The Out of Office Diaries: City Meets Farm & Fish on Lake Winnipeg

Icebound Excursions snobear rental on Lake Winnipeg

The Out of Office Diaries: City Meets Farm & Fish on Lake Winnipeg

The snow may be melting in Ontario, but some industry travellers, including Branding & Buzzing‘s own Sean Beckingham, are still feeling the chill of their recent outing, an ice fishing trip on Lake Winnipeg!

3 years ago, when Sean was on a work trip to a Canola Eat Well farm trip, the bus group was discussing Winnipeg weather when someone jokingly challenged Sean, “I don’t think you could handle it.”

“I said, ‘yes, I could, I’d even go ice fishing to prove I could’ and Will (the Farmer Bergmann AKA WtF) said ‘you’re on,'” explained Sean. “I got nervous and asked if I could invite another Toronto person. They asked who, I instantly thought of Matt Dean Pettit. We called him right there on speakerphone and he said ‘I’m in.'”

After the first fishing trip, Will had realized how much he loved doing the event and wanted to keep bringing the communities together. The farmer had always held an adoration for Toronto, its chefs and wanted to do group ice fishing again as an annual tradition.

“This event means a lot to me on a lot of levels,” said Bergmann. “It’s been incredible to meet people from Toronto and build relationships there, one of my best friends is Sean, and we have connected over many things, but especially food. He has helped develop who I am as an advocate for agriculture and guided me in molding my brand into what it is. Having support of friends in this event is amazing.”

This year’s attendees, alongside Sean, were Marcus Kraft, Moonlight Graeme, Josh McFaddin, Mathew Hobson, Tyrone Welchinski, Chef Mandel HitzerIan Krahn, Tony Cobb, Sean Owen and Toronto restauranteur Trevor Lui.

“The annual gathering in Winnipeg was another amazing display of learning and networking with some of the best people from our industry across the country,” said Lui. “To be able to better understand our lands and where/how our food ecosystem works is amazing and such an honor and privilege.“

Here are some of the top moments of the 2019 adventure.

Ice Fishing Fire LogThe Fire Log

On the Friday night before the big fish, Tony Cobb, who the group called the Codfather, had a big idea. Being an experienced Newfoundland fisherman, he decided he wanted to fish and cook outside the hut no matter the weather but required a fire log. This was a specially-cut log that could be safely filled with kerosene for day-long burning on the ice. After a night of sleeping in the farmhouse, everyone awoke to a fire log all prepped and ready to go, made by Will who had woken up at 4AM and made time to find and cut one for the outing. Sure enough, the weather was incredible enough to fish outside, also allowing for skillet cooking over the log fire.

Ice Fishing on Lake WinnipegThe Seatbelt Scare

Anytime there are new people on the trip, it has become a running gag for those in the front of the vehicle to warn everyone to take their seatbelts off as the depart further onto the lake. It’s warned to be just in case the truck falls through the ice, and freaks the new guests out every time. (Mean, they know)

Eating Minnows Ice FishingFish Gravy

As Chef Mandel Hitzer of Winnipeg’s deer + almond restaurant was preparing lunch for the hungry fishermen, he’d asked for some eggs from one of the fish to top the dish. Upon cutting the fish open, it was realized that the cod was in fact male, sperm sack and all in place of eggs.

It was then that the Codfather surprised the group by squeezing the sack, drinking the raw sperm from its insides, informing everyone there’s nothing toxic about its contents. The rest then tried the fish gravy on dares from one another.

Minnows were also consumed at the end of the trip as well.

But of course…

With chefs like Mandel Hitzer and Trevor Lui on the trip, there was definitely plenty of amazing food to go around.

This event is special because it brings people together from all areas of food industry, right from fishers and farmers, restauranteurs, chefs, managers, beverage reps, to consumers. But it’s in an environment that levels the playing field. The frozen lake is something that a lot of people have never experienced, and we make it an event that profiles the best of what our province and country has to offer for food, beverage, and comfort. Snow storm or sunny skies, -30 or +5, Winnipeg weather is unpredictable. But there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes; 3 years into this, we haven’t let someone get cold yet.

Sharing my story, and the story of agriculture, has been an increasingly important part of what I do and believe in. Conversations and relationships can be built around food. Listening to one another is one of the first steps in creating a better world. We’re all connected through food. Safe, nutritious, affordable food for everyone will take all kinds of farmers farming all kinds of ways to achieve that. This fishing event is part of me being able to bring together people who care about that, and begin to make changes.

– Will Bergmann

Photo Credit: Black Chair Marketing