A month and half in and I can’t believe where I’ve been, how much I’ve learned and all the people I’ve met in such a short amount of time! The Greenhouse Education Center has been an opportunity of a lifetime, and the passion at NatureFresh Farms for #fresh produce and sustainable agriculture will only serve to help me develop an ongoing love for this company. With the Greenhouse Education Center, we have visited retailers and consumers as far South as Virginia and as far North as New York. We were also able to attend the United Fresh Trade Show in Chicago, Illinois, which gave us an inside look at the produce industry.
Touring the States
Our first trip in the States was to Virginia where we visited Wegmans! This was our first Wegmans visit of the year and the first Wegmans I’ve been too. Walking in I was amazed by the large produce section they had and how all of it was perfect and fresh. As soon as the trailer was set up, people flocked to it in awe of the tall bell pepper and tomato plants they saw. Sincerely interested in how we grow and where it can be found, the engaged customers made my job easy and fun! Kids drawing in their parents to look at the mobile greenhouse was a constant occurrence at Wegmans and is my favorite part about this job – it always gives me more hope that the next generations will care as much about agriculture and their food as I do. Wegmans shoppers are loyal and care about how their produce is grown and many of them were happy to see us with such a unique display. I must agree with them about that – it’s a mobile greenhouse! No other greenhouse farm has something like this, nor are they willing to share everything about their company like we are. Perhaps one of the most interesting experiences on this trip was meeting someone from Israel. He showed me pictures of watermelons growing inside greenhouses vertically just the way we grow! I would say that Virginia was a very successful trip!
Next up, Ohio, the Buckeye state! This year Sam’s Club is now selling our #TOMZ tomatoes as well as some of our OhioRed tomatoes. Another great opportunity to meet new people and produce managers who deal with higher volume orders. “How come my peppers don’t look like that?!” was a constant question that I received over those four days. The people of Ohio are proud of their state and love it when they find produce or products made in Ohio. Not only that, many of them do their own gardening! It seems that the more I travel the more I find that the passion for agriculture can be found around every corner. Several visitors that came to the trailer were from the Middle East and were unfamiliar with greenhouse production. My dad being from Libya really allowed me to connect and explain to them how and why we grow the way we do. Another successful trip with the GEC!
On the road, again, this time to New York! Often when you think of New York, you think of New York City and people everywhere. This is not the case. My first time in New York was for a Wegmans GEC tour in Rochester and Syracuse, and I was absolutely amazed by the landscape and beauty of this state. The rolling hills with cattle grazing on the side was like the perfect movie scene. Wegmans originally began in Rochester in 1916 and has now spread across the East coast. Much like Ohio, visitors of the GEC had their own gardens. Also, much like Virginia, these consumers are dedicated to Wegmans and seeing the mobile greenhouse reaffirmed their dedication to them and to NatureFresh Farms.
A New World
Our latest event was to Chicago, Illinois to attend the United Fresh Trade Show! This is where all the leading produce, floral and engineering companies come together to meet the retailers and buyers. A two-day event that takes two days to get through all the booths. Many big brand names that you find in your grocery store like Driscoll or Dole could be found there with all their products. Fresh Origins, a microgreen grower in California, featured a variety of their microgreens. Back home, microgreens are almost nonexistent and hearing about them at the trade show was a unique experience for me as I learned about what microgreens are, the growing processes, the challenges faced and the benefits of it. The more I walked around the more I was amazed and the more it made me realize how many more opportunities there are in agriculture. Farming is not just about tomatoes, row crops and tractors – it is hundreds of different crops that exist to serve their own unique purpose. It’s everything in-between the start of the seed all the way to the consumer’s table. This is why I love agriculture. Every day it brings something new and the Greenhouse Education Center allows me to experience that and allows others to have that same experience, seeing our growing processes and implementing them in their own gardens. For others knowing how and where it’s grown gives them comfort in that they know their food is safe. NatureFresh Farms is not just greenhouse farm, it’s a greenhouse farm that’s equipped with passionate growers who care about what they’re doing, creating a win-win for everyone.