Market garden owners eager to help industry grow

Spring Creek Garden Ltd. farmed 60 acres in 2010, expanded to 200 by 2013 and has a goal of 400 acres in the near future

Chelsea and Dan Erlandson of Outlook will represent Saskatchewan at the national Outstanding Young Farmer event later this year.

The couple was named the regional nominee at Canada’s Farm Progress Show June 17.

The vegetable producers grow 55 varieties on 200 acres of irrigated land at Spring Creek Garden Ltd.

They attend eight farmers markets a week and are founding members of the Prairie Fresh Food Corp., a company formed by 17 growers to supply Federated Co-operatives Ltd. with Saskatchewan-grown products.

“Our industry is very small, but we believe there’s some incredible growth to be had,” Dan said.

They are the third generation to own Spring Creek. Dan’s parents started the market garden in the 1980s as a way to help save the family farm, which they inherited from Dan’s grandparents, but stopped after they bought the Saskatoon Berry Barn in 1993.

When Dan turned 16, he renewed the business, beginning with 10 acres and the help of his sister and some friends.

The Erlandsons farmed 60 acres when they married in 2010, but the establishment of Prairie Fresh Food Corp. in 2013 drove growth to 200 acres.

“We’re still in expansion mode,” said Dan.

“We just recently put up new facilities that should withstand some more expansion. We’re hoping around 400 acres is the next goal, but then again, three or four years ago it was about 100.”

His brother, Travis, and his wife, Jackie, became shareholders in Spring Creek in 2015.

Dan said having water at their fingertips is a blessing because vegetables need it all the time. Being good stewards of the land and the water is important, he added.

The couple has two children: four-year-old Calla and two-year-old Raulan.

Chelsea, who grew up in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask., in a non-farming family, said it’s challenging to have such an intense growing season and business and look after the children. However, they found a great babysitter who has become part of the family, she added.

Chelsea looks after payroll and recruiting and attends farmers markets five or six days a week.

“I do all the books,” she said.

“We have about 40 employees. It’s intense until November, then the hours become more manageable.”

The Erlandsons will employ 29 Mexican workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program this year.

“They’re incredible,” said Dan.

“We couldn’t have a business without them at this point.”

The 55 varieties they grow include brussels sprouts, sweet corn, broccoli, romaine, celery and leafy green lettuces, as well as the typical vegetables that market customers expect.

Dan said they follow rotations from year to year and within years where they can replant.

“We grow a lot of sweet corn, so sweet corn can count as our grain, essentially,” he said.

“Broccoli and brussels sprouts count as our brassica.”

The couple said there is a tremendous market for Saskatchewan-grown vegetables.

“It’s important to us that we become leaders within our industry so we can help it grow,” said Dan.

Chelsea is the secretary-treasurer of the Saskatchewan Vegetable Growers’ Association.

Dan was an assistant coach with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team but the farm and young family are now the priorities.

The national OYF event will be held Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 in Niagara Falls, Ont.

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