In the March 1996 issue I introduced myself to the readers of Greenhouse Canada.
And now it’s time to hand in my quill. I’ve retired from the magazine, effective the end of 2017.
By the time of that introductory editorial, written just a few weeks into the job, I had immersed myself in all that I could to begin learning about the industry. I had a tour of the Vineland Research Centre. I read back issues. I edited features from correspondents. I attended an industry open house. And then in a large understatement I said “the most important thing I’ve learned so far is…I have so much more to learn.”
This has been a dream job.
I had the good fortune of arriving on the scene at about the same time large expansions were beginning, particularly in the Leamington region. Growers were adding blocks of several acres. And greenhouses were gradually growing much taller.
The technology is advancing each year, reflected in improved quality and yields and crop times. Every tour of a research centre is jaw dropping. The work is world-class, all leading edge, and it has propelled Canada to be among the front-runners in greenhouse horticulture. And yet when I started here, almost everyone was looking to Europe for the latest in crop strategies. Europe is still leading the way, but it’s now a photo finish.
The industry has faced its share of challenges, ranging from an international trade dispute in the tomato sector to wildly escalating energy prices that seriously pared – or eliminated – profit margins for many. Labour has been a continuing challenge.
Common cut flower crops of a dozen or so years ago are no longer grown domestically in significant numbers. New pests and diseases take up residence every few years.
Most markets have remained strong. Consumers greatly value the freshness and quality of greenhouse produce, now increasingly grown year-round throughout Canada. Flowers are seen as food for the soul, and millennials are joining baby boomers in a love of plants.
But there are new opportunities in the sector, primarily in the cannabis sector but with other crops as well, such as strawberries. Who would have predicted, even just a few years ago, that Canada would be the world leader in cannabis cultivation?
My predictions? Urban farming will grow substantially via vertical farming systems, rooftop greenhouses and the “Buy Local” movement. The cannabis craze will spur development of new medicinal crops grown indoors – do we really know all the healing benefits of plants? Automated pruning and harvesting systems will be the norm within 10 to 15 years. Greenhouse systems will feed the North with locally grown produce. Cogen will be pretty much universal in greenhouses of all sizes. More industrial waste heat projects will be tied to new greenhouse projects.
Something I learned very early in my “schooling” is that the heart of the industry is not the plants – it’s the people.
And to all who have helped me along the way – with story ideas, contributed articles, friendly feedback, tours of your greenhouse or garden centre, and timely mentoring – my heartfelt thanks.
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