This February, during another one of the frigid winter days we experienced this year, YYC Growers headed out for a beach day at Shirley’s Greenhouse. Dawn Buschert and her husband Cam hosted a potluck with a tour of their 36, 000 sq feet of greenhouse. It was -19 Celsius outside, it was 21 degrees inside the greenhouse and cucumbers were ripening. The tomato and pepper starts hadn’t produced fruit; that wouldn’t happen until March. Inside the greenhouse, on that cold day, it was bliss. If you’ve visited any of Shirley’s Market stands or dine on a YYC Growers’ Harvest Box, you’ve likely experienced the bliss of this greenhouse too. Likely, you've popped several of those adult candies, Shirley’s tomatoes.
Dawn claims she didn’t choose to own a farm. But the farm she’s taken over from her parents, one of whom is the infamous Shirley (Dawn’s mother), Dawn handles knowingly, producing piquant cherry tomatoes and crunchy lil’ cucumbers. Dawn and her husband Cam operate the farm business, Shirley's Greenhouses— a second generation farm business of one ¾ acre greenhouse and 10 acres of field crop during the outdoor growing months.
The 10 acres of field crop is an expansion from last season’s inaugural and experimental 5 acres of field crop. It was clearly considered a success. Part of this season's expansion includes beans and melons. Yes, we’re talking watermelons and cantaloupes in Alberta. It’s been a thing for a while.
On the farm right now, the corn is already up, and as of this week, all the transplants will have been seeded: zucchini, winter-squash, swiss chards, kales. Surprisingly to many of us, the soil out in Didsbury, Ab. is already dry. Even after our snowy winter the May heat has sucked up a lot of moisture. The weather network also warns of dry Prairies and fire risks already, always a concern to the farmer. It’s why healthy soil is so critical. While building healthy soil when you’re actively farming takes time to evolve. Shirley’s is quick to stack additional functions to increase the efficiency of her greenhouse, for example, the greenhouse saves the water used in the hydroponic system for irrigation of the field crops. For annual crop production, having a reliable water source can truly impact a farm's success from season to season.
“They’re so easy to eat,” Dawn boasts of her product. She claims her evening snack is a bag of mini cukes chopped and mixed with mini tomatoes and a diced pepper (orange preferably) tossed with garlic infused olive oil from Blue Door. Knowing how hard Dawn works, I'm sure this evening snack happens while many of us are already sleeping.
Dawn encourages all her customers to grow something. New growers should stick to simple stuff lettuces, chard, zucchini but leave the hard stuff to us (the farmers). Let the farmers feed your family this summer. Get Your Harvest Box