Origin Organic Farms' Raymond Wong and Oppy's Chris Ford Discuss Greenhouse Organic Program
DELTA, BRITISH COLUMBIA - There are more ways than one to farm organic crops, but Oppy and Origin Organic Farms are bolstering greenhouse growing as a means to stay on top of high-demand products and year-round availability. And, with health—both the environment’s and consumers’—leading the grocery shopping charge these days, Oppy and Origin Organic Farms are tweaking the organic growing process in order to deliver the value and quality consumers have come to expect from the OriginO brand.
I chat with Raymond Wong, President of Origin Organic Farms, and Chris Ford, Organic Category Manager for Oppy, to learn more about what makes its evolving organic operations a stand-out in greenhouse growing.
“Oppy’s organic strategy centers on quality, assortment, and consistency for high-demand products, and OriginO fits perfectly into our strategy: it’s in demand, high quality, and produced by someone who shares our values around sustainability. We have established year-round availability by growing key items in strategic geographic areas and have a high level of confidence in our organic program,” Chris tells me. “OriginO was one of the first large-scale organic brands we ever offered, and we’ve invested in its success over the years. Alongside Raymond, whose expertise in this sphere is unparalleled, we’ve nurtured the brand to become a customer favorite.”
A Canadian pioneer in growing organics in greenhouses, Raymond first started with a small trial in 2005 alongside conventional produce before converting to solely organics in 2007. He now grows and ships long English cucumbers, tomatoes-on-the-vine, and colored bell peppers in Delta, British Columbia, and has a sustainable growing concept that uniquely produces in soil rather than hydroponically like other organic greenhouse growers.
“Raymond is a true organic pioneer, and he’s always learning, refining, and perfecting. As a result, OriginO is a brand that you can count on for quality and flavor,” Chris continues. “We do our best to represent a cohesive program on the shelf, between our signature organic brands and Oppy branded organic items.”
Raymond explains that growing organics in a greenhouse is very different from conventional greenhouse growing as conventionally hydroponic greenhouse systems are more predictable, adjustable, and optimizable in terms of chemical fertilizers and soil nutrients. Thus, Raymond developed an organic greenhouse system, which includes slow-release organic fertilizers that must be processed by the microbes in the soil before the plants can uptake the nutrients. This system, while slower, is just as effective at ensuring intensive growing is accomplished.
“After more than 10 years of research, we have come to realize that with organics, it is all about the balance. Still, we are always fine-tuning our growing processes in order to achieve better quality and yield,” Raymond shares with me. “As a result, we have developed a mini ecosystem to diversify and provide balance to the crops. With fertigation, we introduced a concept to feed the soil media instead of the crop, which includes top dressing solid organic fertilizers onto the soil in order to let the microbes break down the fertilizers, so plants can uptake the nutrients. We also rely on natural methods to control pests, including natural predator insects introduced in the right way to the create a balanced ecosystem.”
Constantly rolling with the punches, Raymond also notes that this season has been about fine-tuning the process and expanding its acreage to meet rising demand. Specifically, Raymond reveals that Origin Organic Farms is trying to grow its organic cucumbers on a high wire system.
“Thus far, the results have been promising and we are getting less culls. We are starting to do more research on doing our own propagation, while keeping in mind our main goal, which is get a better-quality crop,” Raymond says. “Also, the season is underway and going well. Last year, we saw a lot of demand for organic cucumbers and peppers, and in response increased our acreage of both this season.”
Look to offer Origin Organic Farms’ English cucumbers, colored bell peppers, and tomatoes-on-the-vine in your produce aisle today. For more of the latest innovation happening around our industry, keep reading AndNowUKnow.