ABBOTSFORD—It’s a familiar story in Abbotsford: an immigrant family needed to find jobs and became berry growers. Gradually, the next generation got involved, then the next.
While all this is true for Maan Farms, the way the Maan family is going about growing their business to encourage the next generation to farm is anything but familiar.
Kris Maan emigrated from India with his parents in the early 1970s. He married his wife Devinder in 1982 and the couple had four children: Preena, Gurleen, Amir and Gaurav. His parents’ farm originally grew cole crops, then expanded to include strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Gradually Kris and Devinder took the business over and began seeing their berry farm as a place for the community to have fun and celebrate farming.
“About 2006, my mom had the idea to open up a petting zoo,” says Gurleen Maan, operations manager for the business.
Prior to 2006, the farm was best known for a couple of roadside stands where Maan, her sister and their friends sold berries all summer long. When Mama Maan (as Devinder is better known) started to think about new farm experiences with input from Dorothy Anderson of Aldor Acres, things started to happen on the family’s 80-acre home farm.
First it was a pumpkin patch, corn maze and u-pick berries; then in 2007, a play area and petting zoo. In 2012, a barn was built that housed a kitchen, market and event space. A fruit winery followed a year later.
But in 2014 tragedy struck.
“We had this beautiful building and in 2014, it burned down,” says Maan. “It was gone. Arson. In a heartbeat.”
But the family persisted and stayed focused on their berry and family roots. Kris and Devinder wanted their kids to be involved and continue moving the business forward. Their sons came in – Amir working on the berries with his dad and Gaurav managing the fruit winery. The boys had their own ideas and added to the farm, bringing in an adventure play zone. A new building went up and Gurleen could begin to see the vision her parents had. There was a natural progression and a place for everyone to work on the farm.
Maan Farms is now a multi-faceted business with berry growing, berry sales (wholesale, u-pick, farmgate), petting zoo, wine, family activities including a bouncy pillow, zipline, tire-crawl and others. A market with food service, preserves, pies and other prepared food products is thriving. The activities are by admission, with special events having their own pricing.
But the berries remain at the core of the family business.
Heart and soul
“The heart and soul of our business is the berries,” says Maan. “The experience part of our farm activities as well as the fruit accounts for the majority of our revenue.”
Twenty acres of the farm is planted to Bluecrop blueberries, Malahat and a numbered raspberry variety as well as everbearing and June-bearing strawberries.
“There are always more berries than you can sell,” Mama Maan says, and the winery puts them to good use. Maan Farms produces 12 kinds of wine, totaling about 24,000 litres a year.
In the kitchen, Devinder focuses on “east-meets-west” flavours, offering butter chicken samosas, butter chicken poutine, chicken fingers, ice cream and a wide range of other Indian and traditional North American items.
“We ended up embracing our culture,” says Gurleen.
One of her favourite on-site events is goat yoga, with her biggest session on June 22. Close to 50 goats joined 415 people.
“I attempted to break the world record; I believe I got it,” she says, though she has yet to receive official word.
The previous record, set in February, saw 84 goats join 355 people.
The farm has also hosted Bunnies and Booze, an adult Easter egg hunt featuring the farm’s wines.
“Many people that come here still remember me from selling the baskets at the stands,” says Gurleen. “That’s the beauty for me. It’s full circle.”