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Spring Gillard
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Should We Throw Stones at Glass Houses?

Many years ago I made the choice to buy local and organic. But I do buy BC Hot House cucumbers, peppers and even tomatoes. But the greenhouse debate is on-going. Here are some of the pros and cons.

The pros are that greenhouses use only .01 % of BC’s total farmland and yet account for 11% of BC’s total production value. If we were to grow the same amount of veggies on fields, we would need an area five times the size of our Stanley Park or 5,436 acres. They are environmentally conscious; they use integrated pest management (IPM), so no herbicides and they resort to pesticides only when the good bugs (like wasps and ladybugs) haven’t done the job of getting rid of the bad bugs. There are some organic greenhouse growers popping up now too. They use water sparingly with drip irrigation methods and even recycle their water. Some of the Fraser Valley greenhouses are powered by methane from the nearby landfill. They preserve the soil for future traditional farming. And we get vine ripened, handpicked, perfect looking, tomatoes, peppers and cukes year round grown close to home.

But now to throw a few stones at the glass houses. They sit on rich farmable soil and potentially damage it (especially the growers that scrape the soil away to create berms). Some say greenhouses should only be located on industrial land, although those lands are apparently dwindling too. Some think they should be on top of high rises. Annex Organics in Toronto did just that; they grow organic vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in their rooftop garden and greenhouse system.

More stones – they displace bird habitat. They pollute the air and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by burning wood waste and other fuels to heat their boilers. They create an eerie, omnipresent light in the valley 24 hours a day and keep the neighbours up. Oh and during the winter months, BC Hot House Growers actually grow their product in Mexico (using the same IPM techniques) because of lack of light and huge fuel costs (to heat the greenhouses), then ship the produce back to BC. So that wipes out the food miles advantage and maybe a few others. They have only just recently changed the label on the imports from BC Hot House to MX Hot House due to the public outcry.

I still stand on the side of not throwing stones, or tomatoes for that matter. How about you?

1 comment to Should We Throw Stones at Glass Houses?

  • Ione Smith

    Hi Spring,

    Great post!
    My husband Peter and I are the caretakers at Origin Organic Farm’s Langley Greenhouse. They are organic certified and grow tomatoes (heirloom and TOV) and long english cucumbers. Besides no chemical pesticides or fertilizers, being an organic greenhouse means growing in actual soil (not hydroponically) and not using artificial lights. The amount of composting is significant and they do not grow at all during Dec-Feb, which is when the soil gets amended and readied for the next year’s crop, so fossil fuel use is minimized during the coldest months (and nothing is shifted to Mexico).
    Feel free to let me know if you’d like a personalized tour some time. It really is incredible the amount of food yielded per cubic meter.
    Cheers!
    ione

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