Pick your own strawberries at Canadian vertical farm

Business was booming at Saskaberry Ranch, a pick-your-own strawberries farm north of Calgary. Operated by Phil and Christine Trenholm along with their four children, the mixed farm and U-pick ranch is on a 140-acre site they first planted in 1999. “We wanted something sustainable on a quarter-section for a family,” Phil says. 

They started planting orchards of Saskatoons and raspberries, raising a few small animals for meat, and built a pair of greenhouses. 

In July and August, streams of customers arrived with pails for U-pick and shopping bags for other products. Some fresh produce is available in September and October, including a second crop of strawberries, and then the gates close for another season. Phil delivers about twice a month after that to designated locations. 

“We have Saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, sour cherries, cherry tomatoes, some rhubarb, and a few cucumbers. We also sell pasture-based chicken and eggs, grass-fed finished Angus beef, and grass-fed finished sheep,” he says.

Each growing pod is 13 inches wide and is shaped like a four-leaf clover. One strawberry plant goes into each cup-shaped leaf. Phil and Christine planted their first strawberries about ten years ago. On the website, Phil writes, “Initially we did not intend to grow strawberries, due to the labor involved, but because of numerous requests we started growing strawberries.”

Phil needed to devise a vertical system for intense greenhouse strawberry production on the farm. He could not find a Canadian system although two American companies were offering a possible option using pods of foam or plastic to hold the plants. With more searching, he found stacking pods of UV-treated plastic available on Alibaba, the Chinese-based ebay-type service. A shipping broker in Calgary worked with him to verify the transaction and eventually placed an order for enough pods to fill his greenhouse. 

Read the complete article at www.greenhousecanada.com.

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