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The Green Ranch Past, Present and Future
The Green Ranch as it is today – a local foods production and marketing company – was established in 2007 by Tim and Carla Shultz. The history of The Green Ranch however goes back far before 2007. In the early 1900’s our great grandparents moved from Iowa and settled near Fillmore, Saskatchewan. The Nobles (my grandmother’s family) homesteaded and farmed as well as operated a market garden. My grandpa Noble was very well known in the Fillmore – Osage area for growing prize winning melons and vegetables. The Shultz family moved from Iowa shortly after the Noble family and settled on a farm about four miles from the Nobles. My Grandpa Shultz, who passed away before I was born, was a great horseman and cowman. My Dad, Kelvin, took over the farm shortly after he was married and broke up the pastures to turn it into a grain farm. My two brothers and I were raised without a cow or horse on the farm! Somehow the desire to be a rancher was in me ever since I was a little boy. I wish that I could have known my Grandpa Shultz to have learned about cattle and ranching from his experience. In 2000 my Dad sold all of his grain farming equipment and rented the land to some neighbors.
In 2003 Carla and I were married and moved back to the farm to start our new life. Carla was a new graduate of the CMA program, so her training was a great help for us as we were coming up with a business plan, and for the day to day business operations of our ranch. Because of all of the negativity at the time in agriculture I was “driven” to find a way that young people could enter agriculture with a vision of opportunity instead of negativity. I was told by a neighbor just after we had moved back that I was crazy to even try ranching, and it would be a difficult long road if we even made it at all! That was just the push I needed to get out there and do something that was totally different, and try to prove that young people can be successful in Agriculture.
We started by renting my Dad’s land, seeding it back to grass and looking after other peoples’ cattle on our ranch. In 2003, we cared for 80 head of cattle and now our ranch has capacity for approximately 450 head of yearling cattle. A couple of years ago we began holistically managing our ranch with the focus on land health. I find it fascinating to watch the land respond as you treat it with respect. Of course along with the land improving comes increased production of grass and further down the line pounds of beef!
During the winter of 2006-2007 I read an article about an entrepreneur in Saskatoon that had been making his full time living market gardening right in the city. He had come up with a form of gardening called SPIN Farming (small plot intensive farming) this seemed to be a perfect fit for our operation. If he could do it in the city surely we could do it on a farm! His business model was low capital and low operating costs while producing high end organic vegetables. And so our business name The Green Ranch was born. In 2007 we had a very small garden, and sold our products in Weyburn at the farmers market. It was enough to get our feet wet, so in 2008 we planted approximately an acre of very intense plantings of vegetables. We sold in Regina and Weyburn at the farmers markets, supplied the Wascana Country Club with vegetables through the summer, and introduced our CSA program. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This is a great tool for young aspiring farmers. It offers the community the opportunity to buy into a farm for the season, in exchange for a supply of produce every week. The CSA program minimizes the risks that are involved in traditional agriculture by sharing the risks with its members. This also provides the farmer cash up front to purchase the seed and inputs required to plant the crop. What are the benefits to the members? The CSA offers a direct connection to agriculture and the opportunity to have a personal relationship with the farmer who grows your food. Of course there is the convenience of having a basket of fresh garden vegetables delivered to you or brought to a central place to be picked up every week.
We also offer a home delivery program where our customers can place their order online, and we will bring it right to their door! We’re trying to create a balance between convenience and a focus on customer relationships. Home deliveries allow us to offer both a convenient service and a relationship between ourselves and our customers.
At a conference this winter I heard the words “Food Memories” and it really made me think about what we are trying to do at The Green Ranch. You know when you bite into a freshly picked apple or peas right out of the garden, you think back to a childhood memory of maybe your grandparent’s garden or farm. With every new generation it seems that there are fewer good “Food Memories”. I think that it’s because there has been a disconnect to agriculture. At The Green Ranch we want to allow you to relive your good “Food Memories” and help create new ones!
As we began to really get involved with the direct marketing of our vegetables, one of our largest customers on our custom grazing operation came to us inquiring about selling their beef along with our vegetables. This was the beginning of The Green Ranch as a local foods marketing company. Helping other local producers market their products while increasing the variety of items we have to sell. Our vision for The Green Ranch going forward is to be a brand that means quality LOCALLY grown, raised or made products. We hope that by helping local producers market their products we can contribute to our community by putting a positive spin on agriculture…maybe even persuade some of our young people to come back and give farming a try!!
As the Local Foods Industry continues its rapid growth The Green Ranch will be an integral part of it!! We will continue to add products to our line-up through partnerships with local producers. If the market demands that we expand to other cities, for each location we will partner with producers local to that area.