By: Trelle Kolojay, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
If you drive by a camelina field, its yellow flowers may look similar to mustard or canola, but a crop of camelina produces a new kind of liquid gold on the prairies. Three Farmers is a company tapping into that potential with a new spin on an ancient oilseed.
“Several years ago, commodity prices were very low and farmers were really starting to look for alternative crops to grow,” Elysia Vandenhurk, part owner and Chief Operating Officer of Three Farmers, said.
A farmer near the Vandenhurk family farm heard about camelina and its benefits at a seminar in Saskatoon and wanted to give it a try. Fast forward to today and the three farmers, Colin Rosengren, Ron Emde and Vandenhurk’s father, Dan, are now growing camelina on their neighbouring farms near Midale.
Vandenhurk said camelina originated in northern Europe thousands of years ago when it first showed up as a weed in a flax field. It was used for a cooking oil before more modern oils overtook it in popularity. Camelina is drought resistance, cold tolerant, works well in crop rotations and produces an oil high in Omega 3 and Vitamin E.
“The greatest thing about camelina oil is its versatility,” she said. “If (people) were to look in their pantry of oils right now, they probably have an olive oil for salads, a canola or avocado oil for cooking and then they may be taking a flax oil or a fish oil for their supplement. (Camelina) is an oil you’ll use in all applications.”
As a Red Seal chef, Vandenhurk loves cooking with camelina oil – whether it’s in hot dishes or salad dressings. She described its taste as a bit of a nutty flavour with an asparagus or broccoli sweetness mixed in. The oil is cold-pressed, so it’s unrefined with no heat or chemicals used in the process, leaving the raw nutrients and flavours intact.
It was also important to the Three Farmers brand that consumers be able to trace the oil right back to the field it was grown. Each bottle of oil comes with a batch number that can be entered online. Consumers can then find out the GPS location of the field the crop was grown in, the farmer who grew the camelina, when it was pressed and when it was bottled.
“Give us a call and if I can’t answer your question, I’ll let you talk to your farmer,” she laughed. “We’re able to offer transparency at a level that not everyone can.”
The Three Farmers brand is now expanding beyond camelina oil and offers a snack line featuring roasted chickpeas and green peas – all grown by Saskatchewan farmers. They also distribute camelina oil, through the company CanPressco, for the equine market to reduce joint pain and improve horses’ coats.
Three Farmers’ products are available at 2,000 stores across Canada. For more information and to find retailers, visit the Three Farmers website.