Doug and Daena Seland don’t back down from a challenge, although their willingness to “seize the day” means there’s rarely an idle moment at Crows Landing, the catch-all name for the family’s five farm enterprises.
“We don’t rely just on one thing to make our money. It’s a matter of juggling time in everything,” said Daena.
Doug is in charge of Simply Organic Dairy, while Daena operates Crows Landing Tea House in a renovated quonset, which is also home to a gift shop. The couple, aided by children Lexi and Brandt, also sells grass-fed beef and have a market garden.
“My focus has always been the restaurant and the store, and his is the fields, the farm and the cows,” said Daena.
It was their banker who suggested the organic dairy option, as he knew the Selands had an abandoned dairy barn on the farm, near Condor, they had purchased but were not yet operating. Doug had previous dairy experience, had sold dairy equipment, and helped design dairy barns.
“One of his dreams was to have his own dairy,” said Daena.
The high cost of quota normally puts that dream out of reach unless your family is in the business, but growing demand for organic milk prompted Alberta Milk to develop a program that allowed new entrants to lease quota. Simply Organic Dairy, which began operating in September 2009, is one of eight certified organic dairies in Alberta, and the Selands may be the only family who started their dairy without transitioning from conventional dairy production. Their organic milk (as well as organic butter and cream) is sold at their restaurant, and grocery stores across the province thanks to Saxby Foods. Until the Edmonton company began processing organic milk in fall 2010, all organic milk sold in Alberta came from out of province.
Organic dairies have their own unique challenges. Organic cows produce about 25 to 30 litres of milk a day, much less than conventional cows, and feeding is more costly.
“You have all of these higher costs, but your production is less, so you have to try and find that balance,” said Daena.
The 60 cows, 40 of which are being milked, are treated using holistic medicine recommended by a naturopathic veterinarian. Cows are fed certified organic hay and silage as well as a certified organic grain mix milled especially for dairy cows. The Selands grow certified organic grass hay, alfalfa and oats for silage, and pasture their cows on their own and rented land.
The cows are Holstein crossed with Simmental to ensure better meat quality and disease resistance. The Selands sell their beef at the farm and at farmers’ markets, along with milk, baked goods and produce from their market garden.
As if that’s not enough to keep them busy, the tea house, which can sit up to 40 people, is open year-round, and has hosted Christmas parties, corporate meetings, craft nights, ethnic suppers, and birthday parties. The focus is on fresh, home-cooked and hearty fare, and Deana’s cinnamon buns and cheesecake are house specialties.
“We opened the restaurant with the intent of having pie and coffee and it’s evolved into the menu we have today,” said Daena.
The adjacent gift shop specializes in country home décor, antiques and gift items. Both the gift shop and restaurant bring in a similar amount of revenue.
“Wedon’trelyjuston onethingtomakeour money.It’samatter ofjugglingtimein everything.”
The store and teahouse are open from Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5. p.m. and are located at located on the south side of Highway 11, just west of the Leslieville corner (highway # 761). For more info, visit www.crowslanding.ca