By Dave Harrison
This industry has an image problem in a sense, but it’s a good thing.
This industry has an image problem in a sense, but it’s a good thing. Greenhouse vegetables are nearly perfect, and consumers want to know how they’re grown.
Related to that is an awareness challenge, and that’s a bad thing. “Greenhouse grown” or “hydroponically grown” are vague concepts to many consumers. However, the more people know about how efficiently greenhouse vegetables are produced, the better the brand establishment in the market.
Why the shyness? Despite being one of the largest horticulture sectors in Canada, with sizable exports each year, the industry is not really that well known outside of its prime growing regions.
We did some casual web searches of major media outlets a little more than a year ago, and found that “greenhouse flowers” and “greenhouse vegetables” rank near the bottom of a host of commodities turning up in news stories. They were ahead of “Brussels sprouts” and “asparagus” in our searches, but trailed “aquaculture” and “strawberries” by a country mile.
But not everyone is bashful. The B.C. Greenhouse Growers’ Association earlier this year launched an awareness program with the theme: “Don’t hate us because we are beautiful.” In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, BCGGA executive director Linda Delli Santi said while consumers are big on the “buy local” movement, “they drive by these greenhouses that are screened or whitewashed and wonder, ‘what’s going on in there’?”
Greenhouse vegetables are near flawless, and consumers want to know how that’s possible.
The association was busy spreading the word earlier this year, and the result was great media exposure.
BCGGA received $100,000 from B.C.’s Buy Local program, which hopes to boost the agri-food sector in B.C. by about 25 per cent to $14 billion by 2017. Greenhouses will play a major role in that growth.
BCGGA also sponsored an innovative B.C. Veggie Day this year, which promoted greenhouse produce with a variety of events. Included was an educational video, and great support from several restaurants.
We can learn a lesson from the Dutch. The greenhouse industry there hosts an open house weekend. This year’s event, held in April, was the 37th edition.
More people are learning about greenhouse production, thanks to open house programs or marketing initiatives by grower associations, and that’s a great base on which to build. Governments are more attentive. Perhaps one day, the greenhouse sector in Canada will be as well known to consumers here, as is the Dutch industry to consumers in the Netherlands. The more they know, the more we grow.
An industry that works in “glass” houses shouldn’t have to do a lot to promote itself, but it a help. We have much to celebrate, much to promote, and still a long way to grow.