Rob and Helen Hammel bought the acreage in the summer of 2004. With no farming experience, we decided to try our hand at fruit farming. After days of planting fresh, baby fruit trees, we discovered something terrible. There are weeds that try to kill all our plants! Fighting weeds with days and days and days of hand weeding, we quickly learned about pre-planning and weed suppression so that our second attempt at planting, a couple of years later, went much more smoothly.
We soon discovered that knowledge about weeds is not the only necessary skill in fruit farming. There are insects and fungi that try to kill the plants too! Then we discovered that gophers, moles, and deer are not as cute as they seem at first glance.
Horticultural knowledge aside, there are other skills that were lacking yet necessary. The first time we tried to change the oil on our tractor, it took a week. Growing up in the city, Rob had never changed oil on anything before. After struggling for hours to get the filters off, Helen went to work and asked around. She came home with a wonderful present for Rob – a nifty invention called a filter wrench. Who knew?
Each step has been met with resistance and a steep learning curve. In the fall of 2011 we opened the commercial processing facility. In the summer of 2012 we opened the U-pick for saskatoons only. In 2013 we U-picked both saskatoons and raspberries. In 2014 we began limited (by appointment only) cherry picking as well. In 2014 Rob also guest instructed at Olds College in the Horticulture Program. His goal was to prevent students from making the same expensive mistakes we did! We’ve come a long way!
As we move forward we hope that neither hail, nor pestilence, nor furry little creatures shall stop us! Who knows what new knowledge we’ll need for the next part of the venture? We encourage our patrons to bring us their suggestions and ideas as we continue to grow – both ourselves and our fruit.
Update: In the Fall of 2016 Rob and Helen Hammel have moved on from the farm. We are no longer there and the farm is currently between owners.