On March 1, Canadian-based Golden Fresh Farms and Red Sun Farms, held an open house at a new greenhouse and distribution center in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Golden Fresh Farms, which is a grower for Red Sun Farms, owns the greenhouse, and Red Sun Farms owns the distribution center.
Growers at the new facility will hydroponically produce tomatoes and peppers under high-pressure sodium lights in 20 acres of greenhouse production space. In January, more than 200,000 plants were transplanted there. In the future, Golden Fresh Farms and Red Sun Farms plan to expand on their properties.
Attendees of the open house enjoyed complimentary drinks and food, namely produce from Red Sun Farms. (Red Sun Farms operates locations in Kingsville, Ontario; Montreal; Nogales, Ariz.; Taylor, Mich.; Pharr, Texas; Dublin, Va.; and Numarán, Mexico.) Individual tomatoes were plated by a chef who also cooked other vegetables into penne pasta. Meanwhile, caterers delivered cucumber sorbet and other snacks to the event’s crowd, which included everyone from Canadian businesspeople to local Ohio media representatives and gas and electric installers.
The principal owners of Golden Fresh Farms are Louis Chibante and Paul Mastronardi, the son of Red Sun Farms owner Jamie Mastronardi. All three were present at the event. Paul Mastronardi gave a speech, along with Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association; David T. Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture; Jim DiMenna, president and CEO of Red Sun Farms; and Wapakoneta city council president Steve Henderson.
In 2015, the company began looking for its newest location, Mastronardi said. Working with Jobs Ohio, an economic development agency, the company began site selection with five locations, narrowed it down to two and finally decided on Wapakoneta, a city with a population of about 10,000 people, located about 60 miles north of Dayton in mostly rural Auglaize County. “We are proud to be a part of this community and the Ohio Proud family,” he said.
Standing in for the Wakapokeneta mayor Thomas Stinebaugh, who was in Washington D.C. at the time, Henderson said he was impressed by the greenhouse’s 10-month construction timeline. “It’s just incredible,” he said.
When the time for the ribbon-cutting came, the crowd headed through the packing area, past conveyor belts, water tanks and other items and equipment. The ribbon was cut, and shortly after, the door to the greenhouse lifted. Inside, the bright lights and hot air juxtaposed with the rural Ohio’s trickling rain and late winter breeze.
Stakeholders in Golden Fresh Farms’ operation expect it to make a significant impact, in many ways, on Ohio and the Midwest. It is bringing in jobs (the company constructed employee housing next to the greenhouse), and its drivers are delivering produce to areas within a 10-hour radius.
“The grand opening celebration of the new greenhouse in Wapakoneta was a great success,” Mastronardi told Produce Grower. “I would like to thank all of our distinguished guest speakers – Steve Henderson, David T. Daniels and Cathy Burns – in addition to the media, and all our friends and family for all their support. I would also like to thank the residents of Wapakoneta Ohio for allowing us to be a part of their amazing community. I look forward to working together in the future.”
Photo: Chris Manning