If you haven’t been to Calgary since the last boom happened, you’ll notice the skyline has filled in quite a bit. Large office towers dominate the downtown, and there is no shortage of expensive vehicles on the roads But, as it is still a city of around a million, it proves to be manageable and accessible — you aren’t long (even in a tractor) driving out of the city before you hit farmland.
Unfortunately for us, our time in the city was largely marked by some substantial mechanical difficulties. If you know Calgary, you may know how busy the Glenmore Trail can be during rush hour. Our trailer had two flats — on the same side — on this busy thoroughfare. Between removing the shredded tires and bent rims, tying our axles up, and limping to the nearest Kal Tire for help, this really cut into our time in the Stampede City.
We did, however, get back up and running. We were lucky enough to be in town for "Taste of Calgary", an annual food sampling event in the active Eau Claire neighbourhood. Jam packed with families, tourists, and young professionals, this event was a great way to become acquainted with the city. With vendors serving everything from beef-on-a-bun to Jamaican patties, it really showcased the culinary and cultural varieties of this Prairie city. And while it showcased what Alberta is perhaps best known for (other than oil) — grass-fed beef — a large variety of local meats, produce and cheese were used. If you happen to be visiting Calgary while the festival is on, be sure not to miss it.
This festival speaks largely to the growing urban interest in food and food production. From Halifax to Calgary, we’ve met urban 20-somethings passionate and involved in the local "foodie" scene. Be it taking more interest in the origins of their food, frequenting farm-markets and local retailers instead of chains, or simply having more of an interest in preparing their own foods instead of buying prepackaged, people are taking more time and effort with their food. It is almost as if the pendulum swung too far toward the microwave dinners — people now want to take a step back, and know what they are eating again. It is truly encouraging and exciting to see.
But, a trip to Calgary isn’t all about food! Touring around the city offers a variety of options — from Nose Hill Park to University of Calgary to the trendy Kensington neighbourhood, there is a fair amount to take in.
When in the city, you’ve got to make a stop at the Olympic Oval and Olympic Park — these truly first-call facilities are really something to see. While the facilities in many Olympic cities (take Montreal, for example) suffer the fate of under-use and a mountain of debt, Calgary’s are some of the best-used in the world. It is great to see!
But, of course, we had to get heading west. It’s not long out of the city until those big, beautiful mountains are looming, and the feeling of the landscape changes entirely. At the foot of the Rockies, it truly feels as though you’re at the gateway of something big. The farmland begins to drop off, and by the time you’re in Canmore, it is almost as though you’re in another world. Now we’re looking forward to the beauty of the mountains, all observed at a top speed of 18 miles per hour.
— John Varty and his fiancee Molly Daley are driving across Canada in an effort to speak to farmers about the issues that concern them, and to bring those concerns to urbanites. They’re doing it in an unusual fashion — towing a "farmhouse" behind a Massey Ferguson 1660 — and will post periodic reports here of their trek across the Prairies.
Across Canada in a farmhouse: New Norway to Calgary, Aug. 17, 2012
Cross-Canada tractor pull, July 26, 2012