Front Porch Farm, Northern Sunrise County By Laura Hanna | Photography by Tyrell Parenteau
Annette Rosendal, 47, is an ecologically-conscious, birth-to-butcher farmer. Originally from Australia, Rosendal came to Canada in 1997 through a college agricultural exchange program. She knew then if she was to follow her dream of farming, it was going to be in Canada, and that’s exactly what she did.
In 2001, Rosendal and her husband purchased a quarter section of land, 12 km south of Peace River in Northern Sunrise County, right on the Smoky River.
Passionate about the environment, the Rosendals spent many years cultivating the health of the land. Today, it’s home to Front Porch Farm, which offers sustainable meat options to its customers.
What inspired you to start Front Porch Farm. What was your vision?
Annette: We were motivated to provide healthier food options for our family and community. When we purchased our land, the initial vision was, “What could we do to help heal the land?” It had been grain farmed for decades, and it lacked nutrients and biodiversity.
Having a background in agricultural science, I knew the solution to help heal the land was through animal management, farming crops, adding a water source and rotationally grazing livestock—all while promoting the biodiversity of natural habitats.
What about your farming practices are important to you?
Balancing production with the environment is the most important part of our farming practices. We ask ourselves, “How is what we are trying to achieve going to benefit the land?”
Over the years we have watched the wildlife, and the diversity, return to the property. Seeing life come back into the land has been our favorite part.
Is there anything you do that makes your farm unique in the region?
There are lots of farms in the region doing similar things. I believe our niche is our focus on the balance-to-the-environment approach. We really focus on creating and protecting habitats.
What products and services do you offer?
We farm direct-to-consumers sales. We sell grass-finished beef [meaning they ate nothing but grass their entire lives] by the whole, half and quarter. We sell pastured pork by the whole and half.
For a lot of people, this can be too much meat to order at once. Not everyone wants the volume or cost of a whole or half cow or pig. We recognize this, so we offer individual cuts.
We also sell some livestock as well as honey and colourful, free-range eggs.
What is your approach to customer service?
When buying meat from us, we want our consumers to feel confident knowing the animal has had a good life. I am involved with our livestock from conception and birthing to the processing, which is about two years for our cattle.
Customers often comment on how calm our herd is. I move the cows to fresh pasture every day. Because I do that, I’ve kind of become part of the herd. The herd is very comfortable around us. Animals benefit greatly by living in a low-stress environment. That’s important to us and our customers.
How do you partner with other businesses in the community?
We have a mutually beneficial partnership with Peace River Brewing. We take their leftover grains. This way, they don’t have a waste issue, which benefits them, and we create bacon out of it. It’s neat because together we are closing a waste cycle.
We also partner with the local Co-Op through the Loop Program. It’s a program in Western Canada helping food wholesalers and producers divert their unsaleable food away from landfill and toward those in their community who can use it best. I would love it if other stores in town would join the program to reduce more waste in our community.
From a business perspective, what do you find works best and what doesn’t?
Before we were farming, I ran an organic food buying club. It gave me a good understanding of the customer base—the people interested in purchasing more natural foods.
We decided to farm our quarter and focus on the health of the land. Ultimately, we limited the size of our herd and our operation, which is what works best for us, so we can maintain that balance between producing and caring for the environment.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Healing the land doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t always get it right. That makes it challenging. It’s a process and time commitment. We believe we are making a difference, which is why we continue farming the way that we do. We want to be part of the solution.
For more information, check out Front Porch Farm on Facebook.