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Reuse to reduce

August 7, 2012  By Lilian Schaer

Farming in the urban shadow means extra vigilance is needed when it comes to using and reusing local water to grow crops.

Farming in the urban shadow means extra vigilance is needed when it comes to using and reusing local water to grow crops. For Van Geest Bros. Limited, flower growers in the Niagara Region of Ontario, efficient water use through reuse and recycling is important.

John Van Geest.



Irrigation plays a key role in their farming operation, which includes the growing of cut gerberas at their Grimsby location, and cut mums, alstroemeria and gerberas at the St. Catharines facility. They also have to ensure the water is sanitized before it is reused because cut gerberas are a very sensitive crop and it’s important to prevent the spread of any possible plant diseases or pathogens.

In an effort to cut water consumption and optimize the irrigation water they use, the Van Geests installed a sterilization and filtration system at the Grimsby greenhouse in 2010.

■ Before the new treatment system was installed, much of the water was used only once and then disposed of, often going into municipal sewers in Grimsby. Now, with the new system, any water runoff is contained and reused after it has been sterilized, keeping it out of the city’s drains.

The heart of the filtration system


“It made more sense environmentally for us to contain the runoff onsite and reuse the water,” says John Van Geest. “With our new system, it can be reused endlessly, which really lessens the strain on the local environment.”

Van Geest has also noticed a significant drop in their water and fertilizer consumption. “We’ve cut our fresh water consumption by about half in the first year of operation of this system,” he says. “And we’ve also noticed a 50 per cent drop in our fertilizer use.”

To help fund the installation, Van Geest made use of cost-share funding available through the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP).

This program provides cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that provide environmental benefit on-farm. Funding is available on a first come, first served basis to farmers who have peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plans (EFP) in place and have projects that have been approved under the program.

■ Van Geest Bros. Limited is a family-owned and operated business that had its start in 1959 with a one-acre greenhouse facility in Grimsby.

EFP and COFSP are funded under the Best Practices suite of programs of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The programs are administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivers the programs to farmers.

Lilian Schaer is a freelance writer and photographer in Ontario. This feature was written on behalf of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, .

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