‘Seed to salad’ at Stampede

December 03, 2009
Written by Stefanie Nagelschmitz
It wasn’t all cowboys at this year’s Calgary Stampede. Adults and kids alike swarmed the fully operational greenhouse display learning about commercial greenhouse tomato production.

The display was a big hit with cowboys and cowgirls of all ages. (Calgary Stampede photos)

Local greenhouse tomato producer Tony LeGault and the Stampede’s Ag-tivity in the City educational committee created the display that welcomed hundreds of visitors every day. The display showcased descriptive posters, packaging, beneficial bugs and a “Seed to Salad” video in addition to the six growing tomato varieties.

“It’s all about education,” says LeGault, who is also vice-chairman of the Ag-tivity in the City organizing committee. “The basic focus of our farm and our family is to educate the urban public on today’s agricultural practices.”

For two years, the display also included cucumbers and peppers but this year only focused on tomatoes. An impressive undertaking, the exhibit housed 58 tomato plants including cherry, cocktail, beefsteak, as well as orange, red and roma-on-the-vine tomatoes.

The greenhouse is outfitted with water and nutrient lines during the Stampede. LeGault’s main challenge is controlling the climate without computers. Instead, he skillfully uses fans, tent vents and his knowledge of the Stampede Park’s weather patterns.

LeGault started the plants at home on Paradise Hill Farms in Nanton, Alberta, before carefully trucking them to the Stampede grounds. He and his family spent five days preparing the display, loading and moving plants in a modified truck, clipping vines, and testing the nutrient system before gates opened for the public.

Even though Paradise Hill Farms’ equipment and packaging dominates the display, LeGault is quick to clarify this isn’t a promotional exhibit.

“This is the Stampede’s display. This isn’t Paradise Hill Farm’s display.”

LeGault has heard the Stampede’s greenhouse educational exhibit is better than those seen at prestigious international horticultural shows. And horticultural professionals were not the only ones to praise the effectiveness of the popular exhibit.

“I love it!” said Kayla McNeely who toured with her big sister Amber during Family Day. “It makes me hungry!”

The Calgary Stampede continues to successfully promote Canadian agriculture, including this exceptionally popular greenhouse exhibit.

Stefanie Nagelschmitz was a student intern from the University of Guelph working with this year’s Calgary Stampede agriculture media committee. She is now the communications and livestock co-ordinator for Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

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