By Tom Collins
LAMBTON SHORES — It wasn’t an easy start into the greenhouse business for Roelands Plant’s owners.
The Roelands bought a 100-acre farm in 2013 where they built a four-acre greenhouse. They went 13 per cent over budget. And since they couldn’t afford to build the greenhouse and build a house, they lived in an apartment above the offices in the warehouse for two years with their four young children while welcoming a fifth.
Jodi, 34, and Adrian Roelands, 33, were the first Ontario farmers to build a propagation greenhouse from scratch in about 15 years. They grow bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. A propagation greenhouse is a greenhouse that grows crops from seeds to small plants before selling them to other greenhouses. Cucumbers, for example, are only grown at Roelands Plant for 18 days before other greenhouses grow them for the last 30 to 50 days. There are only six other propagation greenhouses in the U.S. and Canada.
The Roelands were selected as this year’s Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in September, with a chance at the national award in November in Niagara Falls.
The business has grown quickly. They doubled the size of their operation in 2015 to eight acres and are building an extra four acres that are scheduled to be finished later in October.
They’ve taken steps to differentiate their business. Pictures of the plants are emailed twice a week to let customers see how the plants are doing. And they don’t grow flowers in the offseason. Many greenhouse operators do it as a way to make more profit but the Roelands say flowers can bring in extra pests and diseases.