Those are just two of the reasons the award-winning tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers grown by NatureFresh Farms taste so fresh. We wanted to dig a little deeper into how they do it, and why it’s such a good thing for your community, so we reached out with a few questions. It didn’t take long for them to deliver these great answers. After all, they always work quick and they’re never too far away.
How did your company get started?
NatureFresh Farms is family owned and began as a “Build and Sell” project in 1999. Our Founder & President, Peter Quiring, is a greenhouse designer, manufacturer and builder. He recognized that the greenhouse industry was in transition, and that technology and innovation would drive continued growth. Over the past 20 years we’ve grown to become one of the largest independent, vertically integrated greenhouse vegetable farms in North America.
Why do you think it’s important to produce and sell locally?
There are a few reasons: For one, it’s better for the environment. Eating more local food reduces carbon dioxide emissions by reducing food miles. Secondly, when food is grown locally, the consumer better understands how and where their food is being produced. Plus, by supporting local food producers, you directly contribute to helping your friends, neighbors and others in the community find sustainable employment.
Why should families feel good about buying your locally grown tomatoes, peppers & cucumbers?
Buying local helps customers develop a better connection with their food and where it is coming from, while supporting the local community. In our case, our vegetables are grown using the most advanced sustainable practices, to ensure you can feel good that your purchase is making a positive impact on the environment.
Can you walk us through a typical day on your farms?
There is never a dull moment at NatureFresh Farms, that’s for sure. From the moment you walk in the door you’re surrounded by smiling faces and passionate, innovative people and a constant bustle of activity. Whether it’s monitoring and adjusting controls to ensure our plants are growing in their optimum environment, spreading beneficial bugs to help fight off the “bad bugs” or packing and shipping the freshest produce to your local grocery story, there is definitely no shortage of activity.
How do you make sure your products meet quality standards?
The responsibility for achieving food safety commitments lies with each team member, no matter their position. Our team is very well trained, and everyone has a direct influence on the produce, the packaging, the storage, and the transport of products. So, they’re directly involved in meeting the highest level of food safety standards every day.
What steps do you take to be sustainable?
We’re always on the hunt for ways to do better, both for our farm and for our planet. Some of our main sustainability initiatives are: the use of non-GMO seeds, energy screens in our greenhouses to provide insulation and reduce heat loss, and a proactive Integrated Pest Management system that include good bugs and sticky cards, instead of pesticides, to keep pests at bay.
We also use a closed loop system to pump nutrient rich water through our irrigation system to deliver it directly to our plants’ roots systems. And, any excess water is collected, fertilized, sterilized, and recirculated back into the system.
Our greenhouses are also strategically located in Leamington, Ontario and Delta, Ohio. Both locations are near many of our customers, which helps reduce food miles and the carbon footprint from the trucks that deliver your food.
What steps do you take to grow organically?
All of our tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are grown in a soil mixture that contains naturally occurring substances. That helps create an organic ecosystem. The feed we give our organic produce consists of all-natural sources of nutrients. And, we have a zero-tolerance policy for chemical pesticide use for organically grown products.
If you could let customers know one thing about the vegetables you grow, what would it be?
We put the time and effort in to guarantee all our produce is grown fresh through our trialing processes and Discovery Center. Before a new product hits the shelves, we do a consumer panel to verify the top-notch flavor and quality we expect. We really care about what we do; we believe that we’re not only in the produce industry, we’re in the health industry.
And, how about the Discovery Center? How does the work you do there impact customers?
The Discovery Center brings together agricultural science, product trialing and consumer feedback for more efficient research and development. We trial over 300 different varieties and narrow them down to the best of the best, taking into consideration taste, shelf life, aesthetics, and production.
A product can spend years going through testing, but once it is perfected, it goes to the marketplace for our consumers to enjoy. After that, a panel of individuals trial a variety of products every week to ensure the quality and flavor are consistent and delicious.
How do you make sure your products are fresh when customers bring them home?
This goes back to the testing we do and also the location of our warehouses. By testing for things like taste and shelf life, we’re able to make sure customers get the best product. And, since our trucks don’t have to travel too far to reach our customers, the produce they find on store shelves is fresh.
Tell us about some of the technology you use in your greenhouses.
We use a state-of-the-art climate control system called PRIVA that controls the temperature, humidity, watering, airflow, ventilation, and carbon dioxide (CO2) release within our greenhouses to ensure our plants always have optimal growing conditions.
What’s next for NatureFresh? Are there any exciting plans on the horizon?
We’re really looking to the future with the growth of our facilities allowing us to provide more varieties year-round. We’re also constantly researching new sustainable packaging alternatives to reduce the use of plastic.
What’s the best part about working for NatureFresh?
One of the best things about NatureFresh Farms is the work culture. Our team is a family. We all work together to constantly look for new ways to become more sustainable in our growing and packaging methods and work hard to provide the best product possible to our consumers. Without such great teamwork and a family-oriented outlook, we would not be able to grow as successfully.
What’s your favorite thing about your partnership with Giant Eagle?
Just like NatureFresh Farms, Giant Eagle is a family business. It’s a company that shares our values of family and community. We also like that Giant Eagle is committed to innovation and the environment, which deeply aligns with our company.
Hungry for some fresh, juicy produce? Place a pickup or delivery order on Curbside Express.