By: Kayla Guerrette
This is the time of year when people go out and buy plastic containers and begin to grow box gardens on their porches and lawns. But for the past 21 years, Dean and Sylvia Kreutzer have been taking that idea much further.
At Over the Hill Orchards and Winery in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, you can find the Kreutzers growing everything from local staples like Haskaps and Saskatoon berries to more exotic fruits like apricots and peaches- and all of these in boxes above ground.
Opening the orchards was a long-time dream for the couple who had no training.
“I wanted to bring something unique to the province and push the envelope,” said Dean Kreutzer. “I grew up in Regina but knew nothing about agriculture. I was a computer programmer.”
They always wanted to live on an acreage and after purchasing 40 acres and visiting a garden centre, the couples views regarding their land started to change.
“I remember going to a garden centre to get some flowers to beautify my backyard and saw all these trees,” said Dean Kreutzer. “And they also had apricots, plums and apples and it kind of just blew my mind and I thought if we can grow these here why are there no orchards in Saskatchewan?”
But how can a person with no agriculture experience do such a thing in a sustainable way? For Dean Kreutzer, the answers were at the University of Saskatchewan. He began to volunteer his time in the fruit program at the university.
Bob Bors is the head researcher of the fruit program at the University of Saskatchewan and he said the success of their program relies on the help of volunteers like Dean Kreutzer.
“Dean would volunteer for the breeding program. He would come in and donate time and we would teach him different skills so when he finally did start the orchard, we were quite happy to work with him,” said Bors.
Volunteers like Dean are at the root of the success the University of Saskatchewan has reached. Today, 75% of the funding needed to keep the fruit program going come from plant sales.
“When we first started the program we had no funding,” said Bors. “Having people like Dean come and help us we were able to breed more. Dean in particular helped a lot with the sour cherries creating so much publicity surrounding them that we began to see a lot more tree farmers. It really is a cooperative initiative.”
After all these years of plans and training, it was sour cherries that brought everything to fruition.
“The university had come out with some new sour cherries and we drove up and took a tour of them and my wife Sylvia turned to me and said we’ve got to do this, so it’s all her fault,” laughed Dean Kreutzer.
But with success, comes obstacles and for the Kreutzers the land was one of them. The couple had to find creative ways to grow their orchard.
“It is actually a horrific place for an orchard. There’s a lot of negative things going on about it but we loved the view,” said Dean Kreutzer. “We actually grow things up on a platform. We have 11,000 strawberries all above ground in containers.”
The Kreutzers use pots and special pouches to grow things like apricots and peaches. They’ve also created an automatic watering system to make sure everything is watered properly.
They also got creative on the business side. Originally, the couple would make jams, tarts, pies and chocolate-covered sour cherries to sell at the orchard. But in 2014, they also began offering 12 varieties of wine.
During the pandemic, the Kreutzers even started offering outdoor picnics and are in the process of building gazebos to offer visitors more locations.
VISIT THE ORCHARD FOR AN EASTER PICNIC.
Escape the city and take advantage of the gorgeous weather. Pick up a backpack including a cheese platter and bottle of wine.
— OvertheHillOrchards (@PrairieCherry) April 1, 2021