Hello everyone, my name is Cole and I’m currently studying Environmental Policy in Water Conservation and minoring in Agriculture Business at The Ohio State University. I come from a small farming community in Northwest Ohio (right next to Delta!) I am the newest addition to the Greenhouse Education Center (GEC) team and have already completed a trip with the mobile greenhouse. Looking back on the past week I am so thankful to have this incredible opportunity to engage people about fresh, local produce that is grown from NatureFresh’s family owned greenhouse facilities.
My family farms over 500 hundred acres with an additional 300 acres of custom work. Our crops range from corn, soybeans, and wheat. My past experience has created a love for farming and gave me a strong agricultural background growing up. A passion for agriculture grew within me from working long, hard hours from sunrise to sunset, building a good solid and strong work ethic and character. Agriculture is important because we are the growers that provide people with fresh produce like NatureFresh™ Farms. It’s hard to believe you can’t find more greenhouses everywhere you go because of the quality of produce that you can grow in them! I remember driving in my truck on the way to Leamington for the first time, and I was impressed that every mile I drove, it was greenhouse after greenhouse, a culture none to doubt in Leamington, Ontario.
On the first day of orientation I traveled to each of the five different phases. This would be the first time I had ever stepped into a greenhouse (in Ohio, there are far less as many greenhouses) and I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw inside, my eyes were not prepared for. . First, you must suit-up to be able to enter the greenhouse so that you’re not bringing any unwanted bugs inside. When I heard about their amazing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, I was determined that they were unstoppable and that no pest could stand a chance. As we were walking in the greenhouse, I noticed and felt the temperature and humidity increase, hitting me in the face. The bell peppers I saw were huge. I had never seen bell peppers grow as tall as they were and they weren’t even finished growing! Row after row I looked down into the bell peppers, as if I was at home standing in the rows of corn in the field. If I didn’t know any better, I could get lost in them like the story you hear of kids never finding their way out of grown corn fields.
In the greenhouses, I was trying to soak everything in the growers had shown and shared with me. NatureFresh™ Farms grows only three different varieties of bell peppers; red, yellow and orange. I asked the grower “where are your green peppers?” Silly question now that I look back on it. However, I had no idea at the time that green bell peppers are only unripened bell peppers. My mouth hit the floor and I knew I couldn’t be the only one that thinks there are green bell peppers. This would be one great topic I could inform people about when I am on the GEC. As I expected, there were many who asked about green bell peppers and why we didn’t grow them. I smiled on the inside and explained that there was no such thing as a green bell pepper, they are simply bell peppers that are picked early. The guests were shocked, their mouths hit the floor. “WOW”, “REALLY”, and “I Can’t BELIEVE IT”, they replied.
Learning about the growing medium was also very interesting, instead of using soil, NatureFresh™ uses coco fibers made from recycled coconut husks. The grower informed me that it’s a natural product that can hold water and nutrients. After the season is over I asked “what do you do with all of the coco fibers?” The grower proceeded by saying they recycle the fibers into potting soil for other plants at the end of the year to ensure there is yet another purpose of the coco fibers.
Next we moved to not only how each plant receives water but also how the plants receive the proper nutrients. This is done through its own dripper system that delivers water and nutrients directly to the plants roots. The level of care the produce receives is unbelievable; the growers will walk up and down the crop inspecting each plant to ensure that the plant is healthy. Another aspect that I learnt was about the impressive heating rails used to control the temperature inside the greenhouse. And let’s not forget that NatureFresh™ uses a native species of bumble bees to pollinate the flowers growing inside. When people walk up to the greenhouse trailer they are filled with many different thoughts and questions. My mission is not to tell random facts that they can forget in a few days, but to give them a story that means something and an experience they can remember for a lifetime. Though I was not a part of the GEC trailer last year, I love hearing that people remember it from years ago. We are so happy when people can smile from ear to ear, and look forward to telling other people about their experience at the GEC.
It was incredible and impactful to see all 130 acres of greenhouse operated by NatureFresh™ Farms. Everyone I meet has a smile on their face and it truly feels like a family of employees. I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and I hope I can contribute everything I have to offer to this great farm.