Greenhouse Canada

From the Editor: August 2012

August 7, 2012  By Dave Harrison

Greenhouse vegetable acreage in North America has been expanding confidently the past few years.

Greenhouse vegetable acreage in North America has been expanding confidently the past few years.

Ontario will add about 200 more acres, bringing its total to 2,200 acres in the province. Several major projects have been completed in the U.S. over the past year, and Mexico has also seen its share of construction crews.


But there’s a problem, and growers are now beginning to take action.

The issue is with the terminology. How do you define/distinguish truly “greenhouse-grown” vegetables at retail, as compared to vegetables grown under low-tech structures and shade cloths? Quite often, the two are marketed together, and that’s not fair to greenhouse growers or shoppers.

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) would like to see a certification process for greenhouse produce. CPMA president Jim DiMenna of Jem-D International, based in Kingsville, Ontario, said it’s an important issue. At present, a lot of low-tech shade houses are marketing their produce as being greenhouse-grown, “but of course it’s not,” DiMenna noted in our June 2012 cover story. “They don’t have the same quality or shelf life.”

The Certified Greenhouse Farmers (CGF), formerly known as the North American Greenhouse Hothouse Vegetables Association, is also concerned with this issue. The organization represents a number of growers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Consumers pay an average of 40 cents per pound more for greenhouse-grown versus field-grown produce.

The controlled conditions of greenhouses mean far fewer inputs are required for pest and disease management. “In addition,” notes the CGF, “greenhouse produce is grown hydroponically, without the use of soil, eliminating the possibility for soil-borne contamination and the need for herbicides or soil fumigants.”

Politicians are listening. It’s such a convincing argument. California is leading the way; it has labelling laws to prevent the marketing of produce as greenhouse-grown unless it is hydroponically grown in an approved structure.

CGF is lobbying for a definition that is based in part on the California definition and is largely harmonized with the definition under consideration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The proposed CGF definition is as follows:
A fully enclosed permanent aluminum or steel structure clad in either glass or impermeable plastic for the controlled environment growing of certified greenhouse/hothouse vegetables using together: computerized irrigation and climate control systems, including heating and ventilation capability; a soilless medium that substitutes for soil (under the greenhouse/hothouse); hydroponic methods; and integrated pest management, without the use of herbicides.

The CGF and CPMA must work together on certification. There is momentum building, just as there is strength in numbers. Let’s give consumers exactly what they want – and expect – when they ask for greenhouse-grown vegetables.

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