Explore Local Regional Producer Profiles: Dirt Boys

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Dennis Scanland operates Dirt Boys out of backyard plots in Calgary. He battles quackgrass and grows beets, carrots, salad mix, Swiss chard, radish, kale, and squash.

Dirt Boys has 10 different production yards spread across the neighbourhoods of Ramsey, Inglewood, Crescent Heights, Bridgeland and Renfrew. All of Dirt Boys produce goes through YYC Growers channels, whether that be the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or the farmers’ market table.

How Dirt Boys began:

Dennis formerly worked as a web developer. Four years ago he and his wife decided he would quit his job and be a stay at home dad for his two young sons. Originally he started building raised beds while hanging out with his boys and worked to get people interested in growing their own food. One of his sons who was six years old at the time, decided that Dirt Boys would be a great name for their endeavours and it stuck. While he still does some raised bed construction, Dirt Boys morphed into an interest in urban farming.

Around the time he began building raised beds, Dennis was at a dinner party with friends and he spoke with an acquaintance about his plans to begin urban farming. As chance would have it, that acquaintance had a property with a terraced yard that he wasn’t making use of and offered the space for Dennis to grow in. During that first year, Dirt Boys was based out of that single yard.

Dirt Boys Connection with their Customers:

Growing in backyards, Dennis feels a responsibility to the home owners to supply them with some food. Each week he brings them a bounty of vegetables, the size of which depends on when his crops are in peak season. On a larger scale, he feels a responsibility for the city he’s growing for. To be part of an organization like YYC Growers that feeds so many families is a beautiful thing to be involved in.

Part of that responsibility to their city includes education. For Dennis that means engaging with his customers to talk with them about the cycle of the growing season and what that means for customers’ expectations, especially in the first few weeks of the CSA. He also wants to understand his customers’ priorities. Why are they buying local? Where do they usually shop? What variety of vegetables make up their diet?

Their role in the community:

Dennis understands that consumers always have a moral dilemma when it comes to their food dollars. Balancing affordability with sustainability is not always an easy task.

Having spent a lot of time working to intimately understand the food landscape of his city, he’s often asked to be a spokesperson for food advocacy and security in Calgary and across Alberta. One of his major touch points is educating people on what they should expect to be paying for products since the price of food or more specifically produce, is one of the only things that has seen little to no inflation over the past several decades. It takes a lot of time, input costs and effort to bring a bag of lettuce to a customer’s table and Dennis is committed to helping build the knowledge around that. He wants to keep local food affordable for local families while at the same time making it possible to financially sustain the families who are growing the food.

For Dennis, part of educating consumers about local food also includes its economic impact. While he acknowledges that you can get cheaper food at big box stores, when you buy local food you’re not only getting great food, you’re also supporting the local economy. Your dollar isn’t just going to the farm, but all of the people the farm employs, the people who run the organizations that bring greater access to local food and the people who work in the industries that support, maintain and cater to local agriculture. All this for maybe 10 - 20% more than what you’d pay for food in the big box stores.

The future of Dirt Boys:

Dennis currently manages the YYC Growers CSA and the collaboration of all the farms within YYC growers helps make each individual’s operation sustainable. Dirt Boys is no exception. Currently, Dennis feels that Dirt Boys is at its growing capacity and he is actually looking into downsizing some of the square footage of his operation in favour of finding ways to grow more efficiently.

“It’s really cool to think that what you’re doing is feeding that many families.” – Dennis Scanland
.Dirt Boys

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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 January 23, 2017.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 30, 2017.