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A business plan brings luck for Alberta greenhouse growers

CompanyCountry Fresh
Industry:Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
City:Medicine Hat, Alberta
Amounts: various  Find what funding programs you qualify for

A business plan for building a greenhouse

A business plan is necessary for a lot of ventures also for building a greenhouse. Read how Country Fresh could increase sales through a professional business plan.

Step into the produce section of a grocery store these days, and you'll see an array you wouldn't have found a few short years ago. You don't have to wait till the late summer to get vine-grown tomatoes, or settle for pasty, dull ones during the winter months. You'll find ripe, tasty tomatoes all year long. The technology of greenhouse-grown produce has rapidly evolved, with much of the impetus coming from major grocery stores.

Adapting to the demands of supermarkets

Albert Cramer, who started growing cucumbers in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1986, has experienced the evolution first-hand. "Everything changes in time," he says. "And the stores are demanding well, not demanding, but requesting that we supply a year-round product. Normally, we produced our product when we were in season, and then we'd shut down for winter and start up in spring again. But the Costcos and superstores of the world want their customers to be supplied a year-round product." Cramer bought a greenhouse back when he began growing cucumbers, but today that building looks tiny by comparison, and the greenhouses at Country Fresh operate year-round.

Building a greenhouse

To meet the demand, Cramer started brokering cucumbers out of Mexico about three years ago, but he wasn't happy with the arrangement. "It's just not an easy situation," he says. "We want to know the stuff that we are selling people. We had personal attachments with the people we were buying from, but we decided to build this new greenhouse and put lights in it, so now we grow year round." With five acres of greenhouses already in operation, Cramer is putting in another five acres this year. "We'll grow half minis and half long English," he says. "We haven't grown mini cucumbers for a lot of years, but they are the ones that are really taking off. We're still blown away with how that is selling. It's like we've hit a right chord, because people are just picking them out of the store, for lunch material, that type of thing. It's pretty neat." As Country Fresh has expanded over the years; Cramer has picked up bits of financing and agricultural grants along the way. "But we're not geared that way we do things first," he says. "But then we learned there's actually grants out there for what we're doing. So that's why we got the business plan going."

A business plan for the greenhouse industry

Cramer turned to Centre for Business Plan Development to have a business plan professionally prepared, and he's glad he took that first major step. "Going forward, it's definitely something we're going to keep up to date. If we're successful in getting some funding, then we're going to see more business plans in the greenhouse industry. It's time it's the way we have to do business now." The plan also gave him a new perspective on his business. "When it comes out on paper, you read it through and it actually sounds more interesting than it really is," he says with a laugh.

With the trend toward buying locally, Country Fresh is in a good position. "The superstores have done a really good job of this going to a local farmer and buying local. It's catching on faster than we even think. As long as we are in that premium range, we can get a good price for our products, and so the opportunity is here right now for us to do it." Greenhouses can actually be environmentally sound farming, too. You can grow double the amount of product in the same space, and if you can tap into alternative energy, through wind or bio-fuels, for example as Cramer plans to do then the benefits are clear. As Cramer knows, everything changes, and he enjoys being part of the new wave of growers. "It's all very interesting," he says. "It's a pretty exciting business to be in at this time.

Imagine how a professionally prepared business plan could help grow your business. For a free consultation, call 1-800-481-8434.

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