How We Farm
Michelle's Market's farm is 100% family owned and operated and rests on 320 acres of land in the County of Newell. We mainly grow fresh fruits and vegetables exclusively for Calgary and Brooks, Alberta farmers markets, but also produce certified alfalfa seed and cereal crops such as barley to support crop rotations. Michelle's Market supports the use of technology by farmers to produce the best crops possible. We choose to only use crop protection products under extreme environmental conditions when entire crops are at risk. We encourage you to ask us questions on how your fruits and veggies are grown!
Seeded Field Vegetables
Many vegetables grown on Michelle's Market's farm are planted from early April - June using a John Deere MaxEmerge 700 air seeder. This air seeder plants 3-rows at a time and easily attaches to the back of most small tractors. Pending what is being planted, seed depth and row-spacing are important factors in allowing the vegetables to thrive. Seeded field vegetables include garden peas, beans, squash and leafy vegetables such as lettuce.
Fruits and veggies grown in the Canadian prairies often need some help getting started in order to yield in time for local consumption. That is why we seed bedding out plants in the early spring and transplant to the fields under row-covers in late May. This strategy can accelerate production of fruits such as watermelon by more than 30 days. This technique is labour intensive, but allows Michelle's Market to produce field grown fruits and veggies you wouldn't typically find in the Canadian prairies! Transplanted fruits and veggies include watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Michelle's Market's farm is located in the Eastern Irrigation District (EID) and was machine levelled in the 1960's. This allows us to flood and drip irrigate fruits and veggies throughout the hot summer months. Flood irrigation is accomplished through diking parcels of land connected to man made ditching systems. Similar to operating a dam, parcels can be opened and closed pending the need for irrigation. Drip irrigation is the technique used with transplants. Prior to transplanting, drip irrigation tape is laid out beside the fruits and veggies. The drip tape releases very small amounts of water and is a very efficient water management practice.
Michelle's Market hand picks every fruit and veggie sold with the exception of green and yellow beans. This requires a flexible, hardworking team who often work long, hot hours in the fields. Picking starts with garden peas in June and wraps up with squash and pumpkins in October. Green and yellow beans are harvested using a Pull Pix bean harvester.
Following harvest, fruits and veggies are refrigerated for processing and packaging. Our refrigeration warehouse can hold up to 9,600 cubic feet of fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and veggies are processed and packaged the day-of harvest and available for sales the following day at farmers markets.
Rotating crops over successive years on different pieces of land is an important practice in growing the best fruits & veggies while managing soil health and pest pressure at the same time. Michelle's Market plants fruits and veggies in a planned rotation, often with cereal grains such as barley and corn.
"The Michelle's Market Story" - Written by the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers Market
The story behind Michelle’s Market starts in a university pool with a young man from Brooks, Alberta who felt out of place.
Bill Alberts grew up in Brooks on his family’s farm. In grade 6, his parents sold the farm and moved the family to Calgary where his mother became a university professor. Despite Bill’s yearning for the country, which drove him back to Brooks each summer to work his aunt and uncle’s farm, he pursued a degree in physical education. In his third year, Bill failed a course called Aquatics 315. It was a watershed moment. Neither his head nor his heart were committed to school. He wanted to be back in Brooks, connected to the land where his family first settled from Nebraska back in the 1930s.
“I felt caged up in the city,” Bill says. “There’s magic in the country.”
Back in Brooks, Bill would eventually take over from his aunt and uncle. He also met his wife Janice, and the two now preside over 320 acres of land. What was once only a grain farm now has 100 acres devoted to an array of pesticide-free field vegetables: beans, peas, squash, melons and more. With weekly seeding throughout the summer, Bill and Janice are able to harvest fresh produce each week.
The farm’s output is sold at farmers’ markets in Calgary and Brooks under the name Michelle’s Market. It’s a family operation in the truest sense. The name itself is a homage to Bill and Janice’s children, Michelle and Mark. The children are now adults with careers here in Calgary, but they still show up to help run the market stall. Extended family pitches in as well, with one niece having worked for them from age 14 to 32. Having sold to wholesalers at one point, Bill says it is far more rewarding selling at market, a point that Janice reinforces.