UPDATED: Tornado hits Ontario greenhouse vegetables

06/09/2010 03:03:25 PM
Ashley Bentley

(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 10) A tornado-producing storm that destroyed some greenhouses in Leamington, Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable growing region caused big losses for some of the province’s growers.

Contributed photo

A block of vegetable-growing greenhouses on the east side of Leamington, Ontario, were destroyed by an F2 strength tornado that hit the city June 6.

A small amount of acreage — 16 acres in five locations — was destroyed, while about 40 more suffered damage in the storm that hit the area June 6, said George Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association, Leamington.

The damage was focused, hitting along the Lake Erie shore from the Kingsville area to Leamington. Early estimates suggest only a handful of growers were involved, and only a fraction of a percent of the province’s total acreage was destroyed.

“The bottom line is 16 acres is less than 1% of production, so it’s really a negligible impact on the marketplace,” Gilvesy said. “If it would have been a kilometer to the north, we would have had a much different story.”

The association represents more than 1,820 acres of greenhouses in Ontario, 1,600 of which are in southwestern Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is estimating $24 million in greenhouse damage as of June 9. That number does not include lost plantings — rather, just the structures — and includes greenhouses for bedding plants and the floral industry. Gilvesy said his association is working with federal agencies to estimate damages including crop value.

One greenhouse acre can produce $400,000 worth of crops, said Helmut Leili, sales manager for Clifford Produce Sales Inc., Kingsville. Two of the farmer cooperative’s growers lost about 3 acres total.

“It’s not enough damage to affect the crop in terms of volume, but it’s a significant portion,” Leili said. “Three acres is still more than $1 million worth of business.”

For Gerry Mastronardi, the Clifford Produce grower who lost 1 acre, the storm caused damage in all three of his greenhouse operations.

For the other, the 2 lost acres represented 25% of his total acreage. Those two were a complete loss and are being torn down.

“The plastic was damaged, and in one case, it was ripped off,” Leili said. “In one case, the winds were strong enough they actually moved and shifted the greenhouse structure itself.”


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