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Alberta producers provide local ‘take away’ food

HIGH PRAIRIE, Alta. — Food trucks seem to proliferate in cities, but there’s only one rolling around in this area of northern Alberta.

The Farm Truck carries food prepared from locally produced ingredients and is an offshoot of a family farm operation.

Morgan Nesom is the management and marketing arm of the four-person operation, which includes her husband, Jesse Perry, and his parents, Diane and Carey Perry.

The truck officially hit the road in late July, providing what Diane Perry said was good customer insight that the family will use to plan next year’s full season of operation.

High Prairie has a population of about 2,600 but the ace in the hole for the food truck is traffic to nearby Lesser Slave Lake.

“We have a tremendous number of people from all over not only the province but Western Canada that come to this lake for the summer months,” said Perry.

“Those are the people that are really interested in seeing something different and for us in the north, the food truck idea is something different.”

She said lake traffic is a safety net but the High Prairie and Big Lakes County community are the base of the operation. Community support, both giving it and getting it, is also a key for Nesom.

“They say it takes a village and it really does,” Perry said about starting the new venture.

“The feedback has been so crucial. We’ve been lucky that every week we have a producer (from whom) we could offer a different menu item every single service.

“It’s a huge benefit to start in a rural town. When you plant a seed, a lot of it seems daunting, to start really from the ground up … but as it grows, it’s kind of a benefit because we can change as we go.”

Morgan and Jesse lived and worked in High River, Alta., for several years but then decided to move back to where both grew up.

They moved to the family homestead just outside of High Prairie and set up a commercial kitchen to prepare food for the truck and potentially branch into catering and other food service options.

For Diane and Carey, it is the latest of several attempts to maintain and market their beef cattle and skills in agriculture.

They were among many cattle producers devastated by the discovery of BSE in Alberta in 2003 that destroyed markets and plunged prices to unprofitable lows.

“We struck out the year BSE hit. The equity that we’d worked for, for the previous 15 years, pretty much disappeared on us. We struggled over the next few years to re-invent or try to figure out a way to make it work,” Perry said.

When Jesse and Morgan returned to the region, it opened up possibilities for a joint venture.

The Farm Truck was born “as a way both to produce food, do something that we like to do, generate revenue to keep us afloat and to market this beef in a new way, a little more dynamic way,” Perry said.

Nesom, who has experience in farm and ranch work, honey production and food service, said she has always had a passion for food and welcomes the opportunities that the new business provides in educating people about their food sources.

“It should have always been something that’s very popular, but we’re very lucky now that it’s almost kind of a trend again in food. People are becoming more connected with their food.”

Nesom plans to source as much food as possible from local producers and explore various options for food service.

“It’s exciting and every day we’re just super pumped to plan. We’re already planning for next year.”

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