California’s infamous red tape caused a year’s delay, but the perseverance of Windset Farms, Delta, British Columbia, will produce the company’s first Santa Maria harvest before the end of October.
Windset revealed plans in 2009 for four 32-acre greenhouses in Santa Maria, the company’s first expansion outside of Canada. At the time, Windset projected it would begin California production in fall 2010. The state’s near crippling red tape forced the year’s delay, said Steven Newell, chief executive officer.
“We’re set to start picking out of greenhouse 1 the third week of October,” he said in mid-September.
Planting in greenhouse 2 was scheduled to begin by the second week in October.
The first crops in both facilities will be several varieties of tomatoes, Newell said, including grape tomatoes, romas on the vine, vine-ripe and beef steak tomatoes.
When all four greenhouses are in operation, the volume of the Santa Maria facilities “will be pretty significant, 10-plus loads per day,” Newell said.
“We will definitely be a force particularly in the grape tomato business as well as other tomato category items,” he said. “The Santa Maria climate is perfect for year-round production — no temperature extremes.”
“They are certainly carbon neutral, may even be carbon negative,” Newell said. “The irrigation water is 100% recycled, and the fertilizer is captured and recycled until exhausted by the plants.”
Windset has taken every known step to keep insects from entering the facilities.
“Our employees enter through disinfection units — comparable to those used in fresh-cut processing operations — and screens cover all exhaust vents, so no chemical use is required,” Newell said. “Our food safety procedures are second to none.”
The California expansion will, in effect, provide a second West Coast distribution center for Windset, he said. Some of the tomatoes grown in California will be shipped to the Delta headquarters and some peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables grown in Canada are shipped south.
“We will have mixer loads out of both facilities directed to all of our retail and foodservice customers,” Newell said.
Windset is likely to expand its customer base in California and the Southwest.
“There are 39 million Californians living within a four- or five-hour drive from Santa Maria,” Newell said. “We’ve had a huge amount of interest not just from retail, but also foodservice.”
A plus for Windset customers, he said, is that they can count on consistent quality and year-round delivery.
When all four Santa Maria greenhouses are in operation, Windset will have more than 120 acres of indoor production in California.
Windset is considering expanding the California operation, Newell said, and has already found land adjacent to Windset Santa Maria.