Greenhouse Canada

INSIDE VIEW: Crossroads or roadblocks?

January 29, 2024  By Gary Jones

I was going to start by saying that looking at ‘the state of the industry’, it feels like we’re at a pivotal crossroads. But then I read a short piece from the UK that says that “Horticulture, the UK’s £5 billion industry focussing on fruit, vegetables, and ornamental plants, is being described as being at a crossroads.”1 Serendipitous? The horticultural highways are apparently congested.

“Things look bleak for the horticulture sector without urgent steps to safeguard its future, a new House of Lords report has warned.1Horticulture is: “under-prioritized and unappreciated, leaving holes in the UK’s food security and ability to meet net-zero goals”1 and is “struggling to attract new talent and is perceived as unattractive and inaccessible, leading to a reliance on seasonal migrant labor…”1This unnervingly mirrors conversations I’ve been part of over the last few weeks. Except the two discussions were completely unrelated and happen to be 7,500 km apart. [I wouldn’t say that ‘things look bleak’ here though, let’s be positive.]

In the same week, and also in the UK, one high-profile MP made the headlines for his disconnect with agriculture. Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative backbench MP, previously Leader of the House of Commons, Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy2) said “the UK ‘does not need fruit pickers’ and suggested ‘cheaper fruit’ should be imported from abroad.”3 Reports say he has “failed to recognize the ‘invaluable contribution’ of farmers and growers in domestic food production.”3 Responding, “NFU horticulture and potato board chair Martin Emmett said: “It is vital for the Government to recognize the importance of the seasonal workers needed to produce and process high-quality, affordable and sustainable food to maintain the UK’s food security.3 Perhaps the disconnect is not as large here, and there is much good collaboration between government and industry enabling temporary foreign workers to play a key role in our food production, but more can always be done to help local food security, and growers need more recognition for their stellar work. There still seems to be a disconnect between different government departments and their policies, leading to contradictions for growers to navigate.


Greenhouse vegetable growers are at an energy watershed. For most, natural gas has been the fuel of choice for a long time. And for (many) good reasons. It’s clean, convenient, efficient, and best of all, produces CO2 essential for maximising crop growth. But worldwide, governments want to reduce societal dependency on fossil fuels. Which is admirable, and needed. But alternatives have to be viable. While our federal government may say agriculture has energy alternatives, the reality is that greenhouse vegetable producers currently don’t have options that are viable – the CO2 the plants consume has to come from somewhere at an affordable cost. The carbon tax penalty desperately needs to go back into finding the alternatives our government claims we have.

We know times are tough financially for many. For the floriculture sector it may be that the current (almost) recession is a step too far, for what many see as luxury items. But I’m told that this time is unlike previous economic downturns when many people were unemployed. Now they’re working, but struggling to make ends meet. We will come out of that, but for now this may be difficult for the industry.

The article referred to earlier from the UK, also mentioned that horticulture is “struggling to attract new talent and is perceived as unattractive and inaccessible.”1 This is not a revelation of course. This week I participated in two high school career fairs. About 4,000 grade 10-12 students passed through. While many were like human vacuums sucking up the ‘swag’ on exhibitors’ tables, I was pleasantly surprised how many young people engaged in a chat about greenhouse careers. There seemed to be genuine interest in career paths none seemed to have previously considered. (The demo hive of bumble bees certainly helped!) This was cause for optimism at least! Are they ready I wonder?

1 ‘The Scottish Farmer’, as reported in 13 November 2023

2 Wikipedia

3 ‘Farmers’ Guardian’, as reported in 28 Nov 2023

Gary Jones sits on several greenhouse industry committees in BC and welcomes comments at 

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