NatureFresh Farms Delays Expansion Due to Labor Shortage, While Pure Flavor Plans 75-Acre Build in Georgia

NatureFresh Farms Delays Expansion Due to Labor Shortage, While Pure Flavor Plans 75-Acre Build in Georgia

NatureFresh Expansion

NatureFresh’s expansion in 2016

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.

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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.

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Tony Bass says:

We welcome the Pure Flavor growers to Peach County. And we appreciate companies who have an attitude of abundance and avoid the attitude of scarcity. There’s huge amounts of human potential here in GA. Last month we had 200 resumes submitted for one job opening for our Peach County manufacturing business.

Kate Field says:

Raise the pay and benefit package. Employers who pay more usually get more people to apply and the best people to work.

Work with the local high school to give students part time and summer jobs,and internships. Introduce young people to your greenhouse business. Get young people in the ‘pipeline’ your gonna need their help!

Work with vocational training and handicapped people

Work with prison and parole system.

Work with elderly and part time populations

Ask yourself why people would choose to work at picking tomatoes in a hot Georgia greenhouse if they could do similar unskilled labor in an air conditioned factory or office, for higher pay, and perhaps the potential for training and advancement.

All of horticulture is struggling with a lack of employees and especially young people entering the field. From greenhouse to landscape to food. We need to somehow organize a professional effort to introduce young people to horticulture since its been eliminated from many high schools due to reputation for low pay and hard physical labor. How many young people would we attract they only knew how interesting horticulture actually can be?