Rosemary Wotske: One of our community's Super Heroes.
Updated: Aug 27
Now, more than ever, during COVID 19, we learn to appreciate those who keep us fed, through back breaking work in all Alberta weathers to bring us, wholesome, organically grown produce.
Life has a funny way of throwing people at you. I was apparently destined to meet Rosemary Wotske, the owner and tour de force behind Poplar Bluff Organics whether I wanted to or not; And boy, does she know her onions - or in Rosemary’s case, potatoes! SouperSpudz is proud to support this remarkable woman and to showcase her produce. Alberta proud! This is how we met:
While navigating the grief process, I reluctantly joined a group course for people like me who had lost a spouse. (the story gets happier, bear with me here) I found a new family of fabulous people at the Bob Glasgow Grief Support Centre (http://www.calgaryhealthtrust.ca/your-impact/grief-support/)Another shout out here - for the amazing team who help greiving people navigate their way back to breathing normally and encouraging us to work through the inevitable horrors of loss. Anyway, I digress, and back to the group. In addition to sharing the deeply distressing and dark feelings, in an effort to lighten the mood at one meeting, I shared my plans for SouperSpudz with the group. Cue ooohs and ahhhs and happy faces as well as many many words of encouragement - and then an introduction. One of our group, told me I MUST contact his sister-in-law, an amazing potato farmer located near Strathmore and so I did, and she was: Rosemary.
Poplar Bluff Organics is situated in, according to Rosemary, one of the world’s best areas for growing root vegetables. Apparently. It doesn’t get much better than this spot because of the long sunny days and the cold cold nights, which results in a perfect spud, carrot, beet or parsnip.
After 35 years of farming at Poplar Bluff, this girl really can talk turkey when it comes to spuds. She grew up in Calgary, but fell in love with farming after a visit to a farm in her early teens and knew it was in her future. In the 1980’s, after two science degrees and a family. She decided that she wanted to live the dream and she bought the farm. (literally!)
She farmed with animals, fruit and various other crops, and then she settled on potatoes. She now specializes in growing an array of varieties which she sells direct to a number of very discerning restaurants in Calgary and its environs. Rosemary works with her clients and in the case of one of her customers, she grows one variety specifically for them so that they have a year round supply for their french fries. They also grow Carrots, Beets and Parsnips.
My visit to the farm was fascinating. I could have stayed for hours talking to this wonderful woman about her pride and joy. She generously handed me bags of different varieties to sample and test to see which would suit SouperSpudz’ needs best.
Her team graciously brought us every variety to pour over, cut open and hear detailed information on. The massive cold storage space in which the potatoes are housed is called the Potato Hotel! And get this: Rosemary uses Aromatherapy in the potato hotel, which stops the potatoes from ‘waking up’, going green and sprouting while waiting patiently to be transformed into someone’s delicious meal.
I had no idea that filling the cold black air with essence of dill, caraway, mint and clove will trick a potato into an extended sleep. (apparently they all contain S Carvone - a cell inhibitor which stops the potatoes from sprouting before they leave the farm) Rosemary with me shared a cool tip you can use: If you have any of the above in oil form in your pantry, pop a couple of drops on a paper towel and put it in the fridge…. It will inhibit mould growth on the food in your fridge!
I LOVED her response when I asked why she had opted to take the Organic route to farming. She told me that she did use chemicals initially, but she could detect a taste of them in some of the produce which she didn’t like. Her scientific background and knowledge made going Organic an easy choice. What makes the business steadfastly remain an Organic Farm, are the people who sought her out because they needed to eat ‘clean’ food. Many of them because of terrible medical conditions made worse by chemical laden food found in most supermarkets. She told me that she grows her potatoes organically, specifically for them.
That attitude immediatly won her another customer. I like the way this woman thinks! I had always maintained that our potatoes had to be Alberta grown and Organic. I wanted our carbon footprint to be as small as possible but our community engagement to be as vast as we can make it, and working with local farmers and suppliers like Rosemary is exactly what Souperspudz is about.
You won’t find Rosemary’s potatoes in Calgary’s supermarkets,but you will find them on our food truck! as the best Baked Potatoes! and in our soups. Community Natural Foods, Planet Organic and sometimes some of the Farmer’s Markets sell them. SouperSpudz uses the Agria variety, originally from Germany and we are proud to do business with Rosemary and the team at Poplar Bluff Organics.