Paul Sinkewicz
Postmedia Content Works

Saskatchewan farmers are renowned for their creativity when faced with a problem.

Rankled by years of low crop prices, Colin Rosengren, Dan Vandenhurk and Ron Emde — who all farm in the Midale area of southeast Saskatchewan — saw potential in an ancient, but little-known grain called camelina.

Planted late in the fall and harvested in the spring, this crop produces oil with high vitamin E and Omega 3 content. Combine these nutrients with a high smoke point when heated, and you have a great product to use in salads and cooking.

However, the three partners didn’t stop at just growing camelina. Instead Vandenhurk’s daughters, Natasha, with a background in economics, and Elysia, who is a Red Seal chef, joined the fold and in 2011 helped produce and market bottled camelina oil under the label Three Farmers.

Aside from three flavours of cold-pressed camelina oil, the company also produces snack foods such as roasted chickpeas and pea pops.

“Along the way there are different breakthroughs that spiral you into the next growth phase,” says chief executive officer Natasha Vandenhurk.

“When we launched our roasted chickpeas line that really took the company to the next level, out of the more independent stores into the more mainstream banners like Sobeys, Safeways and Loblaws.”

Right now the alternative snack food industry is booming, says Natasha.

Three Farmers operates out of Saskatoon, which has been advantageous, she adds, because of the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre. The centre aided Three Farmers with the development of its products (trials, shelf life testing, ingredient sourcing) and also helped to scale the process up for commercialization.  

The availability of great processing and warehousing resources in the city was also beneficial, Vandenhurk adds.

“I think people don’t understand how much food is actually processed here, and how many value-added companies there are,” she says. “And there have been lots of funding programs that we’ve leaned on along the way that are administered by the Saskatchewan and the federal governments.

“We’re in a really great place,” says Natasha, “and I think a lot of that is due to the help that we’ve had from other Saskatchewan companies that have coached us or provided resources to us along the way. We’re very proud to be able to say the majority of our raw goods and all of our manufacturing is done right here in Saskatchewan.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Economy.