Experience the fun, flavours, and producers of Alberta’s South West in this handy self drive tour of Lethbridge and surrounding areas. Connect with local food growers and producers to learn how your food travels from the farm to your table.
If you want to learn more about Southern Alberta, check out these two posts on the blog. Lethbridge: A Proud Prairie City highlights the hospitality and fun activities of this Alberta city while Medicine Hat: Alberta’s Sunshine City is a quick guide to another great SE Alberta city.
A Self Drive Tour Experience
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you already know how much I love a southern Alberta road trip. However, I’m less of a planner and more of a ‘spur of the moment’ kind of gal. Luckily, the folks at Tourism Lethbridge are better planners than I am.
They have created an interactive self drive tour itinerary to give you a taste of all the Lethbridge area offers. Tour options include experiences in and around the city. You can do them all or pick and choose your own adventure. It’s up to you!
Lethbridge is at the heart of Canada’s Premiere Food Corridor and has some of the best growing conditions in the country. This tour is the perfect opportunity to become more connected to the people who grow and produce your food. Pro tip: Bring a cooler along for the ride!
Believe me when I say that if you love food, this is the tour for you. There’s everything from fresh vegetables to cheese, wine, and locally raised pork. If you need a break from the tastings, there are several non food related stops along the way.
Broxburn Vegetables & Café
Every time I visit Broxburn Vegetables & Café I learn something new. Apparently, gardening is a lot like cooking: there’s always something to learn. For example, did you know that for every leaf a leek grows another layer on the leek also appears?
At Broxburn, Paul de Jonge has invested a lot of time, money, and energy into growing fresh fruits and vegetables for Albertans. You can find his greenhouse grown veggies on restaurant menus across southern Alberta or buy them on site. Pro tip: Call ahead for seasonal availability of broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, butter leaf lettuce, green beans, and eggplants.
However, it’s the u-pick strawberries and raspberries that are the most popular family attraction in the summer. Pick ripe red strawberries in the morning then stay for lunch at the café. Choose from a delicious array of homestyle soups, salads, and sandwiches made with fresh Broxburn veggies…of course! Be sure to call ahead for availability during picking season.
Alberta Birds of Prey Centre
This family friendly self drive tour stop will introduce you to the fascinating world of birds of prey. For bird lovers, the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre is a dream come true. However for birds of prey, the centre means survival.
The foundation is committed to rehabilitating and releasing injured birds of prey back into the wild. They play an important role in prey bird conservation through captive breeding, population monitoring, and environmental stewardship.
Every visit to the centre is an adventure. Depending on the weather and availability, your experience could include the chance to hold an owl or Eagle. Pro tip: Check out the fascinating flight demonstrations every 90 minutes where the birds get their daily training and exercise.
Prairie Hill Farms
Have you heard of Haskap Berries? They are blue edible honeysuckle berries that grow on low full bushes native to northern boreal forests in Asia, Europe, and North America. The delicate berries are tart, sweet and juicy in flavour, with a thin skin and tiny edible seeds. They offer many health benefits including high amounts of Vitamin C and A along with high fibre and potassium plus several important antioxidant components.
Though Haskap or Honey berries grow wild in Canada, until recently, they have not been as popular as blueberries or even Saskatoon Berries. Commercial Haskap farming is on the rise and Prairie Hill Farms is at the forefront of both crop production and product development.
Stop into Prairie Hill Farms for delicious products such as barbecue sauce, jams, syrups, fresh fruit juices, and frozen frozen fruit all featuring haskaps grown and processed on site. Pro tip: Try the fresh baked* (or frozen) Haskap Cream Cheese Rolls, Haskap Streusel Muffins, Sandwich Cookies, and Haskap filled Donuts. *Availability changes daily.
Some of the best steaks you’ll ever have are in small town Alberta restaurants. Cattlemen’s Chophouse in Picture Butte’s historic Hotel and Tavern is no exception. However, one glance at the menu and you will realize this isn’t your average steakhouse.
While the dishes on the menu range from classic pub fare to Nepalese Tandoori and Mexican favourites like Carne Asada, one thing remains purely Albertan. Cattlemen’s, along with the entire Butte Hospitality group, is committed to offering a wide variety of local products including Alberta raised Benchmark Angus Beef.
Owner Ram Khanal and his wife Olga, from Nepal and Ukraine respectively, embrace the diversity of this country and welcome new ideas and dishes from their diverse team at Butte Hospitality. Supporting local systems and welcoming diversity truly make them an integral part of the community. Pro tip: Order a tall glass of Little Gem Winery Haskap Cider with your meal.
Crystal Springs Cheese
A stop at Crystal Springs Cheese will be the highlight of your self drive tour. Not only can you watch the process through the large windows, you will be amazed at the selection of cheese, butter, and other premium dairy products available at the retail store. Pro tip: Crystals Springs is a great place to stop for ice cream and low lactose milk products.
Dutch Owners Evert and Jannie Beijer immigrated to Canada with their two oldest sons in 1994. They moved straight to Alberta and settled into the farming life, beginning with hog farming. Evert’s dream to have a dairy farm eventually became a reality in 2000, followed by the purchase of Crystal Springs four years later.
Evert and Jannie gradually expanded their business (and family!) and eventually the first batch of Crystal Springs feta was produced in 2005. Recently, the Beijer family won awards for their Fancy Cheddar, Goat Feta, Extra Aged Gouda, and Asiago at the May 2022 International Cheese Competition in Montreal.
Broek Pork Acres
Allan and Joanne Vanden Broek epitomize the idea of the classic Canadian family farm. Each of their 9 children were raised learning the value and self satisfaction of farm work. They pride themselves on having an entirely hands-on from pasture to plate approach to their business.
This philosophy at Broek Pork Acres is evident in the quality and flavour of their free range pasture raised pork. Their Heritage Breed Berkshire hogs are allowed to roam the pasture as soon as they are old enough. They grow up healthy and strong without any unnecessary antibiotics, growth hormones, or animal byproducts.
This free range lifestyle results in a value added, high quality pork product for the consumer. Allan processes all of the pork on site and there is a wide variety of fresh and processed (brined, smoked, dry cured) available at their store front. All their products are gluten free, with low salt, sugar and nitrite free products available upon request. Pro tip: pick up a container of rendered leaf lard for pies and pastries.
Little Gem Winery
Now that you know all about Haskap Berries from your visit at Prairie Hill Farms, visit Little Gem Winery for a taste of these prairie berries in fermented form. Local farming brothers Joel and Rick were looking for a unique way to use their family’s farmed haskaps and they certainly have found it.
The brothers, along with their friend Jordan, focus on creating natural, low intervention fruit wines. Their ‘hands off’ approach allows the natural notes of the berry to shine through. Haskaps aren’t as sweet as most fruits and the same goes for the fruit when it becomes wine. Therefore, Little Gem’s wines fall ‘in between’ traditional grape wines and other fruit wines.
The trio are currently working with a master winemaker as they experiment with oaking, carbonation and fruit wine blending…and the adventure doesn’t stop there. Find their delicious Haskap Cider at Cattlemen’s Chophouse, Mocha Cabana, and other local restaurants and liquor stores. Pro tip: Check out their Haskap & Honey Liqueur collaboration with Pivot Spirits in Rolling Hills.
Mocha Cabana and Mocha Local
Mocha Cabana is Lethbridge’s original ‘farm to table’ restaurant. Situated in a unique historical building in the downtown area, Mocha Cabana is the place to enjoy a wide range of local grown and produced products prepared in the most delicious way.
But Mocha Cabana is much more than a place to eat. It’s part of a greater community, a connector that nourishes and sustains the community through local partnerships. The extensive bistro menu proudly lists all the local producers and products in the mouth-watering dishes while the walls feature intriguing local art. Pro tip: Grab a slice of the cheesecake to go.
In 2020, owners Angel Harper and Jaclyn Kultgen Geddes founded Mocha Local, a food delivery system that includes weekly chef created meal kits and local grocery delivery. You can also purchase a wide variety of local products their store front. This unique business now brings even more healthy local food to dinner tables of Lethbridge and surrounding areas.
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is a Japanese-style garden that reflects the magnificent mountain and prairie scenery of southern Alberta. This lush prairie oasis features Japanese garden philosophy to create a serene space with balanced elements and intriguing views.
On weekends, the garden hosts many interactive cultural demonstrations and events, including Japanese tea ceremony, Yukata dressing, Japanese language classes, Anime sessions, Minyo dancing, Tea tastings, yoga, meditation classes and more. Pro tip: Pre-order a picnic by 4 pm the previous day and enjoy in the gardens (admission included).
Nikka Yuko is open from May 19 to October 9 (check their website for opening hours) with a brief winter opening for the Winter Light Festival. The newly completed Bunka Centre will engage guests with cultural experiences and programs within spaces dedicated to the garden’s founders. It also boasts a café, gift shop, and interactive waterfall/koi pond.