Rising From The Ashes

Just outside the town of Villa Canales, Guatemala, lies Vita Farms, a 37-acre nursery with a long history of supplying young plants to our industry. In the course of a few days last May, however, a storm of fire, wind and water leveled the entire facility. Employees watched as their livelihoods were flattened.

Pacaya is one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala, lying just southwest of Villa Canales. Normally a popular tourist destination, Pacaya woke with a fury May 27, erupting suddenly and unexpectedly. It spewed fire and ash for miles in every direction.

At the farm outside Villa Canales, ash rained down and covered everything in sight. Mounds of the fluffy gray ash quickly gathered atop the greenhouses. Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom declared a state of calamity in the region adjacent to the volcano, and people were urged to stay in their homes to avoid the rain of ash and dust.

Four days later, Tropical Storm Agatha surged into Guatemala from the Pacific Ocean. More than 100 people were killed by the storm. A sinkhole 180 feet deep formed in the middle of Guatemala City. For the farm outside Villa Canales, this was the death knell. The ash that had accumulated on top of the greenhouses soaked up the rain from Agatha like a sponge. The light, fluffy material became waterlogged, growing heavier as the rains continued to pour in from the storm.

Soon, the greenhouses gave way from the pressure of all the accumulated weight. In some cases the poly broke first; in others, the support beams. The damage was devastating.

The Rebuilding Begins

By the end of May, Pacaya went back to sleep. The rain stopped. The people could finally leave their homes safely.
But all that was left of the Villa Canales farm was a flattened nursery. The crop – all of it – was buried under a mix of poly, ash and other debris. The stock plants – the financial blood of the nursery – were dying underneath the rubble. The owners saw the damage was too great and decided not to rebuild.

Plant broker ForemostCo had a longstanding relationship with this farm and its people. The farm was more than a supplier. It was made up of friends and family. Something had to be done.

Within days, ForemostCo forged a partnership with the farm’s former manager and team so the rebuilding could begin. First, debris had to be removed from the mother stock. The plants needed to be recovered, and the greenhouses had to be repaired as quickly as possible. The task was immense.

To avoid exposing the stock to the elements, greenhouses had to be quickly constructed. Throughout all of the repair efforts, Vita Farms was able to supply some quality products to help its customers and maintain some cash flow.

A year later, the task is not finished. But take one step back and look at what’s been accomplished. Through no small effort, the hardworking team at Vita Farms was able to quickly make the repairs needed to turn the farm into a productive, fully-functioning facility. You’d never think a catastrophe had struck the farm a year ago.

Vita Farms is now shipping every week to customers around the world. There are currently 20 greenhouses in full operation and ongoing construction keeps adding to the number. The farm employs more than 80 office and field personnel.

In January alone, the farm shipped more than 2.5 million cuttings to the United States, Canada and Europe. From groundcovers and perennials to succulents and other crops, Vita Farms has risen from the ashes of Pacaya and Agatha to once again provide the industry with quality cuttings and exceptional service.

Leave a Reply

More From Greenhouses...
Philips Lighting, Colorado State

January 14, 2016

Philips Lighting, Colorado State University Partner On New LED Lighting Research And Training Center

The partnership will allow the two entities to perform collaborative research and focused cultivation studies to validate and innovate around the application of advanced LED lighting for horticultural activity.

Read More

December 21, 2015

More Than 40% Of Growers Will Add Or Retrofit Structures In 2016

An early look at 2016 State of the Industry results shows why some growers are looking to add or retrofit structures in the coming year.

Read More
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing's Rainbow Super Structure

December 21, 2015

Three Strategies For Overcoming Greenhouse Heating Concerns

Lost heat, maintaining an ideal greenhouse temperature, and inefficiency in heating systems are three of the most common problems growers face when it comes to heating. Here’s a look at some ways to overcome these challenges.

Read More
Latest Stories
Philips Lighting, Colorado State

January 14, 2016

Philips Lighting, Colorado State University Partner On …

The partnership will allow the two entities to perform collaborative research and focused cultivation studies to validate and innovate around the application of advanced LED lighting for horticultural activity.

Read More

December 21, 2015

More Than 40% Of Growers Will Add Or Retrofit Structure…

An early look at 2016 State of the Industry results shows why some growers are looking to add or retrofit structures in the coming year.

Read More
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing's Rainbow Super Structure

December 21, 2015

Three Strategies For Overcoming Greenhouse Heating Conc…

Lost heat, maintaining an ideal greenhouse temperature, and inefficiency in heating systems are three of the most common problems growers face when it comes to heating. Here’s a look at some ways to overcome these challenges.

Read More
Europes Largest Rooftop Farm

December 7, 2015

Europe’s Largest Rooftop Farm Underway, Scheduled To Op…

The Netherlands-based facility, a collaboration between Urban Farmers and Van der Valk•Kleijn, will comprise 14,000 square feet of vegetable production in an aquaponics system.

Read More
Battlefield Farms in Virginia noticed an improvement in the quality of heuchera propagation plugs after using Philips’ LED production modules

November 23, 2015

LED Lighting May Be The Next Frontier For Plant Nutriti…

Philips Lighting’s senior plant specialist, Dr. Abhay Thosar, shares how the company is working with growers to help create custom plant recipes for streamlined production of better quality crops.

Read More

June 21, 2015

Greenhouse Project Moves Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) Closer T…

Despite regional challenges, greenhouse specialists Dalsem and automation supplier Hoogendoorn have collaborated on a greenhouse complex with the PTK company to bring Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) closer to self-sufficient, local food production.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

May 26, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

Ensuring your greenhouse has enough electricity to operate all the equipment that is installed takes planning and consideration of an operation's needs. Part one of two articles on greenhouse electrical systems covers choosing an electrician, meeting immediate and future needs and planning for back-up power.

Read More

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New …

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environme…

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More

March 16, 2015

Cozy Acres Greenhouses: Operating With Zero Emissions

With the help of federal funding, Cozy Acres Greenhouses was able to take a greener approach to its latest expansion, building a zero emissions greenhouse that operates year round.

Read More
interior view EDDG vent_energy efficiency codes

March 16, 2015

Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expan…

Energy efficiency building codes that greenhouses are required to meet could soon be much more stringent, unless the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association is successful in its bid to gain exceptions on greenhouse owners’ behalf.

Read More
NorthCreekGreenhouse_midmarch15

March 13, 2015

GGS Helps North Creek Nurseries Take Efficiency To A Ne…

North Creek Nurseries recently built a new GGS gutter connected poly greenhouse range with the intent of saving energy and implementing Lean Flow Practices. The aim was to help North Creek improve the quality of products and meet increased customer demand, while at the same time saving money on labor.

Read More
Retail Greenhouse

March 12, 2015

The Right Greenhouse For Any Grower

Selecting the right structure for your operation can be difficult. With so many options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news is that greenhouse manufacturers are experienced in the art of matching customers with the ideal product. Here’s their advice for how to pick your next structure.

Read More
Fall Creek Farm and Nursery Expansion

March 12, 2015

Conley’s Helps Fall Creek Farm And Nursery Increase Blu…

In order to meet its customer’s increasing demands for domestic blueberry production in the United States, Fall Creek Farm and Nursery needed much more indoor growing space. The company selected Conley’s for a recent expansion of Conley’s Gable Series 7500 in a two-phase project. The first 14-greenhouse range sold by distributor Horticulture Services, measures 170,000 square feet in size and finished construction in 2013.

Read More
Emerald Coast Grower's Atlas Greenhouse

March 12, 2015

Emerald Coast Growers Steps-Up Production Efficiency An…

Emerald Coast Growers, a supplier of perennial starter plants and ornamental grass liners, is not averse to expansion projects. In 2010, it celebrated its 20th anniversary with an expansion of its perennial production space. More recently, the company has been in a nearly continuous phase of construction and improvement projects.

Read More
ArmstrongGrowers Hanging Basket Area

March 12, 2015

Armstrong Growers And Pike Farms Grow With Sustainable …

Rebuilding and retrofitting greenhouses has been key to Armstrong Growers’ expansion on the West Coast, and Pike Farms will follow the same business model on the East Coast. The four-acre wholesale operation that is currently Pike Farms produces only about 5 percent at the most of Pike Nurseries’ retail garden center needs; however, that’s going to change in the next couple of years.

Read More
Metrolina Greenhouses Loading-Dock

March 12, 2015

Metrolina Greenhouses Expands With High- And Low-Tech …

Heralded as one of the most automated greenhouse operations in the U.S., Metrolina Greenhouses continues to build in Huntersville, N.C., and York, S.C. Art Van Wingerden, chief operating officer and co-owner of Metrolina Greenhouses, estimates that as his big box customers continue to grow at a 3 to 5 percent rate, so will Metrolina Greenhouses’ growing facilities to keep up with demand.

Read More
GrowCo_greenhouses

March 10, 2015

Greenhouses Are More Efficient For Marijuana Production

At least 30 percent more efficient and productive than warehouse growing, greenhouses are the way of the future for commercial cannabis production, experts say. Cannabis growers and advisors are starting to move production out of the warehouse and into the greenhouse, to benefit from the efficiencies that the sun’s natural light and environmental controls provide.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]