The Hansen family at Craven, Saskatchewan, has been growing food since 1954. In 1976, they started wholesale vegetable farming. Now third-generation farmers, Shawn and Kaelene Hansen, along with brother, Todd, and his wife, Jeanette, are wholesale vegetable growers who harvest potatoes, dilling cucumbers, cauliflower and cabbages. Their cauliflower, cabbage and cucumbers are sold almost exclusively through Co-op grocery stores.
“It’s a little Saskatchewan success story,” states Shawn Hansen, co-owner of Craven Riverside Gardens. “In three years we’ve managed to triple our cauliflower and cucumber business. We’ve been able to incorporate technology into washing, bagging and sizing our produce to be more efficient. We’ve also developed value-added products such as sauerkraut made from our cabbages. It’s very exciting.”
But it’s not all about business. Hansen says the main reason he farms is because he enjoys it. He left the farm after he graduated from high school, but returned because he missed it so much.
“I love the process of putting seed in the ground and producing food for people… getting out on the tractor at five or six in the morning and having time to myself. That and it’s a great life to share with my family and children. Living and working on the farm is an education that can’t be taught in the classroom.”
The Hansens also ensure that the land they farm is well taken care of. Each year they are audited by Canada GAP, “Good Agricultural Practices”, a national food safety program for fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We educate our staff and our family about good hygiene, proper use of pesticides, and we monitor our irrigation water as efficiently as we can. To continually improve the land to produce our vegetables, we grow ethanol wheat in rotation for straw and organic matter to put back into the ground. Land that isn’t very fertile is planted to legumes and native grass for five or six years to get back into shape and improve the soil.”
So what’s on the agenda for next year’s growing season?
The Hansens are expanding their vegetable crops to include zucchini – another Saskatchewan-grown food for consumers to enjoy.