Monday, June 17, 2013

Meet Dirk de Jong, Regional Facility Manager for Village Farms Canada

Village Farms International will celebrate its 25th year of business in 2014 and currently has over 260 acres of greenhouses in US and Canada. According to Dirk De Jong, Regional Manager for Village Farms Canada, Delta Divisions, the company has been operating 110 acres of hydroponic greenhouse in British Columbia for the past 14 years.  “We grow a number of exclusive and flavorful tomato varieties here including: Heavenly Villagio Marzano (an authentic mini san marzano tomato), Exquisite Heirloom (a heirloom type tomato), Sinfully Sweet Campari as well as Delectable TOV’s (tomato-on-the-vine), Juicy Beefsteak, Savory Roma, Lip Smacking’ Grape, Mini Sensation (Cherry tomatoes), Baby Beefs”.

For De Jong himself greenhouse growing is in his blood, born into a family of growers in the Netherlands, he has been with the company for 14 years.  And yet for De Jong even with all this experience under his belt as a farmer he personally believes his biggest asset to be his team of people including; growers, supervisors, and maintenance he oversees at the Delta facility.  “I have been extremely fortunate to have a team of 3 Facility Managers and 3 growers with me for over 8 years.  I am very pleased and thankful for each and every one of them because they are awesome people who are extremely passionate about their jobs”.   De Jong continues, “We face many challenges as farmers on a day to day basis. Plants need a lot of attention and the weather in BC can be challenging.  And so, because of this, as a team we always strive to do better, and with this there is never a dull moment when you are a farmer”.

One of the biggest challenges for De Jong related to Mother Nature is thankfully curtailed immensely with indoor growing, “In protected agriculture such as the high technology hydroponic greenhouses that we are fortunate enough to grow within, conditions such as temperature and water are controlled”.  De Jong says indoor growing also affords the use of biological controls or what is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) virtually eliminating the need for pesticides.  Water is recycled and herbicides are never used.  “This makes for a very consistent high quality product that is safe, clean, and full of flavor” says De Jong.  A testament to the safety is the facilities most recent third party food safety audit scores where they received 100% across the board.  No wonder the company touts its sustainability platform as “Good for the Earth’ and as De Jong quickly adds, “good for me and good for you”.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Farmers and their Favorite Salad Recipes

I had the opportunity to interview 3 of our  world class farmers and get their input on their life work and life loves.  I asked them each to answer 5 questions and to offer a favorite salad recipe.  Hope you find their answers and recipes of interest.  I had lots of fun talking with these guys, they are amazing!   Let us know what you think. thanks
Helen L. Aquino, Village Farms Marketing Manager


Mitch Fortier
Farmer in our Delta Greenhouse in British Columbia

Mitch at local trade fair showing off his pride & joy
My job in 5 words:
I don’t think it’s possible to describe my job in 5 words. There are so many great things about what I do I'm having a tough time breaking it down into 5 words. I take so much pride in growing the plants and do everything I can to make sure the tomatoes that go out the door are perfect quality. I enjoy going to work every day and I don’t think there are a lot of people out there who can say that. I work with great people and I think that has a direct reflection on whether or not you enjoy your job. Everyday there are new challenges and problems to solve, so you don’t get stuck in the same repetitive rut day in and day out. Every year is completely different from the last. There is always so much more to learn. Every year I learn more and more about growing.

What is your first memory being in a greenhouse? 
I can’t remember how old I was, 4 or 5 maybe, but my grandpa was always an avid gardener and he had small greenhouse in his backyard. Nothing fancy, just an little fiberglass greenhouse for his own enjoyment . I don’t think he ever bought a vegetable in his life. He would always grow enough through the summer to get him through the winter and what wouldn’t last, he had a little indoor greenhouse in his basement so he could have fresh veggies right through the winter.

Best part of being a farmer is.....
 All the fresh produce. The fresh produce we get doesn’t even compare to the quality and taste of the stuff you get in the supermarket. I just like growing plants. I enjoy all aspects of my job, from growing to battling pests and disease to seeing our product in the supermarket. It’s a great feeling to go to the grocery store half way across the country, let alone just down the street, to see something that I have grown.

What do you enjoy doing when not farming? 
I spend most of my time playing with my kids, Hockey, baseball, swimming…… I do everything with those little guys.

My favorite vegetable is....... 
Now are we talking fruits or vegetables? Because we all should know Tomatoes are a fruit.


Mitch's Salad  suggestion: 

Cobb Salad with Sinfully Sweet Campari

I like this recipe because it is more than a salad, it is a meal!  It's not only healthy but hearty, plus it is great to eat anytime of  year. This recipe is fun to make with the kids, they enjoy helping assemble the ingredients. I think the Village Farms Sinfully Sweet Campari tomatoes really make this salad pop.  They are so sweet and juicy, making them the perfect tomato that truly have the authentic garden fresh flavor everyone is always talking about.

Cobb Salad Recipe
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • 1/2 head of romaine
  • 1/2 head of Boston lettuce
  • 1 small bunch of frisée (curly endive)
  • 1/2 bunch of watercress, coarse stems discarded All lettuces should be rinsed, spun or patted dry, and coarsely chopped
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 2 ripe avocados, seed removed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 whole skinless boneless chicken breast (about 3/4 pound total), halved, cooked, and diced
  • 6 Village Farms Sinfully Sweet Campari tomato, chopped fine
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, separated, the yolk finely chopped and the white finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Roquefort 

1.  Cook the bacon in a skillet on medium heat until crisp on both sides. Remove from skillet and lay out on paper towels to absorb the excess fat. Allow the bacon to cool. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

2.  In a large salad bowl, toss together well the various lettuces and watercress.
3.  Compose the salad. Arrange the chicken, the bacon, the tomato, and the avocado decoratively over the greens and garnish the salad with the grated egg and the chives. 

4.  In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, the mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a slow stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified. Stir in the Roquefort. Add sugar to taste, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Whisk the dressing. Serve separately or toss in with