25 Years and Growing!
December 18, 2017 - Spring is for seeding, summer is for growing, fall is for harvesting, and winter is for savoring! That’s the message from Innisfail Growers as the unique central Alberta farm co-operative reminds consumers they can still access fresh vegetables during the winter months.
2017 marked a significant year for the five farming families that make up Innisfail Growers, as they celebrated 25 years of working together to produce locally grown vegetables to the Alberta marketplace.
The roots of Innisfail Growers go back to an initial venture into carrots for grower member Beck Farms. Wanting more than just a single offering at their farmer’s market stand, the Bradshaw family approached neighbors in their home region near Innisfail, AB, to see if there was interest from others in trying vegetable production.
There was, and nearby growers began offering produce including asparagus, potatoes, lettuce, peas and strawberries. It wasn’t long before the families took the step of formalizing a cooperative structure that has stood the test of time. Five operations form the core membership now: Beck Farms, Edgar Farms, Upper Green Farms, Hillside Greenhouses, and the Jungle Farm.
“A lot has changed over a quarter century,” remarks Leona Stapes, of the Jungle Farm. “We now offer more than 40 different items, grown right here in Central Alberta.”
The list even features produce many might be surprised to see in Alberta, like artichokes, brussels sprouts and collards. The families offer fruit and flowers and have even expanded into processed goods, ranging from pies and preserves, to salad dressings.
During the summer, shoppers can pick up Innisfail Growers produce nearly any day of the week, as the group participates in some 20 different farmers markets in the area.
But thanks to their on-farm temperature controlled storage facilities, Innisfail Growers can now extend the ‘buy local’ shopping season by participating in two winter markets. The produce is offered at the Calgary Farmers Market, which is open Thursday to Sunday year-round. It’s also available at the Red Deer Winter Market, held each Saturday at the Eastview Estates Community Hall (120 Ellenwood Drive) from 10 am to noon.
“We’re even open there December 23rd for your last-minute Christmas dinner needs,” adds Staples. (The Eastview market is closed December 30th, but resumes in January.)
Another difference now compared to 25 years ago is marketing. These days, customers can keep in touch with Innisfail Growers at their fingertips, on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, as well as the website.
“We can show people how the crops are doing, let them know about coming events, and even share recipes,” says Staples.
As Innisfail Growers recognizes its successful first quarter-century in business as 2017 closes out, members are looking forward to the future, with many second-generation family members eager to carry on the family tradition of producing top-quality, locally-grown fresh food for Alberta families.
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