Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Trying New Things

The man behind the "vision"

If there is one thing we are really good at here in Darvonda, it's trying new things.  Life is in a constant state of change and we have a knack of embracing that change.  Starting out as a one horse pony enterprise, our company has grown to include 100's of different methods, customers, employees and crops.  Never one to sit on our laurels and wait until the change overtakes us, we actively look for new programs to enhance the core business we already do.  It makes for a wonderful, roller coaster ride of opportunity and challenge.

A few years ago we embraced the idea of growing hot house veggies in our "off season".  No one was doing it quite the way we planned to do it.  Some of us old timers were hemming and hawing about the risk of trying a crop that, from the outside, appears to be quite difficult to do.

Junior:

"Dad, why don't we grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the rental greenhouses as a way of keeping them full until Spring.  That will secure the space for our busy season when we need it most and give us income during the months between Summer and Christmas?"

The Big Guy:

"I don't have a clue how to grow veggies!  You think we can do it son?"

Junior:

"Just give me a chance and I'll show you it can be done."

The Big Guy:

"OK my boy, give it your best shot.  Let's see how it goes."

A flurry of phone calls, meetings, contract negotiations, food safe procedural lessons and equipment training later and we were in the hot house veggie business!

Most people think it starts with a seed but I can assure you that before germination begins there has been months of planning and preparing.



These days, everything is done very scientifically.  Detailed calculations are made as to how much yield each plant will bring.

After the seed has been sown into the Rockwool, vermiculite is spread over the surface to protect the tender shoots as they emerge
Here in BC there are strict quota regulations which we must acquire beforehand, marketing companies we need to partner with, greenhouse preparations that need to be tended to.  Growing a vegetable crop is very different from growing a bedding plant crop.  Our greenhouses need to be as flexible as we are!

Germination is such an exciting thing to see!

Normally we have our heating pipes hanging in the air above the spring plants so the pots can sit flat on the cement flood floor below.

Each bay is engineered to hold water an inch deep.  Water drains away after 5 minutes into a huge recirculating tank.

When it comes time to do our veggies we unhook the heating pipes, lay them down on the cement and they become the tracks on which we send our specialty rail cars in for production work.

When the veggies are harvested, they are collected in bins which run on a special cart adapted to the heat pipes/rail tracks
Each plant is individually fed by a watering tube which is monitored by computer, dispensing the exact amount of fertilizer and moisture as required.  Plants can be receiving water at 10 minute intervals, depending on the daytime conditions.

Growers check the roots to ensure they are healthy
Our tomato crop actually requires us to bring in bees to carry out pollination.  Without those little critters flying from flower to flower with a steady Calvinistic work ethic, the plants will not produce as planned.  Even more intriguing is the fact that Canadian bees are too lazy for the job.  We bring in Mexican bees to carry out the task.  They are known to be the hardest working insects in the pollinating world.

I KID YOU NOT!

But, there is one small drawback.  The Mexican Queen bee must be securely locked inside her cardboard box hive at all times.  She is such an agressive critter that, should she escape, she could potentially wipe out the Canadian bees in our area.

I KID YOU NOT!

So, every day we busily plant, pick, and prune with the discipline of Olympic Athletes.


We must constantly monitor the amount of buds being produced and adjust the environment should things not look quite right.

Newly planted cucumber starts are quite finicky.  We watch them closely for stress.

Every plant progresses at a similar rate, 18 days from germination to planting and 21 days from planting to first harvest.


The first day of harvesting is always exciting!
 Each plant should produce around 30 Long English cucumbers in it's 13 week production life span.  That's a total of 800,000 cukes that we will produce out of our little old greenhouse this season.  And every single one of them was planted, staked, tied and harvested BY HAND!

Father and Son checking the crop
Now, you might think that is the end of the manual labor for this particular product but it's not.

Nope.

Now we have to grade them and pack them for market.  This is another assembly line job that requires concentration and discipline which we have had to learn from scratch.

Our fantastic crew picks up new skills with ease!


Cucumbers arrive in the warehouse daily for sorting and wrapping.  Second grade cucumbers that are too short, too thin, too fat or too crooked are selected and set aside.  Only the top quality ones make the cut and are wrapped for shipping.

NOTE:  Did you know that the annoying plastic wrap on your cucumber is not just an unnecessary nuisance but actually keeps moisture in the cucumber?  That means it remains turgid until you eat it.  When not packed in plastic, they quickly become limp and unappetizing if left too long in the fridge (outside the fridge makes them lose their turgidity even faster).

Now, as you can imagine, we did not stop at learning how to grow just CUCUMBERS.  Once our initial foray into the hot house veggie business was deemed reasonably successful, we branched out into all sorts of other things.


We produced a crop of 36,000,000 grape tomatoes in a 6 month time span.


Then we moved on to Beef steak tomatoes.


Remember, each tomato is picked, sorted and packed BY HAND!


It is quite MIND BOGGLING how we even get it all done every day again!


Sorting.....


Packing....


and shipping.

Hard to believe this is what we consider our SLOW SEASON at Darvonda.


Now, just a fun fact I am sure you will enjoy.  Do you see the label on these plastic bags?  I'm talking about the white sticker with the Net Weight information.  Well, Junior and his wife, in a money saving, family bonding sort of way, called us over to their place one evening for a "Duck Dynasty" marathon event.  We LOVE Duck Dynasty and don't have cable so Junior PVR's it for us.  We were given a seat at the dining room table with a good view of the television, a glass of red wine, a pile of Tesoro bags and a GIANT roll of white Net Weight stickers.  We spent the evening together around the table stickering bags as a family.

The family that stickers together stays together!

So there you have it.  My latest edition of Travel Tuesday with a twist.  Are you always open to new things?  Do you find they keep you excited about what's around life's next corner?  Join in the fun and post with us your latest adventure.



4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Travel Tuesday - Trying New Things”

rosa veldkamp said...

That's fabulous Tamara. I was in awe when I had my tour in August.

And. . . as family, can I just say . .. for the first time ever, I'm glad I live so far away . . .

I too love Duck Dynasty but stickering and red wine???

Not so much. ;D

You guys are amazing.

Sheila said...

I am totally amazed at what your family does! You are a hard working bunch. Thanks for the adventure.

Marina said...

Check my blog, please! It's important!!! Thank you Tamara!!!

Nancy-Mom said...

Wow,what a boring life you guys have over there, nothing exciting ever seems to happen at Darvonda. I think you need to come up to Vernon and bring some of those there cucumbers and tomatoes. I'm sure I can come up with something much more lucrative for you to do then all this boring stuff......NOT :o) I get tired just reading this !