By the end of this summer, a Canadian greenhouse vegetable grower expects to double the acreage at its Santa Maria facility.
Delta, British Columbia-based Windset Farms plans to have 128 acres of greenhouse tomatoes in full production by September or October, said Steven Newell, the company’s chief executive officer.
The company grows grape tomatoes, romas, beefsteaks, tomatoes-on-the-vine and several specialty varieties at the Santa Maria facility.
Windset began producing from its first two 32-acre greenhouses in Santa Maria in November 2011, Newell said.
It was the company’s first expansion outside of Canada.
Windset chose Santa Maria for several reasons, Newell said.
There’s plenty of aquifer water available, labor is readily available, the land is relatively flat, services for a greenhouse producer are nearby, and Santa Maria is within four hours of tens of millions of consumers, Newell said.
That means transportation savings and a lower carbon footprint, he said.
And for Windset’s customers in Western Canada, fruit can ship from Santa Maria in less than 24 hours.
But the main reason for choosing Santa Maria, Newell said, is the climate.
“Santa Maria has perfect conditions for tomato production,” he said. “Our tomatoes are firmer, and they last longer.”
They also yield incredibly well, Newell said.
The key is the region’s cool nights. Because it cools down most nights, Windset doesn’t have to ventilate its greenhouses as much as growers in other regions do.
That keeps carbon dioxide levels high, resulting in superb yields, long shelf life and excellent quality, Newell said.
Greenhouses in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest, by contrast, are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures, which can stress plants, he said.
Doubling its production can’t happen soon enough for Windset, which has seen demand outpace supplies of Santa Maria-grown tomatoes.
“We didn’t ever think demand would be so strong.”
Windset likely won’t stop at 128 acres, Newell said.
The company plans to eventually have 250 acres in production in Santa Maria.
Windset’s Santa Maria facility serves as a second West Coast distribution center for Windset, Newell said.
Some tomatoes grown in California are shipped to the company headquarters in Delta, and some peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables grown in Canada are shipped south. Windset ships mixer loads out of both facilities to its retail and foodservice customers.
In addition to tomatoes, Windset grows cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables. The company has facilities in Delta; Santa Maria; Abbotsford, British Columbia; and Las Vegas.