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The seed of an idea

Half a century of nurturing and community support has grown a single acre of strawberries into the operation Alf and Sandee Krause run today.

April 23, 2024  By Jeff Tribe

Alf and Sandee Kraus. Photos courtesy of Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery.

Fifty years into building an impressively diversified added-value agri-business with wife Sandee, Alf Krause still finds inspiration in the natural rhythms of the seasons.

Summer carries production’s craziness, meeting the challenge of hand-harvesting 200 acres of plump, juicy strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries at their flavourful peak.

Fall represents comparative rest and recovery, winter, fresh ideas germinating toward spring fruition, new growth both in the fields and in the business.


“I think that’s kept us going,” says Krause.

Their Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery (KBFEW) is a shared journey that began with a single acre of strawberries a teenaged Krause hoped offered decent returns with a three- to four-week harvest window. The Krause poultry layer operation was sold upon his graduation and berries became an anchor crop, progressing along with their marriage and eventual arrival of six children.

He adds, “So the farm and our family expanded and grew.”

Krause’s agricultural passion combined with his ag business post-secondary education dovetailed well with Sandee’s business/guest and baking background. The combination ultimately led in 2000 to seeking returns beyond selling to packing houses. “Control our own destiny,” he explains.

In simplistic terms, it meant bringing guests to their Langley, B.C.-area property (roughly an hour from downtown Vancouver) rather than shipping product out. Speaking broadly, Alf looks after all the agriculture, picked and U-pick berries and Sandee looks after all the added value and the farm market. Together they are a true team, overseeing multiple value-added initiatives they developed.

“Or, let’s be clear here,” Krause laughs. “She has the ideas.”

Agriculturally, extended-season berry varieties were chosen, the end of May to Thanksgiving for strawberries, and the end of June to Thanksgiving for raspberries. Krause likes the term “whole farm approach,” evolving environmentally responsible practices incorporating energy efficiency, disease-resistant varieties, soil-building rotations, organic and “green” manures; weed, disease and pest control through plastic coverings and biologicals; and, where necessary, judicious application of organic and conventional pesticides. “We want to be ‘sensible sustainable,’” he says.

Over 90 per cent of Krause berries are hand-harvested, options including U-pick, in which Alf sees potential opportunity to bridge the rural-urban divide through guest education. “They connect their mouths with their hands with their heads, hopefully.”

Seventy per cent of the farm’s production supports KBFEW products – vertical integration amounting to their own ’packing house.’ A ‘Coles Notes’ version of the mind-boggling list begins with the harvest production kitchen and includes a market and bakery featuring over 125 products created from fruits and vegetables grown on their farms (pies being a particular hit), a waffle bar (blueberry compote and chocolate options in regular and gluten-free vegan through Valentine’s week), smoothies and milkshakes from ‘The Porch,’ and a western-themed estate winery featuring award-winning wines.

Sandee has authored “The Krause Berry Farms Cookbook,” celebrating 50 years of farming with sweet and savoury recipes. Available on April 30, Indigo Canada has selected it as one of the most anticipated culinary publications for 2024. 

The farm offers indoor and outdoor venue-planning, not to mention providing the backdrop for a lengthy list of Christmas, holiday and other movies, which for the record, neither Sandee or Alf have been featured in.

“I should have said I wanted to be in all of them to some degree,” he laughs.

All joking aside, their purpose is to provide “excellent care” and is anchored in a framework of their core values of safety, quality, wow and efficiency for growing, production, products, staff and guests alike. 

“You can start something, but you can’t keep going if it’s not built on something solid,” says Krause. The effort begins quite literally from the ground up, growing the best possible produce, which is required for producing equivalent-quality pies, preserves and wine. “The two go hand-in-hand.”

The farm’s growth means Krause misses longer “thinking cap” hours he used to spend in a tractor, but he remains as involved as possible while confident in committed, long-term staff aligned with farm goals and core values. “We’re fortunate to have staff who know and love our purpose of excellent care.”

Some of the farm’s veteran staffers include his two main field supervisors, who have been in place for over 25 years, Sandee’s market manager (since 2006), as well as many ten-year-plus staff members.

“They know what to do,” says Krause, who is also able to find some separation yet be accessible on demand through his phone or the Internet.

Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery in Langley, B.C.

In total, KBFEW employs 35 people year-round and 200 seasonally – a mixture including students, some of whom have maintained years-long connections. The farm also welcomes a cadre of long-term temporary foreign workers from Mexico, sponsoring two families from the latter contingent for residency, both of whom have chosen to continue working with the operation.

KBFEW was recognized by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce as its 2021 Employer of the Year. The award highlights businesses recognizing employees as a top priority, the importance of diversity, inclusion and respect, and procedures and strategies contributing to positive leadership and organizational and employee growth, recruitment and retention. “It was a nice honour,” Krause says.

As well as giving back to their community through the farm’s extended economic impact, the Krauses have and continue to contribute to their industry through supporting and hosting research, participating in breeding development programs and serving on various berry and horticultural boards and bodies. 

“He’s a very strong advocate for agriculture,” credits Lisa Craig, Raspberry Industry Development Council/BC Strawberry Growers Association manager.

Despite his own farm’s requirements, Krause contributes significantly to the broader fruit and vegetable sector, says Craig, grateful for his guidance and support during her early days as manager. “He always has time.” 

When a spokesperson is needed for the media, Krause is willing to stand up and answer the bell in a positive manner, she added. “He is never negative.”

Krause is also a pillar in his community, exemplifying unity and growth within different businesses in the area, even when they may overlap with KFBEW, says Craig. “He is very inclusive with that.”

His agri-business acumen is unquestionable, but she believes Krause remains a farmer at heart.

“It’s both,” says Craig, noting Krause oversees the operation’s business aspects, but also remains involved day-to-day, where possible. “He still loves to do the work, [and] is still passionate about the berries.”

Board and other industry-related participation does require a time commitment in an extremely busy world, but beyond feeling responsibility to contribute, Krause believes the experience is mutually beneficial. “You learn things and are at the forefront of what’s going on.”

Continuing to evolve is important, Krause says, cautiously optimistic about the potential benefits of AI and increased mechanization. The mentality mirrors a solution-based approach to inevitable issues which arise, dealing with rather than dreading them. “That’s kind of the fun part, seeing what the future holds.”

This year’s focus will be on celebrating the business’s fiftieth anniversary. Krause says, “We had a seed of an idea, we nurtured it and it has grown because of 50 years of community support, which we are so grateful for.”

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