A Family Farm Tradition Since 1899
Highwood Crossing Beginnings
by Tony Marshall
Highwood Crossing refers to a shallow portion of the Highwood River that runs beside our heritage family farm. In the early days, before there were bridges or paved roads, travellers would cross at this narrow portion of the river… hence the name “Highwood Crossing”.
When Penny and I switched to sustainable organic farming methods in 1989, we were actually returning to agricultural practices that were similar in many ways, to those used on this same farm by my great-grandfather nearly 100 years earlier. This meant no toxic chemicals or pesticides; a small carbon footprint; crop rotations to help control weeds and pests; and growing our own “green-manure” legume crops that fix nitrogen and are then ploughed-down to improve soil health and fertility.
The world has changed in many ways since the days when my great-grandfather and grandfather lived on, and worked this land, yet our commitment to growing good, clean food remains the same. Today our farm, crops and food products are certified organic by design rather than by default and we are still 100% committed to sustainable agriculture growing only organic, non GMO crops such as wheat, rye, flax, oats, barley, peas, hay and sweet clover.
Highwood Crossing’s Organic Products
In 1996, after looking at ways to add value to our organic crops, we decided to start making cold-pressed canola and flax oils using an expeller press that we imported from Germany. We set the press up on our farm and began by selling the fresh, unrefined organic oils at local farmer’s markets. This direct, one-on-one interaction with our customers provided us with the chance to speak about the connections between the land, good food, our health and the environment. It also gave us a wonderful insights into the growing interest in, and demand for cleaner, healthier food. Time spent with our customers at the market also helped us to learn, and gain a better understanding of what people wanted from a local food supplier. Many of the products we make today, evolved with input and help from our clients and friends.
Today, the fields at Highwood Crossing Farm look much like they did 100 years ago… maybe even better. Highwood Crossing Foods, got its start selling organic oil at the market, has grown, expanded and moved into a larger processing facility located in the town of High River, just a short drive from the farm. Our modern federally and provincially inspected facility makes, packages and distributes organic foods from the crops grown on the farm. Our line includes cold pressed flax and canola oils, granola, hot breakfast cereals, baking mixes, specialty flours as well as whole grains. For our Food Service clients and those with gluten sensitivities, we offer a conventional non GMO gluten free All Purpose Flour Mix in 10 kg bags.
The nature of farming is uncertain and just because you plant a seed in the spring doesn’t necessarily mean that you will harvest a crop in the fall. As the demand for our products has grown, we have formed strategic alliances with other organic farmers and processors to ensure a consistent and on-going supply of raw materials. These relationships help to manage and spread out the risks inherent in agriculture. These relationships are also important, as producer based value-chains play a vital role in helping to keep small family farms sustainable and economically vibrant.
We’re honoured to be able to live on this heritage family-farm and produce certified organic food because:
- It’s great tasting, rich in nutrients and healthy for our families.
- It’s produced following rigorous government-regulated standards without the use of toxic chemicals.
- It’s good for the environment because it keeps the soil healthy, the water clean & reduces our carbon footprint.
Highwood Crossing has been fortunate to be presented with varied awards and distinctions. In 2000, we were given an “Innovation in Agriculture Award” from Growing Alberta. In 2002, we were presented with an “Alberta Century Farm & Ranch Award” for 100 years of family farming on the original family homestead. That same year, Highwood Crossing was recognized with a “Habitat Steward Award” for our efforts to maintain and enhance the habitat for the fish and wildlife resources of Alberta. In 2010 Catherine Caldwell won 1st Place at the “Golden Spurtle World Porridge Championship” in Scotland with her specialty porridge recipe using our organic Steel-Cut Oats. In 2013, a panel of Canada’s top chefs and food professionals named Highwood Crossing one of the “Best Artisan Food Producers in Canada” for the ACE Bakery Artisan Incubator project. In their 2014 spring edition, Avenue Magazine listed Highwood Crossing Organic Granola as one of the “Twenty Best Things to Eat” in Calgary. In May 2014, we were honoured to be named “Canadian Food Heroes“ at the national Slow Food Canada conference in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.