Syrian refugee's farm thrives with Middle Eastern crops 4 years later

A Syrian refugee who was gifted some land to farm just outside Calgary has expanded the operation and is succeeding with growing Middle Eastern crops.

'I'd like to open a new door in Calgary for agriculture'

Mohamed El Daher says he's following his dream of being a farmer and hopes for more success in his business next year. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Three years ago, a Syrian farmer fled to Calgary with his family, unable to speak English and with no job prospects.

However, with the help of a benefactor, he set up a small farm and has since grown it almost four-fold with Middle Eastern crops.

Mohamed El Daher says he grew up on farms in Syria, but when he came to Calgary with his wife and three kids as refugees, he heard farming here can be difficult.

"When I came to Canada, I thought, what should I do in my new country? Because all of the people have a big [academic] certificate but I didn't have any certificate," he said.

"I have a lot of experience as a farmer. And many people said, 'you can't plant vegetables here for the weather.'"

Despite hearing this, El Daher pursued his dream after being gifted a small farm. It's been four years since he started, and it has already expanded to have a wide range of produce and customers.

Mohamed El Daher in his homemade greenhouse. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"The first year, I planted one acre, or two acres. When I succeeded last year, I planted seven acres," he said. "I planted spinach, radish, the tomato and eggplant, and the green beans, two kinds, and zucchini, and cucumber."

Since El Daher is still new to Canada, he says he doesn't speak English very well. However, since he does speak Arabic, a lot of the vegetables he grows are specifically for Arabic people.

"In the future, I'd like to get Canadian customers," he said. 

El Daher now has several hectares of vegetables and a greenhouse he built himself in order to grow eggplant.

"Next year, I should make more greenhouses because now I have produce from my eggplant," he said.

El Daher says he hasn't hired anyone yet to help on the farm, but his wife and friends come by to lend a hand every day.

"I should say thank you to my wife because she stood beside me and helped me to make my dream," he said. 

Syrian success story

3 years ago
Duration 2:22
Syrian success story

His advice for new farmers out there is to be patient with your dreams.

"First and second and third and the fourth year, you should not look for money. If you want success in your dream, [it] will take four years," he said.

"But next year, I'm ready to make it a business and for money."

With files from Monty Kruger