Flat Out Food: Canada’s oldest wheat enjoys a revival thanks to Saskatchewan organic farming family


“Red Fife is more difficult to grow agronomically, but it has that great taste and Slow Food story behind it.”

Agriculture has been a way of life for Saskatchewan’s Loiselle family for well over a century. Marc and Anita, along with their children, run Loiselle Organic Farm near Vonda.

Anita Loiselle delivers a load of heritage Red Fife wheat to the Night Oven Bakery, where owner Bryn Rawlyk stone-grinds and mills it into flour. Anita, her husband Marc and their children run Loiselle Organic Farm near Vonda.Richard Marjan / Supplied photo

Perhaps because Marc is the fifth generation to grow and raise nourishing food, he wants to ensure a bright future for the farmers who come after him.

In 1985, the Loiselles transitioned to certified organic and biodynamic agricultural practices. They grow a range of cereal, pulse, hay and oilseed crops, and raise rare breed Dexter cattle, amongst other animals.

However, they’re best known for their heritage Red Fife wheat. And thanks to their efforts, Canada’s oldest wheat is enjoying a revival.

The Loiselles began growing Red Fife in 2001, at a time when the red spring wheat was nearing extinction.

“There was starting to be interest by the Slow Food movement because of the near obsolescence of a variety that was known to have opened up the west,” explains Marc.

“Red Fife is more difficult to grow agronomically, but it has that great taste and Slow Food story behind it.”

His Slow Food connection began in 2004, when he attended the organization’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy. (The event is aimed at small-scale farmers and food artisans whose approach to food production protects the environment and their local communities.)

It was an experience that left an “indelible mark” on Marc.

That was also the year he became the sole grain supplier for Victoria’s then-named Fol Epi bakery.

He and Fol Epi’s owner lugged sacks of Red Fife flour on the plane for their booth in the Hall of Tastes, where they gave out morsels of freshly baked bread each morning to thousands, including schoolchildren.

“(The children) had this sensibility about food. They’d touch it, taste it and smell it,” recalls Marc. “That really touched me.”

At the time, Red Fife was not only rare in Canada but globally.

“We got this huge exposure through Slow Food. It took off from there,” says Marc, who later helped found Slow Food Saskatoon with Anita and several local food enthusiasts.

The Red Fife, along with the family’s Musketeer fall rye and Rouge De Bordeaux wheat, have been mainstays at Saskatoon’s Night Oven Bakery, where flour is stone-ground and milled on site.

A collaboration with the bakery’s owner Bryn Rawlyk introduced the first purple barley sourdough to Canada. The heritage grain, which Marc grew and Rawlyk used for the sourdough, debuted at the Prairie Grid dinner series in 2019 to rave reviews.

“It’s exciting, especially to be working with people that are so interesting and dynamic,” says Marc.

A wheat fieldTROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post

Marc and Anita, longtime advocates for organic farming, are also staunch supporters of eating well and self-sufficiently. Being able to share that experience, while dealing directly with their customers, is a bonus.

“It’s that human connection; actually sharing with people their experience of eating healthy organic food. It’s a passion to be able to do what I do as a farmer,” says Marc.

The Loiselles offer beef, chicken and egg sales along with seasonal pork beginning in November. You’re welcome to visit the farm or Saskatoon delivery is easily organized. Just call Marc’s cell to place an order: 306-227-5825.

Jenn Sharp is a freelance writer in Saskatoon.Her first book, Flat Out Delicious: Your Guide to Saskatchewan’s Food Artisans, will be published by Touchwood Editions in April. Follow her on Twitter @JennKSharp, Instagram @flatoutfoodsk, and Facebook.