Will Van Roessel is Expanding the Offerings as a Seed Grower

Aug 22, 2022

Will Van Roessel is always up for trying out a new crop as a seed grower.

Will Van Roessel has always been a farmer that looks for opportunities. When he started farming on his own in 1980, he didn’t have a lot of land and needed a way to make the most money he could off the land he had.

“There was a pretty good market here for soft white spring wheat production on irrigation. And so, I usually just sewed one or two seed fields a year until we started into hybrid canola in the early ‘90s. And then we found that it was probably just as easy to have all our acres in seed production,” Van Roessel explains in a phone interview.

Since then, the Bow Island, Alta.-based seed grower has become recognized in southern Alberta for being willing to try out growing most any new seed crop. He’s experimented with growing seeds such as hybrid sunflowers and hemp.

“(Will’s) been really instrumental in introducing (hemp) to southern Alberta, to the irrigation district, between Bow Island and Lethbridge,” Kevin Friesen says in a phone interview. “He provides a lot of advice for growers who are trying out the varieties he is growing.”

Van Roessel is known for hosting field days at his farm during the growing season and being willing to answer any questions his customers (or fellow seed growers) may have.

Growing Seed

For Van Roessel, seed growing started out as a way to make his farm more profitable. When he started farming, he didn’t have a lot of land, he was renting equipment, and he needed a way to make the land he was farming more profitable, which is where the idea for seed growing came from.

“At that time, I didn’t have much land. I was just starting out and it looked like a way to get a higher value crop on small acres of land,” he says.

Over the years the amount of seed production on Van Roessel’s farm, Specialty Seeds Ltd., grew to the point where it was all they were growing with no cash crops left in the rotation. Today, Van Roessel farms 1,500 acres of irrigated land planting hybrid canola, spring wheat, durum, yellow peas, hemp, and hybrid rye seed.

Van Roessel’s wife Jean works with him on the farm, and his daughters, Jessie Lysholm, Rowan Van Roessel, and Naomi Van Roessel, assist during the growing season when they’re not in high school or university. The daughters mainly help with rouging as they’re not around during seeding and only there for part of the harvest due to their school schedules.

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