NatureFresh Farms Delays Expansion Due to Labor Shortage, While Pure Flavor Plans 75-Acre Build in Georgia
Ontario, Canada-based NatureFresh Farms came to northwest Ohio in 2015 with the goal of building a sprawling, 175-acre greenhouse in Delta, OH, over a seven-year time frame at a cost of up to $200 million. So far, the company has spent about $65 million to get the operation up and running and build out 45 acres of growing space under one roof.
But now, NatureFresh says it has been forced to hold back on the expansion because of the company’s ongoing struggle with finding workers.
“Labor’s the caveat,” says NatureFresh Founder and CEO Peter Quiring in an article on the Toledo Blade’s website. “It’s not happening unless we figure out the labor situation.”
Between its greenhouse and a distribution center in Maumee, OH, the company has about 220 full-time employees in northwest Ohio. NatureFresh grows about 10 varieties of tomatoes in Delta, which are shipped primarily to customers across the Midwest and the eastern seaboard.
A 45-acre expansion would require another 90 to 100 full-time, year-round employees.
“The sad reality is Canadians and Americans do not want to do agricultural work,” Quiring says. “If they do agricultural work, they want the chief grower’s job, or my job, or at the very least they want to be in shipping and receiving. They do not want to pick tomatoes.”
Read the entire Blade article to learn more about the company’s plight, and how it intends to move forward with the help of local lawmakers and labor leaders.
Pure Flavor To Build 75-Acre Greenhouse Project in Georgia
Despite the construction setback at NatureFresh, demand for premium greenhouse vegetables continues to grow. With this in mind, Pure Flavor recently announced the investment of more than $105 million to build a 75-acre high-tech greenhouse facility and distribution center in Peach County, GA, south of Atlanta.
The new greenhouse complex will grow tomatoes and cucumbers year-round. Coupled with Pure Flavor’s existing farms throughout Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, growing in Georgia will further expand the company’s reach along the eastern seaboard as far north as Virginia, west to Texas, and down to south Florida.
“The strategic investment in Peach County is one that will not only expand our acreage, but also creates opportunities to strengthen and grow our retail and foodservice partnerships across the southeast with Georgia-grown vegetables,” says Jamie Moracci, President of Pure Flavor. Moracci and his partners spent nearly two years researching locations for the expansion, and saw the development in Georgia, the first significant high-tech build of its kind in the state, as a game changer.
The facility will be built in three phases of 25 acres over the next five years, and will feature a 75,000 square-foot distribution center on site to service the southeast. The installation of high pressure sodium lighting will assist with year-round growing, and Moracci says he hopes the project will create more than 200, new year-round job opportunities.
International greenhouse manufacturer Havecon has been retained to build the facility in Georgia, which will have diffused-roof glass installed to take advantage of the region’s nutrient-rich sunlight during peak season.
The first crop of tomatoes-on-the-vine and long English cucumbers will be planted in summer 2018, to be harvested in mid fall that year.