Up to 300 jobs could be created with new Dawn-Euphemia greenhouse

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Up to 300 jobs will be created when a new greenhouse is built in Dawn-Euphemia.

Greenhill Produce from Chatham-Kent bought 100 acres at the corner of Oil Heritage Road and Edys Mill Line in 2016. It plans to build an $80 to $100 million operation to meet the growing demand for either peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers.

“Customers today are looking for a good quality product and a greenhouse can deliver that on a consistent basis,” says owner Justin Geertsma.

Geertsma has been working with the township to secure the services needed to run the operation which could be in operation by November 2017.

Dawn-Euphemia officials recently approached Enniskillen about increasing the water flow to the area. Enniskillen gets its water from Petrolia and resells it to Dawn-Euphemia. “Dawn-Euphemia is working on water supply,” he tells The Independent. Geertsma couldn’t say how much water would be needed but added “at our current greenhouse, we’ve done two water main expansions with the municipality and we expect to do the same in Lambton.”

The company is also looking for some details on natural gas. But Geertsma says the natural gas problems are minor compared to the difficulty greenhouse operators have in Chatham-Kent.

“Infrastructure has become quite a problem for us in Chatham-Kent,” he says. “We have been looking for five years for a site to expand on. Infrastructure, especially natural gas supplies, are maxed out.”

Hydro is another headache for growers. Greenhill uses hundreds of thousands of dollars in power each year. Some Leamington growers have publicly complained about Ontario’s rising costs and Geertsma admits it does reduce profitability. Many companies want to have year-round production but “that is getting harder to do. It’s something we would like to do, but that will be determined by the cost of hydro.”

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers’ Association has been looking for rate reductions, but so far without any relief. Some have announced expansions into the United States. But Geertsma is glad to have found a new home in Dawn-Euphemia. “I like where I live. I like Ontario… We like the community, we want to stay here.”

Greenhill may break ground on the operation this summer with the first plants springing up in November. Between 150 and 300 people will be employed at the greenhouse depending on what type of crop is grown.

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