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Hartell Homestead gears up to open its gates

Nick Shipley, owner of Hartell Homestead, is eager to open up his farm to sell beef, pork, produce, handmade artisan items and offer a u-pick garden this summer.

Foothills’ first farm store is set to officially open its doors mid-month.

Hartell Homestead, located at the corner of Highway 22 and Highway 543 beside the old Hartell store, did a soft launch in 2020 just in time for Alberta Open Farm Days last August. They featured their Highland cattle, free-range chickens, ducks, fresh eggs and veggies to visitors with a gate sale and tour that weekend.

Owner Nick Shipley said the response was overwhelming.

“We had 400 people show up in two days,” said Shipley. “We ran out of produce within an hour and eggs within two hours. It was crazy how quickly everything moved and the community really showed us support here.”

That weekend lit the fire under the belly of the business, and Hartell Homestead underwent additions and renovations over the winter to prepare for its first official season of business.

Two goats were added to the mix, which meant building a goat pen, and the building used for a makeshift “gate sale” store for Open Farm Days was transformed into a retail space.

“We kind of soft-opened last year and we’ve been open on weekends since April,” said Shipley. “We have awesome people who come out every single weekend to see what’s going on and see the animals and see everything grow.”

Hartell Homestead was going to be a private operation and hobby farm, but Shipley decided to open the agri-tourism business last year when his job was a victim of the pandemic.

He had experience with agricultural education after more than a decade of working in the field at museums, teaching children and adults about where their food comes from and the importance of farming.

“It was very near and dear to my heart to make sure I could help bring the public a little closer to their food and help educate them to where it comes from and also showing them just that you can do it on a small scale and make it work,” said Shipley.

The Homestead received its approvals from Alberta Health Services and development permit from Foothills County in the past two weeks and is now working full-steam ahead to be prepared for opening day, he said.

Though COVID-19 measures limit capacity inside the store to four patrons at a time, he said there’s still lots for customers to see and do while waiting for their turn to shop, from visiting the ducks and goats to checking out the new 500-square-foot u-pick garden and seeing the chicken tractor working its way through the pasture, or checking our the Highland cows.

Inside the store, patrons will find a host of locally-grown and made items from produce to protein and artisan creations, he said.

“We’ll have beef and pork available, as well as fresh produce that’s coming out of the greenhouse and garden,” said Shipley. “We have Highland Honey that’s joined us, The Farm Wife Collective that makes wonderful candles, and Highwood Soap Company, Forge and Farm has joined us with their garlic.”

There are also some artisan crafters on board who create items like unique lanterns and signs.

The beef and pork are coming from local operations, with beef from WHR Ranch and pork from Cody Bews, who raises wild boar/Mangalitsa cross pigs for prime cuts.

“Mangalitsa are classed like the Kobe beef of pork,” said Shipley. “They give really good fat and marbling, and then he crosses it with that wild boar and you get just beautiful red pork chops – it’s so amazing.”

For the grand opening on May 15, some antique plows will be hooked up to horses in the two-acre garden to provide demonstrations of old farm equipment and provide an educational element to the big day, he said.

He said they’re eager to open the gates and begin serving the public.

“We’ve worked really hard,” said Shipley. “It’s impressive what we’ve built and I’m quite proud of it.

“We’re just excited to let everyone come and buy truly local beef, pork and produce.”

Hartell Homestead will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The farm will be closed on Wednesdays.

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