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Meet, Meat, and Repeat: Foothills Farm Table Collective’s Recipe for Community Support

Okotoks ranchers are giving what they got, a whole lot of beef, to local food banks

In Okotoks, a new community group called the Foothills Farm Table Collective (FFTC) connects local ranchers and rural food banks with the mandate, ‘Share food. Spread Kindness. Repeat.”

Demand for food bank services has skyrocketed in recent years, including the Okotoks Food Bank.

Jay Cross, a former Okotoks rancher whose family has deep roots in the area, noticed almost double the food needed for the local food bank.

“Local food banks are under greater pressure than we’ve ever seen,” Cross shared with CBC.

He pointed out that with grocery prices climbing, many are having to skip out on essentials.

“People that are stretched financially, they’re going just to start dropping out protein,” he told the Western Wheel. “(Eating) the inexpensive foods or the empty calories, that just creates a cycle that isn’t good for people’s health.” 

Kids with donated food  Okotoks Food Bank, Facebook
Kids with donated food | Okotoks Food Bank | Facebook

Where’s The Beef?

Luckily, nothing thrives better on our province’s grasslands than cattle. 

Cross, teaming up with Shelly Faulkner, co-owner of the Bluerock Gallery in nearby Diamond Valley, decided this local protein source could fill some gaps in the needs of hungry people.

The Otto Family | FFTC
The Otto Family | FFTC

Cross was in the cattle business for decades, running the Bar Pipe Ranch. His family often donated excess beef to the food bank, so the idea was intuitive to him.

However, a few years ago, he was forced to sell his herd for health reasons and consequently lost the ability to give directly.

After months of brainstorming with Faulkner, a long-term friend, they had an idea.

“Despairing over the state of the world comes all too easily,” they say of their movement.

“The divisions among us feel like chasms, and relying on governments to resolve matters seems increasingly unrealistic.

By founding FFTC, they decided they would act as a bridge, working with ranchers who had spare beef to give and moving the essential protein to where it was most needed.

“This is an easy win. Some of us are going hungry, and some of us have extra to share, and there is no more basic a need than food, and no friendlier a gesture than offering it,” they said.

The collective kicked off with a hefty donation of 600 pounds of frozen beef from Brenda Otto of Tangle Ridge Ranch

Spreading Kindness Through Social Media

Brenda’s passion for her livestock is matched only by her commitment to her community.

“We put a lot of heart and soul into our beef, and to be able to feed and nourish some local families, it feels really good,” she said, reflecting on how the cost of living has hit many families hard.

And word is spreading fast. 

Thanks mainly to social media, other ranchers are getting on board.

“You’re part of a movement, and a sense of community is what the world needs more of,” Cross remarked, highlighting the collective effort.

Faulkner shared her enthusiasm for the project’s community impact. “It’s rewarding to know it’s our neighbours we’re helping,” she said. “The sense of reward is very genuine.”

Their plan is to expand the range of donated goods to include beef, poultry, and fresh produce and to continue involving more local farmers and ranchers in their mission.

Executive Director Bente Yanota said the collective will significantly impact the area. “The support from this program going forward will be crucial for our organization to provide food to our clients, especially when prices for protein are so high. We really are so fortunate to have such a supportive community,” Yanota said. 

Foothills Farm Table Collective is about more than just food; it’s about nourishing community in every sense of the word.

Their website reads, “We all do better when we all do better.”

“This small thing, and thousands of other small efforts born of kindness, can together do real, lasting, measurable good.”

Albertans don’t wait around when people are in need; they take things ‘by the horns’ and ‘get ‘er done!’

The Foothills Farm Table Collective is but one example of the goodwill of Albertans.

Brenda and Brekell Otto (left) from Tangle Ridge Ranch, Executive Foodbank Director Bente Yanota (middle) and Shelly Faulkner and Jay Cross(right), pictured with the 600 pounds of donated beef | Okotoks Food Back Association, Facebook
Brenda and Brekell Otto (left) from Tangle Ridge Ranch, Executive Foodbank Director Bente Yanota (middle) and Shelly Faulkner and Jay Cross(right), pictured with the 600 pounds of donated beef | Okotoks Food Back Association, Facebook

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