Today is National Gardening Day and we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight Prairie Wild and how we have incorporated a farm-to-table approach when you’re dining with us at our remote ecolodges.
The majority of fresh produce served at our three lodges is procured from Kleefeld, Manitoba on our small family farm, which is committed to organic practices and seasonal eating.
Prairie Wild owners Karli (daughter of Churchill Wild founders Mike and Jean Reimer) and Riley Friesen are fifth-generation small business owners. Riley grew up in southeastern Manitoba, where he developed an incredible work ethic at his parent’s bakery, and a passion for growing and building things from his grandfather.
Karli spent her younger years on the coast of the Hudson Bay helping her parent’s business (Churchill Wild) by working her way up through the ranks into the head chef position and developing a love for wholesome, healthy recipes from her Ama (Helen Webber) and using Helen and Marie’s award-winning Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series.
The couple met in Kleefeld during high school and Riley quickly came on board as a labourer at Seal River Heritage Lodge so he could spend more time with Karli on their summer breaks. Eventually, they settled into building a life together with their three children and pursued a mutual interest in hearty, wholesome food through Prairie Wild.
Prairie Wild currently grows over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables. As many in southeastern Manitoba know, growing certain things like snap peas, tomatoes and beets is easy, though time and labour intensive. Battling spring moisture levels, short growing season, pests, high heat, and humidity can all make branching outside the norms of gardening difficult.
In the first year, Prairie Wild experienced a loss of nearly all their squashes and melons, fledgling orchard trees fell victim to frost and their caterpillar tunnel greenhouse was ripped away in high winds in the early spring.
One of the challenges Prairie Wild wanted to tackle was growing a variety of fresh fruit in the short growing season we have in Manitoba. Pear, plum, apple, cherry and apricot trees will be budding soon in the orchard, and each year they’re becoming more bountiful! Along with honeyberries, strawberries, and grapes, it’s a sweet deal. Pun always intended.
Riley has managed to cultivate new systems of irrigation, insulation, and crop rotation to ensure maximum harvesting potential. Of course, there is always more to learn! They make sure to rely on pollinators and grow everything with regenerative methods and no chemical sprays.
Riley has managed to cultivate new systems of irrigation, insulation, and crop rotation to ensure maximum harvesting potential. Of course, there is always more to learn! Prairie Wild makes sure they rely on pollinators and grow everything with regenerative methods and no chemical sprays.
Since its debut in 2020, Prairie Wild has had to adapt and grow in more ways than just the literal sense. Originally the blossoming idea was to supply Churchill Wild with its produce needs due to the difficulties of getting fresh produce north.
When the pandemic hit, Riley pivoted into CSA vegetable and fruit boxes for sale to people their surrounding communities. Now in 2023 their crop varieties, customer base and business plans have certainly expanded!
Prairie Wild Gardening Tips
- Planting depth for each seed is different. Make sure to read the package!
- Use potting soil to start seeds, not topsoil.
- Fertilizer isn’t necessary until after sprouting.
- Try bottom watering to ensure full moisture.
- Plants need warmth and humidity, try a crockpot full of warm water.
Growing on just 11 acres, Karli and Riley have created a beautiful oasis with the fruit orchard in front of their home and greenhouses and gardens in the back.
With the weather finally heating up, they have tomatoes, peppers, onions, jalapenos, broccoli, and beets sprouting in the greenhouse and they’re now just waiting for the ground to thaw. Which should translate to fresh fruit and vegetables, just in time for our summer polar bear tours, and our guests!
Happy National Gardening Day!