Explore Local Regional Producer Profiles: Shirley's Greenhouse

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Dawn and Cameron Buschert run Shirley's Greenhouse east of Didsbury, Alberta. They offer greenhouse grown long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, three varieties of peppers, seven varieties of tomatoes, basil, five varieties of lettuces and kale. They also grow a variety of field vegetables including carrots, potatoes, zucchini and onions.

You can purchase Shirley's Greenhouse products at their many farmers' market stalls, from their on farm veggie counter and at local grocery stores in Crossfield, Carstairs and Didsbury. The best way to stay in touch with Shirley's Greenhouse and learn more about them is to check out their Facebook page or their website.

How they began Shirley's Greenhouse

Dawn's parents started Shirley's Greenhouse in 1992, growing wholesale long English cucumbers. When Cameron & Dawn took over, wholesale cucumbers were no longer a viable option. Higher input and operating costs combined with wholesalers dictating prices meant that Cameron and Dawn had to look for new and innovative ways to sell their product. They diversified their crops and dove headfirst into directly marketing to their consumers.

In 2015 they began some field veggie production on one acre. Family asked them “are you sure you want to do a garden that big? What if it doesn't work?” They responded with “what's Dawn going to do if it does work?” This year they've doubled the size of the field. The response to their new field grown veggies at market has been great. Overall, Dawn says, people are simply looking for local.

Their Produce

The grape tomatoes they're known for are unique to their operation in Alberta. They're one of the few producers growing that particular variety in the province. Chosen by Dawn & Cam entirely based on it's flavour profile, it can be a difficult variety to work with because it produces very delicate fruit.

Aside for their famous sweet grape tomatoes (dubbed by happy, addicted customers as “crack”) the kale they grow in their greenhouses is becoming increasingly popular. Since it's grown in the greenhouse rather than the field, it takes on a very sweet taste and extremely tender texture: more like a lettuce than a kale.

Their role in the Community

Education and customer satisfaction are at the heart of their business. Without customer support, they couldn't farm and so if the customer isn't happy, they're not happy. They're known to bend over backwards to make sure their customers have a positive experience with them and their produce. Having conversations about food and farming with customers is something that helps not only their farm but their industry as a whole.

They collaborate with a lot of other growers in Alberta (Eagle Creek Farms, Country Thyme Farms, Noble Gardens, Greenberry, Doef's Greenhouses, S4 Greenhouses, Fork in the Rowed, Kohut Corn, etc.). The community of veggie growers is tight knit and they often sell each other's products but always want to be clear about who grew it, how it was grown and where it was grown. Farmers working with other farmers to help raise the profile of local agriculture and local farms is important to the growth of the demand for local goods. They caution that this relationship is much different than wholesalers who purchase goods they have not grown themselves but represent themselves as farmers, which in the end only hurts the consumer who is purchasing a wholesale product at farmers' market prices and the farmer who grew the produce for wholesale prices.

Their relationship to their Customers

The movement towards local food has had a huge impact on Shirley's Greenhouse. Their customers are people who first and foremost care about buying local. They understand the value of spending their dollar locally and they care about how their food is grown. “Thank you for supporting our farm” is something Dawn says to every customer who purchases from their farmers' market stall because she knows the customer has other options and is making a distinct choice to be part of the Shirley's Greenhouse community by purchasing their veggies there.

Their vision for Shirley's Greenhouse

Their plans change from year to year as they continue to find crops and products that work for them and meet a demand in their local community. In addition to doubling their field veggies this year, they've purchased a few farm animals: a cow and some laying hens. In the immediate future, they're planning to retool their old pig barn to serve as a space for growing lettuce and kale. They're always looking for ways to make the most of the resources they have to grow more veggies for more local consumers.

“Thanks for supporting Alberta farmers!" - Dawn Buschert

Shirley's Greenhouse

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This document is maintained by Delores Serafin.
This information published to the web on December 6, 2016.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 30, 2017.