Saskaberry Ranch is a rare source of pick-your-own, vertically-grown strawberries north of Calgary, as reported by Greenhouse Canada.
In 2021, the Trenholms’ homemade greenhouse located an hour northwest of Calgary held about 5,280 vertically-grown strawberry plants—unlike any other operation in the Calgary area.
Operated by Phil and Christine Trenholm and family, the mixed farm and U-pick ranch is on a 140-acre site they first planted in 1999—just three miles from where Phil Trenholm grew up. “We wanted something sustainable on a quarter-section for a family,” Phil says. They started planting orchards of Saskatoons and raspberries, started raising a few small animals for meat and built a pair of greenhouses.
The Trenholm family planted their first strawberries about ten years ago. At first, they provided elevated strawberry beds on four-foot-tall straw bales. The berries grew in soil-filled frames on top of the bales. It was low-density, vulnerable to hail and “too much work.” The family decided to try vertical strawberry production instead, well ahead of their time.
The vertical strawberry system is a work in progress, says Phil Trenholm. “We haven’t got it down to a science yet,” he says. “This year we’re a whole lot better than we were in 2020, so we are definitely improving our system.” He adds, “Wherever you are, people seem to love strawberries. There are no other large U-pick strawberries operators around Calgary, so I have all the market I could possibly imagine. I believe this will work once we get the bugs out.”