AFE held this year’s August board and committee meetings in Niagara Falls, Ontario in conjunction with tours to Orchard Park Growers, Westbrook Greenhouses, Schenck Farms and an afternoon with researchers at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre.
Our first stop, Orchard Park Growers, in St. Catharines, Ontario was established in 1969 as a family-run fruit farm. The land was fully transitioned to floral greenhouses in 2000. Head Grower Matthew Terlouw, Propagation Grower Joelle Eisses and Operations Manager Karl Schouwenaar showed us their site.
Next, we visited Westbrook Greenhouses, which has been in operation for over 50 years. Westbrook Greenhouses is a major distributor to local growers in both Canada and the United States. We were given a tour of their operations. There we were able to see how Westbrook Greenhouses is able to deliver floral products daily both domestically and internationally.
Schenck Farms, established in 1891, was the final stop before the afternoon visit to Vineland Research & Innovation Centre. Here we were shown around by a member of the fourth- generation of Schenck Farms, Lou Schenck. We saw the entire facility of this wholesale producer of quality indoor flowering plants, outdoor garden plants, young plant production and tender fruit and wine-grapes.
The afternoon tour at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre included an overview of the facility from Research Director of Horticultural Production Systems, Michael Brownbridge, PhD. He presented part of Vineland’s research initiative, saying “we want to link the research to the end consumer.”
Following Dr. Brownbridge, Rose Buitenhuis, PhD presented her AFE funded research findings on dipping as a strategy to manage Thrips on cuttings. Trustees received a tour around the research centre. We went through greenhouses, research labs and a sensory lab, where market research is conducted. The board learned about how they collect consumer information by limiting smell, color and other product qualities.
That evening, 16 local industry members joined the Trustees for a dinner, and guest speaker Andrew Morse, Executive Director of Flowers Canada Growers delivered a short speech on the state of the floral industry in Canada. Many similarities were proven to exist between the American and Canadian floral industries. Specifically, Andrew Morse mentioned issues and trends in the industry like the job gap, trade relations, public perception and much more. He concluded his speech by talking about ways to ensure a bright future for the floriculture industry in both countries. Morse stated that he was “excited about the partnership” potential between the American floral industry and the Canadian floral industry and needless to say, the American industry leaders agreed.