7K Panorama Ranch allows guests to eat, drink and be merry
Mike and Deb Kaumeyer encourage the joy of gathering
The tagline for the 7K Panorama Ranch, located about 40 minutes outside of Calgary toward Millarville, is "for the joy of gathering."
Mike and Deb Kaumeyer hope to transform their beautiful space in the rolling Foothills into an experiential food hub, welcoming students and other guests looking to cook, share a meal, feed a horse or stick their hands in the dirt.
Mike grew up on the farm and his father was in the cattle business, having registered the ranch back in 1969.
It was named to represent the seven family members — five kids and their parents — who moved onto the ranch in 1975.
Mike and his siblings grew up raising Herefords, Red and Black Angus, and Simmental cattle that were shipped around the world. Gathering with multiple generations for Sunday dinner, it typically featured beef and vegetables grown from their own garden and greenhouse.
'A lot of good energy in the kitchen'
Eventually, the ranch was sold out of the family but Mike bought it back in 1996 — enabling him to raise his sons in a house up the hill from the one he was raised in.
Our thinking is that we could use this as an experiential place, but with a food connection.- Mike Kaumeyer
Mike met Deb, a physiotherapist, 10 years ago.
"We hosted a dinner party about four days after we met," Mike said. "One of my friends who was at the party said 'How long have you guys been together?' and I said, 'I just met her last week!'"
"We were just going to have a few people over, but it turned into 25 or 30 people," Deb added.
"There was a lot of good energy in the kitchen. It was a good way to get to know each other, and it morphed after that. When we met, we both had an affinity for family recipes, for being around the table and keeping that alive. It was a connection, a value, that he really wanted to pass on to his boys. And when I came onto the scene, it just kind of worked."
Bringing people back to the table
They transformed the ranch back into a mixed farm.
"Before the onset of mono-agriculture there'd be a cow, a couple of pigs, chickens.... You'd have a bit of hay up on the field up there," Mike said of the farm styles of generations past. "Even though this is a cattle farm, we're trying to bring a lot of those elements back."
For years, Mike and Deb have continued to toss around the concept of how to bring people back to the table. Four years ago, they decided to refurbish a large barn on the property by adding a kitchen, bar, small stage, reclaimed wood dining tables and stunning chandeliers that contrast perfectly with the rustic space.
"I got to talk to my Dad about the idea, and literally five days later he passed away," Mike said. "And so that was the impetus to get moving on it."
Once the barn was finished, they got married in it. They also began working with Calgary chef Judy Wood to cater private events and an offshoot of the barn was transformed into a beautiful open kitchen with a large cement island overlooking the mountains. (When they do host events, they generally bus people out from Calgary to reduce the impact of traffic and make sure everyone gets home safely.)
Meals are still most often sourced from their own land — the cattle, garden and greenhouses.
"We really want food to be the catalyst to bring people here," Mike said. "We'd like to make jams, do some pickling and preserving, get back to that heritage stuff. Our thinking is that we could use this as an experiential place, but with a food connection."
Mike and Deb also want the ranch to be a place that gives back to the Alberta community, and support those with food insecurity.
To that end, last year they hosted the first annual Harvest Moon fundraiser with the help of performers Chad Brownlee and the Sam Roberts Band, who took to the stage in the refurbished barn lit by chandeliers as the sun went down. They raised over $50,000 for the new Community Food Centre in Calgary.
They've also ploughed and planted a field with food to grow and harvest for the same organization. Along with Mike's sister Jane, they're making the necessary applications to the M.D. to become a sort of food hub — a place dedicated to education, awareness and gathering.
"One of the things we're trying to say to them is, this is a unique place — and if we don't do this, who will? We feel like the history and the geography and the proximity make it ideal to serve as a food hub. There are so many opportunities here."
And after all, food is what brings people together.