With the latest NatureFresh Farms greenhouse in Delta about to start production, the company will break from construction for a year and turn its full attention toward growing its hothouse tomatoes.
The 15-acre Phase 3 greenhouse is expected to plant its first crop in four to six weeks, company spokesperson Chris Veillon said. Beyond that, no further construction at the site at the intersection of State Route 109 and U.S. 20A is expected until next year.
“We go from construction mode to operating efficiently,” Veillon said. “We need to take a bit of a rest. It’s been a very busy 20 months. It’s time to now make sure we’re operating efficiently and at capacity.”
The Phase 1 and 2 greenhouses are harvesting between 23,000-24,000 cases of the NatureFresh’s Ohio Red Tomato brand per week. Veillon said it’s the state’s first greenhouse tomato brand.
He said the company will decide in 2018 when work will commence on Phase 4. The plan has been to complete a complex of 12 greenhouses across 180 acres by 2020, and to employ 300 people.
Currently, between 75-100 workers man the operational greenhouses in various capacities. Hiring is ongoing through the NatureFresh website.
The Ontario, Canada-based company broke ground on land just outside Delta on April 20, 2015. The village later annexed the property.
The Phase 1 greenhouse was opened early that fall, and the first tomato plant was planted the day before Thanksgiving. The first harvest took place the following February.
Since then, the continuous crop in the operating greenhouses has been picked two to three times weekly.
“We’re growing and shipping Ohio-grown tomatoes all over the Midwest,” Veillon said. The markets include Chicago, Minneapolis, Rochester, N.Y., Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, and Detroit. Canadian markets extend as far west as Calgary, Alberta.
Veillon said the greenhouses have a unique growing system using supplemental high pressure sodium lights which replace sunlight on overcast days.
Veillon said the Delta complex will hold an open house sometime this spring in response to inquiries by Fulton County residents. An educational center included in the original plans won’t be constructed until all of the greenhouses are built.
NatureFresh has been overwhelmed by the support it has received in Ohio, he said, adding, “It really warms our heart to see that type of response.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.