Hi there! My name is Jacy and I am one of the Greenhouse Education Center Team Members this year on the #GreenInTheCity Tour! The Greenhouse Education Center (GEC) is a mobile greenhouse that travels to retail stores, summer camps, and schools educating consumers about how greenhouse vegetables are grown. This past weekend members of the GEC team participated in orientation sessions from Friday until Sunday. I would love to tell you about my experience!
On Friday, April 9th I eagerly made the drive out to Leamington, Ontario. Although it was just a mere 30-minute drive from my hometown, a whole new world at Nature Fresh Farms awaited me. I spent that half an hour drive on the way to Leamington replaying all of the videos on Nature Fresh’s YouTube channel in my mind, visualizing all of the research I had done on the company, and thinking of constructive questions that I would be able to contribute to our team discussions, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience! Nature Fresh Farms is truly a unique company and the operation as a whole is nothing less than amazing.
Our first event of orientation was dinner at the Nature Fresh Farms headquarters. The five GEC team members and key members of NFF’s management team gathered for a wonderful meal prepared by Henry, the Corporate Chef at NFF, which utilized fresh bell peppers and tomatoes grown right on site in the greenhouses! Over dinner, we all participated in a round table discussion about the value of greenhouse grown produce, the GEC’s important role as a learning initiative for Nature Fresh Farms, and of course we discussed our own backgrounds and what motivated us to fulfill this role with NFF.
To my left sat President and CEO Peter Quiring, eating his dinner, participating in our conversation, and sharing his personal story. I felt so humbled in his presence, and very moved by his story! And beyond that, I was so impressed that my very first time walking into Nature Fresh Farm’s headquarters as a new team member, and there I was having dinner next to the President and CEO. This is just one example of the culture there- it is truly a family and everyone is welcomed with open arms! I went to bed that night and I could hardly sleep I was so excited for the next day’s activities.
The next morning, the team toured Nature Fresh Farms and spent time developing an understanding of what it truly means to be the “Grow-to People” and to understand why Nature Fresh cares so greatly about the Future of Fresh. I literally had my breath taken away when I first entered Phase 6, one of the greenhouses on site. I had never had the privilege of entering such a large-scale greenhouse before, and pictures I had seen just didn’t do it justice! A sea of green sprawled out as far as the eye could see, the smell of fresh vegetables filled my nose, the Sun was shining down through the glass roof, the buzz of bumblebees could be heard in the background, and a refreshing warm temperature offered refuge from the winter outside. I felt as in if I had just stumbled in to a hidden tropical paradise! Except that it wasn’t hidden at all, for all around me there were Nature Fresh Farm’s team members who were smiling because they love their job and because they were so excited to meet the GEC Team!
That day we came to learn about the growing medium and maintenance of the Non-GMO plants, how the growers are able to determine if the plant has been over watered or if it needs more nutrients, and how as part of NFF’s energy management initiatives; Carbon Dioxide emissions from the burners are captured and then fed directly to the plants. This is a mutually beneficial relationship because plants require Carbon Dioxide just like humans require Oxygen to thrive, and by rerouting this CO2 to the plants, the environment is protected from the warming effects of CO2. We also learned how NFF uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce the use of pesticides; as an alternative, good bugs are used to combat the bad bugs… affectionately nicknamed the “Bug Brigade”!