Lauded for leadership

May 04, 2010
Written by
Three Ontario growers have been honoured for their many years of industry contributions.

Jim Meyers (at left) with John Valk
Andy Kuyvenhoven (left) with Terry Colasanti.  
Dr. Mike Dixon, with Peter Thiessen.

Flowers Canada Ontario recognized the achievements of Terry Colasanti of Colasanti Farms in Ruthven (near Leamington), Jim Meyers of Meyers Fruit Farms and Greenhouses in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Peter Thiessen of Thiessen’s Greenhouses in Leamington.

The awards were presented during the first day of the eighth annual Flowers Canada Pest Management Research Conference, held in Niagara Falls.

FCO president Andy Kuyvenhoven presented Colasanti with the FCO Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award.

Colasanti Farms has 3.5 acres of greenhouses growing cacti and tropical plants and employs some 150 people. It is also a destination garden centre and regional tourist attraction, featuring a restaurant, a petting farm, indoor miniature golf, children’s rides, an arcade, and seasonal gift items, among other attractions. It attracts visitors from throughout southwestern Ontario and nearby Michigan.

“Terry’s energy, leadership and enthusiasm has spilled over to his fellow growers,” said Kuyvenhoven. Colasanti has long been involved with Flowers Canada (Ontario) and the Cecil Delworth Foundation for floriculture research, including numerous terms on their boards of directors. He has served as president with both organizations.

During his term as FCO president, Colasanti worked with then executive director Barney Wilson and six other growers to incorporate F&V Energby Co-operative, which has since evolved into AgEnergy Co-operative.

“But not only has Terry’s leadership helped floriculture as a whole,” said Kuyvenhoven, “he and his father Joe and the rest of the family have contributed significantly to their communities.” Colasanti Farms sponsors a variety of local sports teams each year. It also hosts the popular Ruthven Apple Festival, which has raised $559,000 for Community Living Essex County over the years.

“Terry is an outstanding example of the many people in floriculture who have contributed so much to ensure the success of this sector in Ontario,” said Kuyvenhoven.

John Valk introduced Jim Meyers, the recipient of the FCO Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1951, and married only three weeks, Jim and Clazina Meyers decided to emigrate to Canada “to fulfil bigger dreams.” Jim had studied agriculture and had been working at an experimental farm in the Netherlands.

They worked for a number of years on Niagara-area farms before purchasing their own farm. In 1967, they constructed their first greenhouse. By 2006, the farm had grown to 10 acres of greenhouses and over 300 acres of orchards.

“Though beginning with very humble roots, Jim built a solid family business from the ground up. He knows how to work, and has always led everyone at Meyers by his example,” said Valk. “He is still committed to the success of the floral industry at his farm and in the sector as a whole. With his solid knowledge both inside the greenhouse and out on the farm, he continues to be a valuable asset today.”

Dr. Mike Dixon of the University of Guelph presented Thiessen with the FCO Research and Innovation Excellence Award.

Thiessen has been an industry leader for more than 40 years, said Dr. Dixon.

Thiessen studied at Michigan State in the early 1960s, and was influenced by the work of Dr. Paul Krohn, a leading cut rose researcher. Thiessen also researched the feasibility of extending the cut mum harvest season. After returning home, he planted the family’s first rose crop in 1965. “There began many years of experimentation and funding of research with Dr. Jim Tsujita at the University of Guelph, which, in 1980, resulted in one of the first commercial applications of supplemental lighting of roses at Thiessen Greenhouse Flowers.

The greenhouses grew over the years to total some 75,000 square feet with various cut flowers, though primarily roses. The farm now has extensive apple orchard operations.

“Peter has always been a strong supporter of associations and research all his life,” said Dr. Dixon, including Roses Incorporated, the Joseph Hill Foundation, and the Fred Miller Rose Research Fund. “He also supported the establishment of new horticulture and greenhouse facilities in the Bovey Complex at the University of Guelph,” said Dr. Dixon, “and has continued to support innovative greenhouse technology development and research at the university.”

Thiessen was a founding member of the Ontario Flower Growers Co-operative and the Inter-Provincial Flower Market in Montreal where he was a board member for several years and one-time president.

“Peter is an example of someone who believes that you get back what you give, and his leadership role in this industry has exemplified his vision to enjoy life to the fullest,” said Dr. Dixon.

The ninth annual Flowers Canada Pest Management Research Conference will be held in Niagara Falls from Aug. 26-27. For more information, visit

More in this category: « Under Cover  |  Awards in Alberta »

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