The brick chimney is a tell-tale sign that this building on Gary and Susana Porttin’s farm is more than just an old shed. |  Maria Johnson photo

Finnish settlers left steamy legacy in Alberta

Saunas were among the first things these early pioneers built when they arrived in Alberta; some are still functional

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — Nestled in a bluff of trees in a farmer’s field just west of town on Highway 11A is a small weathered wooden structure. At first glance one would assume it’s an old granary, but the red brick chimney protruding from the centre of the roof indicates otherwise. An up-close inspection reveals […] Read more

Darren Jones works to put emotion into his creations based on the vision conveyed by the client. |  Maria Johnson photo

Alberta sculptor carves new life into old trees

Darren Jones is particularly drawn to art that tells a story, which is evident in his carvings that feature multiple subjects

LACOMBE, Alta. — Many people see an old dead tree as having reached the end of its useful life. They knock it down, burn it up, chip it, or chop it into pieces. But not everyone feels this way. Tree sculptor Darren Jones from Ponoka, Alta., sees a valuable raw material concealing beauty within. With […] Read more

Gary, Susana and Ryker Porttin have created a winter wonderland at R Family Tree Farm.  | Maria Johnson photo

Tree farm in the business of growing memories

On the Farm: The family sold more than 225 Christmas trees last year and are also developing other attractions for visitors

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — The joy is in the hunt. Bundling up, tromping through glistening snow in crisp winter air, examining it from all angles, is all part of the quest for just the right tree. Then after “the one” is discovered, cut, and packed for the journey home, there’s additional outdoor excitement to prolong […] Read more


Family Meats Ltd. in Ponoka, Alta., was destroyed by fire last week.  |  Ponoka County Protective Services photo

Fire destroys slaughterhouse in central Alberta

The Ponoka processing facility owned by Family Meats Ltd. included a kill floor, abattoir, smoke house and retail area

PONOKA, Alta. — A sheet of ice covered the parking lot and yard site of the charred remains of Family Meats Ltd. in Ponoka last week after thousands of gallons of water were used to extinguish a fire that destroyed the slaughterhouse Dec. 1. An insurance adjuster arrived Dec. 3 to start the investigation. Fire […] Read more

Family Meats Ltd. in Ponoka, Alta., was destroyed by fire earlier this week.  | Ponoka County Protective Services photo

Fire destroys Alberta slaughterhouse

PONOKA, Alta. — A sheet of ice covered the parking lot and yard site of the charred remains of Family Meats Ltd. in Ponoka earlier this week, and an insurance adjuster arrived Tuesday to start the investigation. The ice formed from the run-off of thousands of gallons of water sprayed to extinguish a fire that […] Read more


The teahouse at the general store is part store, part museum, part restaurant and part community hall. Cheryl Sutherland, left, director of the Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, and store employee Ashley Schlotter take some time to visit and catch up on community news. The tearoom offers several refreshment choices and ready-made sandwiches.  |  Maria Johnson photo

General store delivers the goods

The Bluffton City General Store in central Alberta stays true to its motto: ‘if we don’t have it; you don’t need it’

BLUFFTON, Alta. — Experiencing Bluffton City General Store is worth the short detour into the hamlet off Highway 20 in central Alberta. Upon entering the slab-clad, tin-roofed building, it takes a moment to absorb the sheer quantity of items and visual stimuli. In general store fashion, there’s a little bit of everything — gas, groceries, […] Read more

Mike, left, Cora, Lucas, Dawn and Emma Williams live on a busy life on their farm. Mike and Dawn have full time jobs and manage the operation around their schedules. The kids are bussed to a rural school just 10 minutes away — the same school Mike and his parents attended.  |  Maria Johnson photo

Alta. ranch operators keen on tackling new ventures

On the Farm: Besides full-time jobs, the Williams family raises Boer-cross goats, pigs and chickens and grows pumpkins for local customers

PONOKA, Alta. — Mike Williams had given up on his youthful dream of farming. The dairy where he grew up had been sold years earlier. He and his wife, Dawn, both had jobs in town and they were happy enough. “I was telling this to a friend,” says Mike. “Then he told me about a […] Read more

Bernie Bystrom, left checks a canola field’s readiness for combining Sept. 12 with his sons, Doug and John.  |  Maria Johnson photo

Father and sons enjoy farming with each other

On the Farm: The Bystroms feel the pros of farming outweigh the cons and like the sense of freedom they get from it

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — Brothers John and Doug Bystrom have a standing coffee date most afternoons at 3:30 p.m. with their dad, Bernie, at his farm. The trio, partners in Bystrom Farms Ltd., discuss their crops and livestock, who’s doing what and where, and the daily goings-on in their neighbourhood, as well as the wider […] Read more


Darren Grose shows Rodono’s newly developed product, the retracting transfer conversion kit. It is an add-on to existing air seeder cart augers or belts and adds the functionality to extend and pivot under a hopper bottom trailer.  |  Maria Johnson photo

Alberta family manufactures a productive life for itself

The Groses have been inventing and building a variety of agricultural equipment on their farm near Clive, Alta., for the past 32 years

CLIVE, Alta. — There’s a lot going on at Rodono Industries Ltd., an agricultural equipment manufacturing business owned and operated by the Grose family. Vehicles come and go from the yard site, located on Jim and Faye Grose’s grain farm near this central Alberta community. Within Rodono’s 20,000 sq. foot building, the front office phone […] Read more

Krystal Braam, left, Freda Molenkamp-Oudman and Howard Oudman stand in front of colourful supers in the cold storage area at the farm’s honey house. Oudman is mentoring Braam in beekeeping.  |  Maria Johnson photo

Honey producers earn sweet reward

A couple from central Alberta got into the beekeeping business by accident and now they help others succeed

LACOMBE, Alta. — Nestled in the grass near a field of brilliant canola sits a bee yard containing multi-coloured hives, most in shades of green, yellow, pink, red, and coral. The cheerful colour scheme identifies the hives as belonging to Howard Oudman and Freda Molenkamp-Oudman. Stacked among them are a few hives owned by Krystal […] Read more