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Awards in Alberta

June 21, 2010  By Dave Harrison

Industry leadership, innovation and dedication were recognized during
the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association (AGGA) awards banquet.

Grower of the Year award: Susan Chin, Greg Marles and Alyssa Marles are congratulated by emcee Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza.

Industry leadership, innovation and dedication were recognized during the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association (AGGA) awards banquet.


The event has become one of the most popular events during the Green Industry Show and Conference, which is moving this year to the Edmonton Expo Centre (Northlands). It will be held Nov. 18-19.

Morinville Greenhouses was named Grower of the Year. This award is presented to an AGGA member in recognition of their innovation and efforts to promote and grow the industry.

A sampling of Alberta greenhouse vegetables. 
Meritorious Services Award: Taking part in the presentation were Alfred and Norma Van Dam, and Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza.
The Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association displayed some of its produce at the Green Industry Show.
Herb Knodel award: Bill Van Otterloo Jr. (second from right) receives the award from board member John Bouw; looking on are his youngest son Joel and Bill’s wife Lee, and parents Cobie and Bill Sr.


Jim and Alissa Marles started Morinville Greenhouses in 1974. They began with vegetables, before switching to bedding plants and poinsettias in 1980. Due to rising energy costs, they replaced the poinsettia crop with basil, and by 2007, most of the greenhouse winter production was in herbs and salad greens.

“My association with the Marleses started in 1979 when I was a rookie greenhouse specialist,” recalled banquet emcee Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza. The family eagerly shared their bedding plant information with him, and this became “the benchmark for new growers to use.”

The Marleses also worked with Dr. Mirza and his studies involving poinsettias, echinacea and culinary herbs.

After Susan Chin joined the team, there was increased enthusiasm in further developing the herb business by using hydroponic technologies. She also contributes to the “marketing and planning” success of the company.

Greg Marles, said Mirza, inherited “an innovation gene” from his dad, and the two engineered their own automatic watering and floating hydroponic systems, along with new ways to control algae.


This award is given to recognize outstanding service to the Alberta greenhouse industry. Bill Van Otterloo Jr., of Oyen Greenhouses Ltd., received the award, presented by AGGA board member John Bouw.

“Over the years, the most rewarding aspect of this business is having a satisfied customer,” said Van Otterloo.

He grew up in the industry, as his parents and grandparents had greenhouses. “I spent many hours during my youth helping out in any and all aspects of the business.” He later earned a horticultural diploma from Olds College.

In 1984, he formally entered into a partnership with his parents in Oyen Greenhouses. At the time, they primarily grew cut roses, seasonal flowering potted plants, and spring bedding plant crops.

“Over the years we have slowly evolved from these crops to growing plugs and liners for the bedding plant industry, as well as finished bedding plant and poinsettia crops. These products are marketed throughout Western Canada.”

Van Otterloo has served on the AGGA board, and currently works with a number of associations promoting horticulture and the greenhouse industry.

This award recognizes excellent contribution, service and dedication to the Alberta greenhouse industry. The 2009 recipient is Alfred Van Dam, of Alf’s Place Greenhouses.

Van Dam graduated from Olds College in 1968 with a horticultural diploma and immediately went to work in a provincial park. In the fall of that year, he became a partner with his brother John to run River View Greenhouses and Garden Centre in Medicine Hat. Roses, carnations, potted mums, cut mums and bedding plants were the major crops.

Alf and his wife, Norma, were married in 1971, and they have three children.

In 1976, they moved to Redcliff where they built Prairie View Greenhouses and began growing cucumbers.

Alf’s Place Greenhouses was built in 1990. A variety of crops have been grown, including basil, eggplant, beans, arugula and – of course – cucumbers. They also began selling at farmers’ markets, and with great success.

Van Dam served for many years as a representative on the Canadian Horticultural Council and later on its board. He was instrumental in the formation of the AGGA. ■

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