Back to Additional Resources

Our Farm

In a province dominated by huge farms, Dennis Skoworodko’s operation stands out. “I’m the oddball here in Saskatoon,” Dennis laughs, “because I’m a vegetable grower and I’m certified organic.” His operation, “Our Farm,” grows 40 types of vegetables and four types of small fruit.

Posted in Farmer Profiles
View Next Resource
Our Farm 1

Family Farm:

Dennis and Karen Skoworodko, with 2 hired staff during the season.

Farm Location:

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


Started farming in 2014 and were certified in 2016.

Approach to Farming:

If we feed the soil, it will feed the plants; healthy plants make tasty produce and tasty produce is nutrient dense. We are soil caretakers.


  • Acreage: 2.4 acres in cultivation.

  • Crops: 40 vegetable and 4 fruit crops.

  • Cover crops: Oats, peas, rye, wheat, buckwheat, clover.

  • Soil: Sandy.

In a province dominated by huge farms, Dennis Skoworodko’s operation stands out.

“I’m the oddball here in Saskatoon,” Dennis laughs, “because I’m a vegetable grower and I’m certified organic.” His operation, “Our Farm,” grows 40 types of vegetables and four types of small fruit.

Saskatchewan has more than one million acres in organic production, but less than 900 acres are in mixed vegetable production.[1] And even though Saskatchewan has more organic farmers than any other province,[2] organic farming is not common among market gardeners. In Saskatoon, where Dennis lives and farms, there are no certified organic market gardeners at the city’s farmers’ market.

Our Farm 2

Certification Helps Sales

Organic certification is important to Dennis. He feels the organic label makes it easier to tell his story to potential customers.

“We tell our people that we’re regenerative and we tell our story of how we care for the soil health,” Dennis says. “But a quick and simple way is to say we’re certified organic. Most Canadians know what certified organic means. They have an understanding that this is clean food.”

In Saskatoon, the main farmers’ market is run by a cooperative that Dennis describes as awesome. However, he created his own market to avoid potential conflict with growers who claim to be organic but use prohibited substances.

Every Saturday morning for three months a year, Our Farm sells produce in a rented parish hall parking lot in the “hipster shopping district in Saskatoon.” Vegetables are beautifully arranged on tables and by the farm’s delivery truck which sports both the farm logo and a four-foot-diameter Canada Organic logo.

Having his own outdoor market has many benefits, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. While indoor markets faced many rules and restrictions, the small outdoor market just needed one-way lanes and hand sanitizer. If anything, the pandemic may have helped sales because people felt safe shopping at a small outdoor market. Also, Dennis muses, the pandemic focused people’s attention on health.

“I think people want better health, especially with COVID happening,” he adds. “People want to figure out how to be healthy without taking drugs.”

Our Farm’s customers are willing to pay a premium for certified organic produce.

“In my opinion, people are starting to understand how our food system is becoming more and more corrupt,” he adds, “with GMOs, the deregulation of CRISPR technology[3], and so on. I think you’ve got to put this info on the label and let people make the choice.”

More people come to the Our Farm market in their desire for healthy food, and end up surprised by the fact the food “just tastes really good.”

When deciding on prices, Dennis considers how difficult and labour-intensive each crop is to grow, and whether it is a unique variety that is not readily available anywhere else. He also factors in the reaction by customers. If a product doesn’t sell, he questions if the price was too high. If it’s “snapped up too quickly,” he wonders if the price could be higher. 

“Our prices are high,” admits Dennis. “But we back up the prices with top quality food and we’ve had no pushback. So really, we probably could go higher because ‘they’ say if 10% of your people aren’t complaining, your prices are too low.”

The best-selling crops are carrots, potatoes and kale.

Kale is also the most profitable crop in terms of revenue per growing bed, Dennis explains. “We sell it like a bouquet of flowers – just tie jute twine around it and keep it standing in water at the market. It always looks good and we sell a ton of it.”

While the market accounts for about 60% of Our Farm’s sales, CSA[4] shares account for 25%. The remainder is sales from the website, restaurants and resellers, such as an organic grocery store. Last year, Dennis also grew microgreens in his garage in the winter months to supplement the income.

A major expense is labour. Dennis doesn’t use apprentices or volunteers but instead hires two to three workers. “We hire people directly from our own expenses with no subsidies,” Dennis adds.

Our Farm 5

No Land? No Problem!

Another way that Dennis Skoworodko differs from most market gardeners is that he doesn’t own farmland. Our Farm operates on 2.4 acres of rented land. Even more surprising, the land is in a subdivision, not in the country.

Dennis describes the farm’s location as “a little subdivision right beside the City of Saskatoon that was developed in the 1920s…Most of the lots are five-acre parcels and people just have grass or hay or trees. They don’t use their land for anything except to be apart from their neighbours.”

In January 2014, Dennis put notices in 40 mailboxes in the area asking if anybody wanted to rent land for an organic market garden. He was encouraged by the fact he received four responses within 24 hours. He chose a location, shook hands on a rental agreement, and started to farm.

Unlike many organic urban farmers, maintaining buffer zones is not challenging. Our Farm is within a 5-acre lot in which no prohibited substances are used, and the lot doesn’t butt up against agricultural land. Nonetheless, the market garden is affected by other, more distant, farms.

Our Farm 4

From Canola to Cauliflower: Travelling Pests

“Our Farm” can’t grow cole crops or other plants in the brassica family without using floating row covers. The plants are covered as soon as they are seeded or transplanted. The covers are only removed for harvesting and weeding.

We have to cover our brassicas or it’s game over,” Dennis describes how flea beetles and cabbage worms decimate uncovered crops. “That’s a huge expense and takes a lot of time but that’s the only way we can grow cabbage, kale, kohlrabi and even radishes.”

The reason, Dennis explains, is that Saskatchewan now has more than 12 million acres in canola,[5] which acts as a host for brassica pests.

“We grow more canola than wheat!” he says. “There’s canola everywhere, which is kind of sad, because it’s not a real food.” Much of the canola is being grown as biofuel. The recent investment into several large canola-crushing plants suggests that the oilseed acreage will continue to increase.

The only other significant pest is the Colorado potato beetle, which is simply picked or squashed by hand. Dennis and his workers don’t use any pest control products. Instead, they try to prevent problems by using row covers, rotating crops, and focusing on improving soil and maintaining soil health.

Our Farm 6

Feed the Soil and it will Feed the Plants

My mantra is feed your soil and it will feed your plants,” says Dennis. “If you have healthy plants, you’ll have really good-tasting produce. And if the produce tastes good, it’s probably very nutrient dense.”

Soil health is maintained primarily by applications of compost.

We compost everything,” Dennis laughs. “If it’s not moving, we’re composting it.”

Each year, Our Farm makes about 20 cubic yards of compost and buys 60 cubic yards of compost which has been approved by their certification body. For a while, their compost included coffee grounds, eggshells, lemon peels and other organic ‘waste’ products dropped off by a local bakery. (This arrangement ended when the bakery was approached by another composter who offered to pick up the compost feedstocks directly from the bakery.)

Dennis also uses cover crops of oats, peas, rye, wheat, buckwheat and clover in small sections of the field. Cover crops are also planted in the pathways between beds; this soil gets incorporated into the growing area when hilling potatoes or changing the bed layout.

The only other soil amendment is glacial rock dust. Dennis adds it occasionally to the soil and also to the aerated compost tea, which they spray on crops. Glacial rock dust contains many trace elements and may help plant growth, improve the flavour and nutritional quality of crops, and improve soil structure. Dennis admits that he’s not sure if the rock dust actually helps, but it may have contributed to the improvements in soil health he has noticed over the eight years of farming.

After adding a lot of organic material over the years, the soil is very nice to work in. The texture is beautiful.” Dennis notes that the soil texture reflects how long each bed has been worked. Eight years ago, they started with one acre, and expanded about a half-acre each year. The original garden has the best soil of all.

Our Farm 3

Coping With Wind and Drought

Even though Dennis has only farmed for eight years, he’s already had to adapt to the effect of climate change.

“Last year [2021] was brutal,” he says. “We had such drought. We had hot, 35+C days, with wind and no rain.”

Their sandy soil drains quickly and frequent irrigation is critical when there’s no rain. They resorted to hauling water to augment the well water.

“That was a lot of extra work and expense. But if we didn’t haul water last year,” he explains, “we would have had hardly any produce, given the conditions were so desperate and dry.”

“Our biggest challenge, worse than any pest, is the wind,” Dennis adds that transplants are particularly stressed by the wind.

He has noticed that in early June, for example,  the tomatoes in the greenhouse are about 70% larger than the ones in the field even though they were started at the same time. To reduce the wind stress on transplants, he sometimes protects seedlings with row covers for a couple of weeks until they’re well established. However, using row covers is, in itself, a challenge in windy conditions.

Dennis makes hoops for row cover by pounding plastic electrical conduit into the ground. He and his workers cover the edges of the row cover with two by fours and put sandbags on top of these. However, once the winds exceed 60 kilometres per hour, the row cover begins to rip.

“We use a lot of tape to repair rips,” Dennis adds. “It’s a constant battle to keep the covers repaired and secure.

Another challenge is the short season – an average of 115 frost-free days, but it can be much shorter. Many long-season crops, such as tomatoes, need to be started quite early. Even still, winter squash and pumpkins are sometimes killed by frost before they mature. The farm has a small heated greenhouse for early starts, as well as a much larger unheated structure (about 21 feet by 80 feet).

Equipment for the Market Garden

The walk-behind BCS rototiller is Dennis’ favourite piece of machinery. “It does what we need it to do; it’s superb, a great machine.”

They use the tiller to work in green manures, incorporate weeds and prepare beds. Having a smooth seedbed is particularly important when he’s using a seeder (a Jang seeder for the small-seeded crops, like carrots, and a four-row pinpoint seeder for lettuce and other crops).

Dennis also raves about the “Quick-cut Greens Harvester” made by Farmers Friend. This  baby leaf lettuce cutter is powered by a cordless drill. Dennis describes it as fantastic and “overpriced but definitely worth it.”

They also use many tools for weeding, including “new and improved tools like the wire weeder, torsion weeder, stirrup hoe and collinear hoe.”

“In a perfect season,” Dennis adds, “we keep on top of the weeds by getting them while they’re small but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, we also have to hand pick.” 

Our Farm 7

Farming or Early Retirement?

Another unusual aspect of Dennis’s agricultural career is that he started farming in his mid50s. He was a travelling salesman for 14 years and then worked in real estate for another 14 years. After that, he “took a couple of years to decompress and catch up on all kinds of other life things that [he] had been neglecting.”

He had always gardened but decided it was time to focus on what he loves – growing healthy and delicious food. He embarked on learning how to grow on a larger scale, and that education continues.

“I read extensively in the off-season,” he says. He watches the occasional YouTube video but books/magazines are his “main source of information for new and improved methods.”

Expanding into a market garden was a big step and he hasn’t looked back.

“I love being outside and the fact that we’re growing really good food,” Dennis laughs. “It was selfish to start with because I want to eat good food and we feast all year round off our garden. It is fantastic.”

This is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. It’s also the least profitable work I’ve ever done. People who are considering becoming farmers have to be aware of that. It’s not a get-rich-quick type of work,” he laughs. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of risk.”

“For people who are thinking of farming, it’s a very, very satisfying and very healthy lifestyle,” he explains. “I would love to see more people doing small-scale organic growing because I just think we have a huge need for it as our food system becomes more and more corrupt and chemicalized”.

“I really enjoy doing market days,” says Dennis. “Because you get that direct feedback from customers. They say ‘This is beautiful’ or ‘I bought this last week and I want some more because it was so good.’ You get that satisfaction of being able to offer people really tasty food that you know is super healthy.

“I don’t think you can find a more satisfying work than growing the very essence of what we need to stay alive,” Dennis concludes.

Lessons to Share

  1. You can farm even if you don’t own land.
  2. You can start farming at any age.
  3. Organic market gardening can be incredibly rewarding.
  4. Organic market gardening requires a lot of hard work and won’t make you rich.
  5. For new growers, start the certification process “right off the bat.”


[1] Organic Agriculture in the Prairies 2019 Data.

[2] Quebec has the most organic operators but 1/3 of these are maple operations. In the traditional sense of farming, Saskatchewan has the most organic growers.

[3] CRISPR is a form of gene editing. Any seed or material produced using CRISPR technology is prohibited in organic production because the Canadian Organic Standards consider CRISPR to be a form of genetic engineering (GE). CFIA, however, consider CRISPR is not GE and that life forms created through CRISPR do not require the oversight and regulation needed for products of GE.

[4] Community Supported (Shared) Agriculture in which customers pay in advance for weekly assortments of vegetables throughout the growing season.



The Prairie Farmer Profiles (Sundog Organic Farm, MJJ & A Organic Farm, Haywire Farms, Mill Creek Organics Ltd, Pristine Prairie Organics, Upland Organics, Our Farm, G & G Farms, Marshall Farms and Penny Lane Organics) were written by Janet Wallace.  The Ontario Farmer Profiles were provided by the Organic Council of Ontario.   The Farmer Profiles were developed as part of the Prairie Organic Development Fund’s Canadian Organic Ingredient Strategy (COIS).  The COIS was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Government of Canada.  Translation services were provided by the Government of Manitoba.