The en Santé Story
This farm operation has seen its share of “firsts” and “leadership”, enjoying a long and proud history of ethical stewardship of nature’s resources and community development.
John Sam and Eva Chrapko were community leaders. Long before the County system was established, John sat on what was known as Municipal Council. Many roads and other services were brought to what had been a remote rural area under his tenure while the family grew to 5 children, the middle one of whom was their son, Victor Chrapko.
Victor continued in his father’s footsteps, taking on leadership roles in the community with his wife Elizabeth at his side. Victor was the founding President of the Brosseau Mutual Telephone company which brought telephone service to the region. Victor also became a Two Hills County Councilor for 12 years, 1 of which he served as the Reeve of the County.
In the early 80’s, Victor and Elizabeth founded Citizens Against Contaminants, a small, ragged, but passionate band of locals who opposed efforts to locate an industrial hazardous waste disposal plant right in the rich farming heartland of North Eastern Alberta. Perhaps not surprisingly, the promised jobs & economic impact fueled some strong local support for the plant, and some local people resented Vic & Lyz for opposing the plant. Eventually, the proposed plant was successfully repelled. This was no mean feat in the days before the Internet allowed for instant access to scientific research and resources around the world. The Chrapkos and their supporters did it, however, by pounding the phones, writing letters, and driving into the city to talk to—at least—University of Alberta chemistry professors and others who they could meet in person in Edmonton….and they had to do it all while running one of the largest farm operations in the region.
A post-script to the hazardous waste story: The plant ended up being located in Swan Hills, Alberta, by the private company that had tried to locate it at Duvernay/Brosseau. Eventually, that private company went bankrupt or otherwise abandoned the plant and the province of Alberta had to step in to either rescue/subsidize the private company. At last word, residents and hunters/fishermen are receiving official health warnings from the Provincial authorities—they are being told to limit their consumption of fish and game if it is harvested within a 30-km radius of the Swan Hills hazardous waste plant. Children and pregnant women are being ordered not to consume food from that region at all. It’s fair to say that the Chrapkos and their supporters can only wish that the provincial authorities and the business interests behind the industrial hazardous waste disposal “business” had heeded pleas to work with other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions to locate such a dangerous facility, if one was truly needed, in a very remote & stable location which would not threaten the eco-system, water tables, and atmosphere. As well, it’s still not too late to enhance detection & monitoring efforts to catch illegal polluters while simultaneously modernizing the laws regarding environmental contamination. That said, there seems to be very little political will to address this topic.
The Chrapkos always think big. The hog operation envisioned and constructed and operated by the family was, in its day, a very large facility—one of the largest such barns ever built. Victor constructed the barn without the use of a general contractor, professional engineers, or other socalled experts. This included purchasing a cement truck, for example, and making all the cement on-site. The Chrapko children learned how to do electrical and plumbing work, as well as masonry, carpentry and welding in order to help get the barn built. The hog barn was named “The Pork Palace” and it was officially opened at a ribbon cutting ceremony which was presided over by then-Lieutenant Governor Ralph Steinhauer. In keeping with the mantra of adding back to one’s industry and making it better for everyone, Victor became a delegate to the provincial Pork Producers’ Marketing Board for 10 years, 6 of which he served in the capacity as a Director of the corporation. Part of this tenure coincided with the nowinfamous “Pocklington Battles” when that profiteer owned the Gainers meat packing company.
The whole Chrapko family enjoyed the distinction of being honored with a provincial “Farm Family Award” in 1990, partly attesting to their ceaseless pursuit of big-picture, modern farming as well as strong citizenship.
All this time, Elizabeth continued her profession in the health care system, ranging from Public Health work, to Home Care and hospital nursing. Elizabeth was also the inspiration for a brand new use of an otherwise idle seniors’ residential facility. She led the charge to establish an Alzheimer’s Care Facility in Myrnam, Alberta, to serve residents from a large surrounding area. The social model of care that she successfully advocated greatly enhances the quality of life for both aged Alzheimers patients as well as their care-givers.
Being practitioners of an environmentally-aware approach to farming, the Chrapkos had neighbors who didn’t always understand or agree with Vic & Lyz’s low-impact farming practices. For example, traditional farmers simply couldn’t believe that modern farm operations could “get away without” applying chemical fertilizers to their crops. Not only did Victor refuse to use chemical fertilizer, but his crops thrived using age-old, proven methods of crop rotation and judicious inter-seeding of crops whose root systems fix nitrogen into the soil. With an uncontaminated soil base, the Chrapkos’ farm was easily certified organic in 1999. The rest, as they say, is history.
Against the odds, Vic & Lyz established a certified-organic orchard, which they eventually called “Orchard Palace”. With apples and 13 fruits already producing, and another 8 in advanced stages of maturity (for an eventual total of 21 different fruits), the orchard co-exists with a small honeybee operation. As has become routine, the Chrapkos faced skeptics. Few people believed that growing fruit on a commercial basis could be accomplished in Northern Alberta! To help lead the charge toward more environmentally-friendly agriculture in general, and orchards or other small-footprint agriculture practices specifically, Victor became the President of the Alberta Organic Producers’ Association (www.AlbertaOrganicProducers.org ).
In order to take bigger advantage of the value-add supply chain regarding their fruit production, the Chrapkos quickly made plans to establish a winery using certified-organic fruit.
However, the laws for brewing alcohol-based beverages in Alberta were behind the times. To successfully undertake the next step in their forward march of progress, Victor & Lyz had to lobby to get the laws changed to permit a “cottage”-type of winery operation, meaning that they could build and legally run a winery on their premises using their organic fruit. In parallel, the Chrapkos started a multi-year experimentation process to find just the right mix of ingredients, and the perfectly-timed process, for a smooth, high-quality wine from their organic fruit. After many years, the law was finally changed and, in January, 2006, En Santé Winery became Alberta’s very first (and still ‘only’) Organic-Fruit Cottage Winery!
The winery takes its name from the twin influences of the French language toast, “En Santé!” which means “To Health!” which is an obvious fit with the organic origins of the fruit that goes into the wine. As well, part of the Chrapkos’ farm is located on the shores of nearby Lac Santé, a deep fresh-water lake that boasts great fishing and recreational activities. In the heart of Alberta’s “Lakeland” tourist region, Lac Santé is attracting more and more people from farther and farther places, some of whom are building seasonal or year-round cabins and residences in different developments emerging around the shoreline.
Thank you for your interest in the story of how the winery came to be!
en Santé Timeline"Cottage Wine" in Alberta is a new initiative introduced by legislation in 2005. The license to operate en Santé Winery Ltd.was granted to Victor Chrapko in January, 2006. You are one of the first visitors to En Santé Winery's web site...because it's brand new! To appreciate what the future might hold, consider the history of activity of our operations to date:
1910 and 1912 Eva Skakun and John Sam Chrapko emigrate to Canada from Ukraine as young children
1927 John S. and Eva Chrapko start the homestead that now operates as operates as enSante Orchard & Winery
1964 Victor and Elizabeth join hands to establish a cattle/grain and later a hog/grain operation
1974 Victor and Elizabeth Chrapko take over the operation of Victor's home place and begin the first steps toward a low-impact, "environmental " approach to cultivating the land
1975 Construction of "Pork Palace", a commercial 200-sow farrow-to-finish hog operation is started
1993 Chrapko family is honored with the "Farm Family" award in Alberta
1995 Diversifying into fruit production: starts with the planting of the first apple cultivar, progressing to include 13 other fruits. The orchard now totals about 65 varieties of apple cultivars, and a total of about 1500 fruit trees.
1997 Pork Palace hog operation is discontinued. Operation is renamed Orchard Palace and development of a U-Pick orchard begins.
1997 Wine experimentation starts. By the time the winery is officially opened 9 years later, hundreds of recipes and variations are tested to discover a perfectly smooth, easydrinking wine using only homegrown, organic fruit
1999 "Orchard Palace" is designated Certified Organic for agricultural production by Organic Crop Improvement Association International
2001 Plans for the winery begin
2005 "Orchard Palace" is officially recognized in the Centennial Year as a value-added, organic, diversified agricultural operation in a ceremony involving international organic association representatives and government and other dignitaries
2006 Provincial Cottage Winery license granted for brewing wine. Organic fruit and berries grown in our U-Pick orchard is used to produce a smooth, unique drinking experience.