story by Patricia Merrick | photography by Kurtis Kristianson
Fresh, homegrown vegetables are a hot item at the Crossfield Farmers’ Market, and Barheide Ranch has plenty to offer.
The family-run ranch has been growing vegetables and fruit for a few years, including garlic, carrots, beets, potatoes, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, onion, cucumber, corn, zucchini, Saskatoon berries, raspberries and apples. Last year was the first for the ranch to participate in the farmers’ market.
According to co-owner Alex Heidebrecht, they also offered weekly subscription boxes for fresh vegetables for the first time last year.
“For us, local is important. From my perspective, when it comes to the food system, the more local we can keep it (the better). You connect with people better, it’s nice to support local people and the fewer kilometres you can put on food the better it is for the world,” he said. “Climate change is a hot button topic nowadays so that’s just one more thing that we can do to help the situation.”
Those interested in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes pay a subscription fee for 12 weeks starting in July and receive a box full of fresh veggies each week. The cost works out to approximately $20 a week and includes a variety of whatever vegetable and/or fruit is being harvested that week.
The boxes are delivered right to your front door and, Heidebrecht said, the service isn’t just for Crossfield residents. Last year, boxes were delivered to residents in Airdrie and northwest Calgary as well.
Heidebrecht said this year they’re hoping to gain more subscribers, as well as sell meat at the farmers’ market along with their popular vegetables. Barheide Ranch – located approximately 20 kilometres east of Crossfield – is run by Alex, his brother and father. The family has lived on the farm for approximately 25 years and raises cattle. Heidebrecht said they plan to sell cuts like steak, roasts or ground beef at the farmers’ market.
They also began breeding sheep five years ago. According to Heidebrecht, the sheep are bred in October and November and usually lamb March through May. A couple of weeks before they’re due to lamb, the Heidebrechts sheer the ewes so it’s easier for the lambs to access their mother’s milk once they arrive.
The mothers are kept in a lambing bed and the lambs are kept with their mothers for two to three months. Once they reach five to six months of age, they’re ready for market, Heidebrecht said.
“Either we’ll sell them privately off our land or there’s a feedlot that we can sell them to or take them to the market,” he said, adding when sold off the land, half or whole lambs are $8 per pound in hanging weight.
“We haven’t quite got into the individual cuts market yet. We’re looking probably this year to do some more with that,” he said.
The Crossfield Farmers’ Market, which is a member of the Alberta Farmers’ Markets Association, is held Thursdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. June through September in the parking lot at the Crossfield & District Community Centre.