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NatureFresh Farms celebrates 20 years of greenhouse growing

Everything Leamington, ON-based NatureFresh Farms grows is done in controlled greenhouses — bell peppers, long sweet peppers, mini sweet peppers, cucumbers, mini cucumbers, beef tomato, tomato-on-the-vine, cherry/grape/cocktail, and other specialty tomatoes. 

“This allows us to grow in a protected environment and in a sustainable way utilizing less water while providing us with consistency of supply no matter the season,” said Ray Wowryk, director of business development for NatureFresh Farms. “We offer all the greenhouse products in conventional as well as organic.”

NFF Produce-News -P Planting Question-7 Product-wise, the company sees a demand for local and organic product increasing every year and NatureFresh Farms has experienced a great deal of growth over the last couple of years — especially with its retail partnerships.

“The change is because we see the value in building and having long-term relations with these retailers and help each other grow,” Wowryk said. “This year marks our 20th season growing greenhouse products. We have seen our company expand to the size it is now with the hard work of our many team members. NatureFresh Farms has come a long way, and we are excited to experience what the next 20 years will bring us in this great industry.”

The secret to success has been a combination of hard work, dedication, and taking great pride in the way it services its customers.

“You have to asses each opportunity and ensure you are able to service your customers year-round with quality products at affordable prices,” Wowryk said. “This way we hope to inspire people to eat healthier. Meanwhile, we are trying to be more sustainable every day.”

Sustainability is a big trend that has been a focus of the company since the beginning and one that is seeing more interest throughout the industry.

“This is especially true in packaging, where a greater interest in more sustainable options are being looked at,” Wowryk said. “We are moving towards using less plastic packaging and already replaced some of our plastic trays with a 100-percent compostable alternative.”

Wowryk called 2019 the “Year of the Cucumber” and expected big things from the category at the retail level.

“It is time to take them out of the cold case and place them in direct sites of the consumer,” he said. “We believe that if retailers are encouraged to expand displays in high-traffic areas, we will see consumer demand explode. A non-refrigerated dry bunk display with spillover works extremely well during peak production.”

One of the biggest challenges the company faces today is finding enough quality labor, which is why NatureFresh Farms is investing a lot of time and money in automation and doing in-house education/training/schooling to have its people ready for the growth it is going through. 

“We add automation wherever possible to offset the lack of available farm labor, and constantly introducing new AI technology to manage or farm production,” Wowryk said. “Extreme weather has its effect throughout the year for the greenhouse category. By utilizing our AI within the greenhouses, it provides our growers with greater control in overall crop management.”  

Looking ahead, the company is expanding its lit crop in Leamington, has a new greenhouse collaboration in Mexico and will have close to 300 new varieties in its discovery center.