Mr. September - John Schneider
Farming is never an easy job and this year Mother Nature seemed to be feeling extra capricious. A warm, dry spring had everyone thinking that was how spring and summer was going to be, then things turned and the rains came down. Planning is tough when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature’s whims. This year’s weather caught our Mr. September John Schneider from Gold Forest Grains off guard. He planted his heirloom Black Einkorn grain early in the hot, dry spring only to have the weather switch resulting in a failed crop. He takes it in his stride, a lesson learned and stored away for the future.
[Check out this Globe and Mail article on farming in Alberta in 2016. It features John and Gold Forest Grains.]
[left pic black grains are the Black Einkorn from John’s failed crop, right pic a heritage grain field that’s ready for harvest]
John is a rare thing – a farmer of organic heirloom grains and even rarer one who is debt-free thanks to being small specialized and selling directly to consumers and retailers.
Here’s a little more about John and Gold Forest Grains.
1. Why participate in the YEG Sexy calendar for Edmonton’s Food Bank?
“Why participating in YEG Sexy Calendar was an easy choice…to hang out with the cool kids and to support the Food Bank.”
2. How much did you know about the Food Bank before becoming involved in the calendar?
“Oh, I am very familiar with the food bank. Most Saturdays at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market, at the end of the day, the food bank truck is waiting to accept vendor donations. We support the food bank whenever we can. It is such a worthwhile cause.”
[Thanks to the generous vendors at Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market, Edmonton’s Food Bank picks up fresh produce and baked goods from the Market every Saturday except on long weekends!]
3. Where was the picture taken? Describe the day.
“My YEG Sexy picture was taken in one of our heirloom, organic wheat fields near our house. It was a beautiful evening, a little chilly. A shot of Schnapps helped a lot!”
4. What is the best thing about being in the food & farming business?
“The absolute best thing about being in the food business is when a Mom approaches me and lets me know that their child’s first taste of solid food was our cereal or oats. It’s happened a few times, and I love that feeling. Just knowing that we are providing other families with nutrition, and that it is good for them, is a powerful feeling.”
5. What are some things that might surprise people about you and/or the business?
“Well, I have done a lot of different things in my life away from the field. I’ve been a hunting and fly fishing guide in the NWT and here in Alberta. I coach AA hockey in Morinville. I am a published author of several magazine articles to do with bow hunting and fishing. I’ve researched, reproduced and then hunted with primitive archery gear.
I’ve worked in commercial real estate and leasing and have spent a fair amount of time in aircraft to and from Toronto for business trips. I am a trained meat cutter having taken the Retail Meat Cutting course at NAIT. There are other things, but those are the highlights I guess."
[Check out John’s new wild food podcast “Food a Field” it can be found on iTunes]
6. How did you get into farming ancient grains? Why farm ancient and heritage grains and legumes?
“I am a 6th gen Canadian farmer. I got into farming ancient grains and legumes because I wanted to preserve the older genetics from forgotten varieties. Most of the species on our farm, both flora and fauna, are heirloom varieties.”
7. What is the best advice about farming and food you’ve ever been given?
“You can’t do anything about the weather, so stop fretting about it. From my wife Cindy. I still haven’t taken that advice.”
8. Any tips on using ancient grains for the cooking challenged or novice cooks?
“No real tips on cooking with our products. There is this great thing called Google around nowadays. I don’t know how we survived without it all those centuries! It is amazing to have all of that collective information floating out there about cooking and recipes with every imaginable ingredient.”
9. What is your earliest cooking or food memory?
“Earliest cooking memory is experimenting on my brother and sister with “donuts” and of course wandering in the woods with tin foil and matches looking for things to cook and eat. Most of the time, in those early years, it was either burnt or raw…both methods are now in fashion, so I guess I was ahead of my time."
10. 5 favourite things about #yeg...
- “The attitude of the people. I adore the “help others” mentality of Edmonton. Without that, we would live in a very different type of society…one that we see quite a bit of on the news every day."
- “I love the river valley and frontier heritage of our area. It is still so new compared to the rest of the world.”
- “I love the local focus that we have here…we support each other. I could keep going, but how about just three things I love about #yeg?”