in a salad, beef soup and fresh bread, jams and honey. The cost to attend is $60 and participants get to bring home their mozzarella. What a great experience to bring some ladies together, learn to utilize local resources, and make homemade cheese. The next class is Dec. 6. Sign up early as space is limited to six participants.
This family run business is a success because everyone contributes. They can be seen on any given day interacting with the animals, doing chores, or enjoying the outdoors with the family. Aubrey, 11, helps with a lot of the cooking. She enjoys making pasta, but most of all says she “likes that having a farm store on site means she can pop in and grab beef jerky anytime she wants!”
Les and Mary Ann are both full-time ranchers and take pride in every aspect of their production. On Fridays the family makes a trip to Camrose to do deliveries, so if you know what you need, send in your order and save yourself a trip.
If you have any questions, would like to place an order, or register for a class, contact Apple Jack Ranch at 403-788-2135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to www.pamperedchef.ca/pws/marilouy and please “like” Marilous pampered chef on Facebook