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‘Only scratched the surface’: Sask. vegetable farmers hope to see industry grow

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WATCH ABOVE: Wheat and canola are some of the first thoughts that come to mind when mention farming in Saskatchewan, but there is also a thriving vegetable industry. – Aug 30, 2018

The 40-acre carrot crop at Spring Creek Garden is ready to harvest.

Daniel and Chelsea Erlandson own the farm which is located north of Outlook, Sask.

READ MORE: Considerable progress made on Saskatchewan harvest

From cauliflower and cabbage, to peas and pumpkins, the farm is bustling from March until October, employing upwards of 50 people during peak season.

“There are times of the year where we’re harvesting, weeding, seeding and marketing all at the same time,” Daniel explained.

It all began when Daniel restarted his family’s vegetable farm as a way to make money in high school.

“When I was 16, it was 10 acres, and now it’s 240,” Daniel said.

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“We believe in the industry. We like the fact that we can start from the ground and work our way up here. We see lots of growth. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can for producing local vegetables. We just don’t do enough of it in Saskatchewan.”

Spring Creek Garden sells wholesale to Co-op food stores, with products sold in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.

READ MORE: Sask farmers show interest in vegetables as value rises, canola facing possible regulations

They also sell produce at different farmers markets six days a week in Saskatoon and two days a week in Regina.

“There’s been a huge growth. Every single year, there’s probably been 10 to 20 per cent growth for numbers of people coming down and seeing us,” Chelsea said.

Connie Achtymichuk, a provincial vegetable specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said the vegetable industry in Saskatchewan consists of 5,000 acres, with potatoes making up the majority.

Achtymichuk said the last few years in the vegetable industry have been exciting, pointing to the example of the Prairie Fresh Food Corporation (PFFC), which was formed in 2012 by 16 local producers to supply vegetables to retail. Spring Creek Garden is one of the shareholders.

READ MORE: Co-op expanding locally grown produce program

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The group started with 100 acres of production in 2012. Last year, the corporation had more than 450 acres in production.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot of acres, but that first year, they sold 23,000 pounds of produce into retail. Last year, they were well over 3 million. That industry is growing by leaps and bounds.”

Achtymichuk said with Saskatchewan’s small population, expanding the vegetable industry comes at a cost.

“In order to justify the infrastructure costs, we need to look at bigger markets. We need to look at export. Transportation is expensive and difficult, especially when dealing with a perishable product,” Achtymichuk said.

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