Is there anything better than the sweetness of a freshly picked strawberry? Mike and Bev Koornneef, along with their four children, would likely answer "no." Last year, they planted four acres of berry bushes on their seven-acre property. 2022 will be the inaugural picking season for Koornneef Farms. The family relocated to Lacombe in 2018 and lived in town while they patiently waited for the right property to come on the market. Four years later, they are literally 'living the dream' as they develop the property and build the farm.
It doesn't take long to realize how important community is to Mike and Bev. When they tell the story of how they got to where they are, you'll hear about family members who do everything from consulting to weeding; Friends and relatives who come from far and wide to help establish the farm, offer marketing support and perform quality control. You can't successfully run a berry business without some serious taste-testing! They mentioned more than once that they would not have been able to accomplish what they have in such a short time without the tremendous support they've received, and their gratitude shines through.
Mike and Bev both developed a love of berries and farming naturally. Mike grew up on a tender fruit farm in the Niagara region of Ontario. With over 30 years of experience growing strawberries, Mike's dad has taken on the role of crop consultant for the new farm. Bev grew up on the other side of the country in Abbotsford, BC, also well-known for its prolific fruit-growing reputation. It seemed like an easy decision to bring those childhood experiences to central Alberta with their very own strawberry farm.
On the farm, Bev takes the lead with book-keeping, marketing, and HR, while Mike focuses more on the delicate requirements of growing healthy, productive plants. In addition to building their new life in the country and their new business, Mike works off the farm in an agriculture support industry. He has experienced many of the ups and downs of farm life through serving his clients, which gives him some helpful insights. Their two older children have also taken an interest in helping pick the berries - and sell them! For six weeks this summer, the family will be at some local farmer's markets, and you may be lucky enough to be served by one of the young Koornneef family members.
Mike and Bev feel they are filling a gap in the current market as there is considerable demand and desire for fresh fruit in central Alberta. While some existing u-pick operations exist, Koornneef Farms will make a significant impact; Mike hopes to harvest tens of thousands of pounds of berries this year. Consumers will have a few different opportunities to purchase and enjoy a few of those pounds. In July and August, strawberry lovers can come to the farm to pick their berries or can order ahead through the website for pre-picked berries. In addition, they will be selling off-site for a few weeks at both the Lacombe Farmer's Market (Michener Park, Thursdays from 3-6 pm (3-7 pm in the summer months)) and the Bentley Farmer's Market (Bentley Curling Rink, Saturdays from 2-4 pm).
The Koornneef's are thrilled to welcome central Alberta to their farm this summer, where they aim to provide a positive picking experience for you and your family, from parking to check out.