FROM THE EDITOR: August 2006

January 28, 2008
Written by
While gutter heights of new greenhouses are continuing to rise, this remains a low-profile industry within Canadian business circles. There are the occasional greenhouse business stories in local papers and TV and radio stations, but not a lot of human interest or technology/science reporting.
While gutter heights of new greenhouses are continuing to rise, this remains a low-profile industry within Canadian business circles.

I typed in “greenhouses and newspaper articles” as a Google search, and up popped 2,120,000 items.

While I didn’t have time to check all the sites – coffee break was looming and the last one into the kitchen gets grounds in the bottom of their cup and the day-old cruller, often with a bite missing – a quick scan showed most stories had to do with “global warming” and “greenhouse gases.”

There are the occasional greenhouse business stories in local papers and TV and radio stations, but not a lot human interest or technology/science reporting.

One major challenge to farming in general is that the mass media all but ignores it, unless there’s a problem. A colleague here at Annex Publishing, and one of the finest farm writers on the continent – and I’m not just saying that to get a free golf lesson from a 2-3 handicap player, though I do have the clubs in the car most Tuesdays and Thursdays – used to work at a major daily newspaper in Western Canada as the farm reporter. That was his specialty, and he covered the industry on a daily basis.

A decade or so ago, most daily newspapers had full-time farm reporting specialists, someone like my esteemed colleague who doesn’t miss many fairways, even with a cross wind.  Today? I’m not aware of a single daily newspaper in Canada with such a commitment.

Despite the transparency of our facilities, there’s still a shroud of secrecy about much of what goes on within them.

This sector is not alone within agriculture. There have not been a lot of farming themes in the mass media, beyond such gems as the silver screen’s Grapes of Wrath, music’s Farm-Aid and … of course … TV’s Green Acres. Any reference to a greenhouse product in the mass media immediately attracts my attention. Newspapers may not be a big deal, but it would be if expressed within the other mass media communication forms, those being movies, TV and literature.

But it happened just a few weeks ago. To set the scene, we’re holidaying in Punta Cana, I’ve finished reading Chicken Soup for Dog Lovers and The DaVinci Code, and we’re still only halfway through the week. My wife volunteers a romance novel by a best-selling author. About halfway through the book is the following description of a ham and cheese sandwich topped with a “hothouse tomato.”

The author could have just wrote ‘tomato.’ Afterall, it wasn’t slices of ‘dry-cured ham’ or ‘goat cheese,’ but she was specific about the type of tomato. (Given the overwhelming size of the Canadian industry, though this book was based in the U.S., there’s a high probability this ‘hothouse tomato’ was indeed grown and packed in Canada.)

The book had nothing to do with farming or produce. Not a single reference to pH or EC meters, nor even whitewash or Botrytis, was to be found elsewhere in the story. CO2 enrichment or foliar spray strategies? Forget it. Trap plant pest management references while the couple are walking through a garden? Nope.
Can it be much longer before greenhouse references turn up on a CSI episode? “This greenhouse grower is innocent. Those spores on his sleeve are obviously Leveillula taurica (Editor’s note: pepper powdery mildew), and yet the doorknob prints at the victim’s apartment were clearly covered in Sphaeotheca fuliginea (Me again: cucumber powdery mildew) spores. We’ve wrapped this up. OK, who’s for a hothouse salad?”

Slowly but surely, we’re getting noticed. The curtains are being pulled back, and it’s not because of humidity problems within an early-evening crop.

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