Hello everyone, my name is Hailey I am a recent graduate of Nipissing University from the Honors Bachelors of Science in biology. In the fall I plan on continuing my studies at University of Ottawa where I will be pursuing a Masters in Science degree also in biology. As the newest team member on the Greenhouse Education Center (GEC) I had a busy first week learning aspects of the growing process to become one of the “grow to people”. My first day was a long tour of all five of the greenhouse phases. This is where I met my amazing team members for the week. While touring the phases I was able to also meet the amazing people who oversee the growth of thousands of pepper, tomato, and cucumber plants. Moreover I was able to meet our integrative pest management (IPM) team who use 19 species of good bugs to fight bad bugs on the plants. Being in the greenhouse and surrounded by the copious amounts of herbaceous plant material was an incredible experience. Furthermore I was very intrigued to learn how energy efficient the greenhouses are and how the water is contained in a closed loop system.
After learning about the greenhouse processes I was sent on my first GEC trip. Our first trip was to Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, and Milton where we went to Zehrs Markets and Real Canadian Superstore (Milton). The 38-foot trailer was parked in front of the store entrance and attracted a considerable amount of attention. This is where I was taught how to open the trailer, a rather daunting process. Once open, the trailer truly shows the intricacy involved in the growing process. There are six cassettes all holding a different plant variety, each is equip with its own irrigation tubing, support system, and even IPM package. I found it fascinating that we were able to transport so many live plants with no damage.
As we stood outside the trailer, in some beautiful weather, people began to stop in. I knew the trailer would be a great attraction but I was still surprised with the amount of people interested in the greenhouse growing process. The opportunity to show people something I am passionate about and watching them get excited was an amazing experience. In addition to being outside with the trailer we also sampled our latest cherry tomato variety inside. When sampling people were always intrigued to hear about the growing process and our Ontario grown produce. Moreover our non-GMO produce and environmentally friendly ways always put a smile on customers face, which is extremely contagious. At the subsequent stores the weather became significantly colder, although the plants had became rather sad our team kept each other motivated. We were able to implement a plan of action that allowed frequent rotation to be sure no one got too cold. I was delighted to see that the cold weather did not deter customers from coming to check out the trailer.
At each location I was always pleased to see the enthusiasm of the store employees and managers. This created a very welcoming environment for us to set up camp for the day. At each location there were many highlight stories that helped to boost the moral of the team. On the first day it was exciting to see how many customers changed their opinion on tomatoes, going from absolutely hating them to loving them. Since NatureFresh focuses on bringing back the flavor and eating fresh it was a rewarding sense of accomplishment that accompanied these small triumphs. On all trips the beehive was a popular attraction. On the second day of the tour a young girl informed us after looking at the bees that she wanted to become a bee keeper so she could help the environment. As a biology student this is always exciting to hear, it is crucial to show the next generation sustainable methods of farming and the importance of caring for the environment. Inspiring them to actively take part in this was/will be my favorite part of my position on the GEC. On the third day the local newspaper came by to take some pictures and feature us in their weekly paper. Their eagerness to spread our story was the perfect encouragement to stick out the cold weather. On the last day of our trip our team was able to sample to over 800 people. Sharing our fresh produce with shoppers and putting a smile on their face is always our goal and doing that to over 800 people was an outstanding achievement. Overall my first week was albeit exhausting, highly rewarding, and extremely fun, I cannot wait to see the next locations and continue to meet new people while inspiring to fresh eating.