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”.