Six months after breaking ground, Nature Fresh Farms expects Phase One of its planned 175-acre greenhouse complex in Delta to be operational within a couple of weeks.
The general contractor, Carpenter Creations of Coldwater, Mich., is placing the finishing touches on the first of the greenhouses the Canadian-based company plans to build on acreage off State Route 109. Production of tomatoes is scheduled by mid-November, with the first shipments to retailers anticipated by year’s end.
Installation of greenhouse glass is basically complete, and equipment is being placed. A metal building designed as a packaging area has been attached to the structure’s west side.
“It’s moving very quickly. There are quite a bit of changes you see out there every day,” said Matt Gilroy, executive director of the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC). “They’re hitting the time frames they need to hit.”
Nature Fresh has hired over 30 people for Phase One. They will act as supervisors, a maintenance crew, and “scouts,” employees who examine the tomato plants for proper growth and work to correct any issues.
“I’m very pleased that they’re getting ready to roll out their operation. And I think the Delta community in general, and the county as well, will benefit from the investment the company has made,” Gilroy said.
The more than $200 million project by the Leamington, Ontario company will include 12 phases and is estimated to create 300 full-time jobs when completed. A consumer education center will also be built.
To apply for a position with Nature Fresh Farms, visit NatureFresh.ca. Because employment would be for Phase Two and beyond, applicants can expect a delay in response of up to a year.
Year-round production at the complex will provide tomatoes to retailers nationwide, and long-term plans will likely include the production of other vegetables as well.
Through Nature Fresh donations, which total 50 percent of the tax abatement granted for the first phase, the county, Delta, York Township, and Pike-Delta-York schools will share approximately $30,000.
Gilroy said the county is currently reviewing Phase Two of the project which involves the construction of two more 15-acre greenhouses next year. The FCEDC and the Village of Delta, which annexed the Nature Fresh Farms property in August, are pursuing a combination grant and low-interest loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority to construct an estimated $1.5 million raw water line from the village reservoir to the greenhouse complex.
The line would provide the greenhouses with untreated water that is less expensive than the potable water used in Phase One. The project would be paid through a fee for service to Nature Fresh, and would cost village residents nothing.
Delta Mayor Dan Miller said a contract drafted for the water line was approved by the village council in the summer. He said the process of funding, then completing the project would take place over two years.
The OWDA is expected to decide on the request within the next few days.
Miller said the greenhouses will benefit the village, the county, and York Township, but the rewards will be long-term.
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Village of Delta,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.