Explore Local Regional Producer Profiles: Schipper Farms

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Harm and Dee Schipper farm 3 miles east and 3 miles north of Bow Island. They have 480 acres of irrigated land for grains, two barns for their broiler chickens and 30,000 square feet of greenhouse where they grow microgreens, strawberries, lettuce, herbs, flowers and various other greenhouse products.

Schipper Farms products can be found at various farmers' markets in southern Alberta, in store supplied by Red Hat Co-op, through Yuba Market Calgary and directly from the farm. For more details on where to find their products, contact Schipper Farms directly through their website.

Why they started Schipper Farms

The Schippers ran a traditional farm and greenhouse in the Netherlands, but after Harm came for a holiday to Canada in 1995, they decided to immigrate. In 1996 they purchased a farm near Bow Island because they were so encouraged by the farming success stories coming out of Alberta. After one year of running solely a grain farm, they got restless and added a greenhouse operation. Dee was passionate about growing fresh food and they began with peppers and other greenhouse vegetables.

The drought years of the early 2000s gave them the idea to diversify their products .They began to look into additions to their farm that required little water but would still fit in with their interests and farming practices. They found broiler chickens fit their needs and have continued to raise them because they enjoy this aspect of the farm so much.

Schippers try to incorporate as many sustainable environmental practices into their farming as possible. Whether it's solar power or recycling greenhouse water, they try to find ways to decrease their impact on the environment by working with the ecosystems in which they live.

On relationships with their customers and accessing Schipper Farm products

Schipper Farms is a member of the Red Hat Co-op and their greenhouse products are primarily distributed by Red Hat to grocery stores in Calgary and southern Alberta. It's valuable for Schippers to be part of the Co-op because they're able to join forces with other small to medium size farmers to make their products available in local stores and be marketed together with other local food producers. They like Red Hat because of its emphasis on creating relationships between the producer and the consumer. Though Red Hat takes care of their distribution, some of their products are still labelled and sold as “Schipper Farms” and they enjoy the way this allows their customers to connect more meaningfully with their farm.

Sunrise Poultry distributes their broiler chickens and their grain crops are processed and distributed through traditional channels. They've also recently joined the Yuba Market program that serves downtown Calgary, specifically condo and office buildings. Customers can choose local Alberta products online and have them delivered fresh the next day to their work or home through the Yuba Market program.

They attend many farmers' markets and pop-up markets and from these one-on-one interactions with their consumers they love the feedback they receive in response to their products. It helps them to figure out what their customers really like and what they're looking for from their farm. In response to this feedback, Lia (Harm and Dee's daughter) has begun making fruit jams in a commercial kitchen. The jam is now offered to their customers along with the strawberries, micro greens, lettuce and bedding flowers that fill their market table.

Their presence in the community and vision for Schipper Farms

Above all, the Schippers love to produce fresh food. They enjoy growing living things that not only feed their community but that their whole family can be a part of. Their daughters are active participants in the farming life. Lia, has taken over the marketing and sales side of Schipper Farms as well as running a bedding plant operation with her younger sister, Colleen. Schipper Farms has recently joined a foreign worker program which has allowed them to include two staff members in their operation, a Thai couple who work side by side with the Schippers in their daily chores.

What the Schippers really enjoy when engaging with their customers is anything that relates to education about their products and their practices. They love going to trade-fairs and farm expos where they can talk to people about what really goes on in their operation.

The Schipper family also hosts a yearly open house the weekend before Mother's Day which allows their community to engage with their farm. On the Friday they organize tours for school groups and seniors' homes. On the Saturday the greater community is encouraged to come check out the farm and get to know the Schipper family. While there are flowers for sale during their open house, their priority is to engage with, inform and support their local community. Building trust with their community is at the core of Schipper Farms.

“If people tour our place we like them to go and think, 'I want more' because what they have seen is that we have the same values, that they are taken care of, that they don't need to worry.” - Dee Schipper

Schipper Farms

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Mimi Lee.
This document is maintained by Delores Serafin.
This information published to the web on June 8, 2015.
Last Reviewed/Revised on July 27, 2018.