Episode 33 – Doef’s Greenhouses

KevinDoef's Greenhouses, From Local Farms, Kevin TV, Vegetables11 Comments

Doef's Greenhouses

I’ve been wanting to shoot video in a local greenhouse for quite some time. I know, probably sounds odd coming from the guy who eats asparagus in May and June and abstains for the balance of the calendar year until they’re in season again. I may be an idealist most of the time, but I also have a realist streak and know that the bulk of consumers want to eat their favorite veg year-round. I spoke last year at a UofA event at Sunfresh Farms and learned that although we may not know it, a serious % of the cucumber and pepper product you find in your local box grocer is grown locally. Apparently Alberta’s not only good at beef – we’re rocking the cucumber market too. Who knew?

Doef’s Greenhouses is a success story in agriculture, from finding a niche to navigating scale and growth, through to having done some wise succession planning to incorporate the coming generations of farmers. They’ve succeeded both in the wholesale and direct-sales [ie, farmer’s markets] markets. Impressive stuff.

It blows my mind that I can shoot this video of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, then drive two miles and go ice fishing to shoot Episode 34, which will consequently be hot on the heels of this one.

11 Comments on “Episode 33 – Doef’s Greenhouses”

  1. Bruce king

    Any more details on what it takes to grow that way? I’m hearing electric lights and natural gas heaters… are those glazed greenhouses? Is it 11 acres under roof, or is the property 11 acres?

  2. Kevin

    Hi Bruce – they have 11 acres under roof, and he mentioned the breakdown of acres per crop. A good portion of it is under plastic roof – very interesting design actually, and the newest builds are glass which are more durable and let more light through. One thing I found interesting was that the tracks you see in the photo are the hot water tubing, but also serve as tracks for the harvesting cart setups. They don’t propagate the plants there as it takes a sterile environment, they get them when they’re maybe a foot tall from a grower in BC I believe Eric said. Good to hear from you.

  3. Mohyuddin Mirza

    It was great to see this video in the context of locally grown fresh produce. Joe Doef and his family has done a great service to the greenhouse industry in Alberta and Canada by adopting new technolgies and also supplying fresh produce year round.

  4. Sanders

    I understand it’s local, but what really is the point of buying local when there are so many inputs. Only to support the local economy and a small business?

    I just mean “food miles” means nothing here when the crops are grown using so much energy

  5. Kevin

    Sanders – great questions, and figured they’d come up. A few thoughts along that train of thought:

    To play devil’s advocate: Despite the energy inputs [and trust me, I’m all for passive food production and storage], I’d sooner have a product that was grown an hour away than a few thousand miles away, for one. I’d love to see the numbers on cost of energy input per cucumber, for ex, vs something that’s imported and trucked – I suspect on a energycost/unit would be relatively low, keeping in mind they only need it a few months in the year and can spread it over a lot of units of food. It does support the local economy [although far from a small business in this case, though not sure size is as relevant as location of ownership], and I think it supports local food sovereignty. I’d also be more comfortable eating food produced under Canadian law when it comes to pesticides and other chemical inputs. They also have a better shot at providing a fresh product in a market where time is critical to quality. I’m sure there are other good reasons folks can think of and weigh in on here.

    Keep in mind that I am that guy that’s passionate about shoulder season growing with passive-energy cold-frames and cold hardy crops, passive root cellaring, grow-it-all-myself, seasonal-only + abstinence produce eating, etc. I live in that world. But this is a whole other world that exists to serve demand of the majority. The big questions in my mind are not ‘why produce food under a roof’, but more ‘why not produce veg that are cold hardy [spinach, kales, collards, mache, leeks, etc]’ as it seems it would be sensible to do so. But I know why. People want fresh cucumbers and tomatoes in January. The growers are talented and entrepreneurial folks, I’m sure they could grow whatever it was folks demanded.

    Thanks again for bringing it up.

  6. Sanders

    Great points. Thanks for answering them so quickly.

    I agree with a lot of them, just wanted to hear some thoughts on it. Certainly meeting a demand for the majority and I definitely trust Canadian standards over Mexico’s.

  7. becky3086

    I thought this was a really interesting video. I really had no idea that there would be huge greenhouse systems like this to grow things like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. I would love to see a picture of the 11 acres of greenhouses. I just can’t imagine what that would look like. It does kind of make me understand why peppers are so ridiculously expensive in the stores.
    I, too, think it is a lot of electricity but I am sure that like any good company they would always be looking for ways to reduce that bill.

  8. Kevin

    Sanders – you’re welcome, hope it didn’t come across preachy, as I completely get questioning the ag model in general.
    Becky – Glad you liked it. Pretty crazy, heh? You can see their greenhouse on google earth, from space. ;) 6 miles west of lacombe, AB, 3.5 miles north. You can count the sections to get you there from satellite photos.

  9. Jerry Aulenbach

    Excellent video(s), Kevin. I’m curious to know if it is possible to identify a local cuke once I’m actually in the store. I had no idea this much produce was coming out of our region.


  10. chi cheong ho

    Hi Kevin, any way to contact the owner for a tour of facilities? my father and I have a keen interest in integrated farming and would love to visit them.

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