Farm Focus: harvest wrap and Hall of Fame

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Hall of Famer

A popular St. Albert farmers’ market vendor has entered Alberta’s farm hall of fame.

Dieter Kuhlmann of Kuhlmann’s Greenhouse Garden Market was inducted into Alberta’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Oct. 26 for his contributions to crop science and the greenhouse industry.

Kuhlmann has been a long-time presence at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market and has a market garden in northeast Edmonton just outside Sturgeon County. His citation for the hall of fame credits him as a champion of the horticultural industry, and notes how he was a past president and founding member of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, a former director of the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund and co-founder of Sunfresh Farms, a grower-owned packing and distribution facility.

Kuhlmann said he fell into farming back in 1962, back when his land was still part of Sturgeon County.

“It was really country around here,” he recalled, with gravel roads, party lines for your phone and no Manning Freeway.

“I was dating a girl (Elizabeth Miller, now his wife) whose parents had an acreage here,” he explained, and he would hang around and help with their harvest.

Kuhlmann said he and Elizabeth liked the work and set up a u-pick operation on the farm. They started growing vegetables in bulk for grocery stores, but switched to on-farm and farmers’ market sales once the Walmarts and Superstores arrived and drove in-store prices down.

Kuhlmann said he’s been able to thrive despite the ongoing pressures on the farm sector due to the popularity of gardening in this region.

“(People are) very concerned or want to know the origin of where their food comes from.”

Three generations of Kuhlmanns are now helping to run the business, although Edmonton’s growth might eventually force them off the land, Kuhlmann said. Still, Edmonton is starting to take the conservation of farmland seriously, and Alberta has some big opportunities ahead of it in the greenhouse and nutraceutical sectors.

Kuhlmann said he was humbled to join the 130-some other members of the hall of fame.

Beef magnate Garnet Altwasser and crop scientist Ronald Howard were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Visit bit.ly/2CMMXgs for their biographies.

Harvest sprint to finish

Sturgeon County farmers outraced the snow last week to sprint to the finish of this year’s harvest.

Alberta Agriculture issued its final crop report for 2018 last Friday. The report showed that as of Oct. 30, Edmonton-area farmers had brought in about 87 per cent of this year’s crop – almost a 22 per cent improvement over the previous week.

That late October sun and warmth was just what the region needed to shrug off the wet and snow and kick into high gear, said André Montpetit of Sturgeon Valley Fertilizer. Something like a quarter of this region’s crops got harvested in the five-day warm spell prior to Friday’s snow.

“This (weather) was what we were waiting for since the end of August,” Montpetit said.

“We’re like 99 per cent done.”

Crop quality for all cereal crops in this region was below the five-year average, with the exception of one type of barley, with about 15 per cent of spring wheat graded as feed (fit only for animals) quality, the province reports.

This was the third year in a row that farmers have had a rough harvest due to a wet fall, Montpetit said.

“It’s very, very unnerving,” he said.

“We’re sure hoping for not four.”

Visit bit.ly/2D93qfg for the crop report.

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About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.