Delta View Farms Ltd.
Based in Delta, British Columbia, Delta View Farms Ltd. is one of the region’s most reputable greenhouse-tomato growers. Situated on 18 acres, Delta View Farms produces a range of tomato varieties, including beefsteak, roma and multicolored cherry tomatoes.
“We have 18 acres under glass,” says Eric Schlacht, president of Delta View Farms. “We’re more a medium to smaller-sized family-owned greenhouse, compared to some of the larger operations growing on 100 acres or more.”
To better market its products with increasing competition, Delta View Farms formed an exclusive partnership with Windset Farms, one of the largest produce marketing operations in North America. Windset Farms has grower-partners throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico.
These partnerships account for more than 200 acres of greenhouse space in North America and every year, Windset Farms packs and ships countless pounds of premium quality tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other specialty produce items.
Windset Farms is headquartered in the fertile Fraser Valley in western Canada, with greenhouses in Delta and Abbotsford, British Columbia, as well as Santa Marina, California, and Las Vegas.
“We grow a range of different tomato varieties for Windset Farms and pack and ship under their label,” explains Schlacht. “Under this contract all labeling is under Windset Farms. This partnership has opened many doors for us and helped set us up with contracts with big-name retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart and Loblaws.”
Today, Schlacht’s team consists of more than 100 employees who grow, pack and ship the finished product. “About 75 percent of our tomatoes go to retailers on the West Coast and some travel more locally to greater Vancouver,” he details. “A small percentage of produce is shipped to Asian markets.”
Fresh from the vine
Delta View Farms’s growing season runs from March through November. “We plant in January and harvest the first tomatoes by March, but May is peak production season and this carries steadily until the end of November,” explains Schlacht. “December is a clean out month.”
Delta View Farm’s main items are beefsteak, roma and bite-sized cherry tomatoes.
Beefsteak tomatoes are big and juicy, known for firm texture that’s a classic component to sandwiches and burgers. Roma tomatoes are rich and red, perfect for sauces, soups and salads. They have a long, oval shape and fewer seeds than some tomato varieties, making them a great choice for canning and Italian dishes. “We also pack a cherry tomato ensemble with a collection of different flavors, textures and colors called the Symphony pack for Windset Farms,” says Schlacht.
While these varieties make up the lion’s share of Delta View Farm’s recent production, Schlacht says the company is always testing out new varieties. “Success in this industry is about adapting and trying to maximize your output every year,” he says. “Some varieties are more resistant to pests and disease and we’re learning more about this with every growing season.”
High food safety standards
No matter the variety, Schlacht promises all of Delta View Farms’ products meet industry-leading food safety guidelines and high-quality standards. “Our reputation for a high-quality, safe product is extremely important, especially when we’re supplying major retailers–these things aren’t an option, they’re a necessity,” he explains.
He says sustainable growing practices help set Delta View Farms apart from less-expensive conventionally--grown products. “Our biggest competition is conventionally-grown tomatoes from foreign markets,” he says. “We’re taking our products to the same customer base and these producers can afford to sell the same items for half the cost, but we use less water and land than conventional producers, no herbicides, and integrated pest management which reduces pesticide use to almost zero.”
Schlacht, whose family has a 30-year background in the produce business, grew up in the industry and understands the challenges growers face every day. “My father still has a greenhouse operation and he harvests cucumbers, peppers and eggplants at his facility under 25 acres of greenhouse glass,” he notes. “I grew up working with him on the farm, but when you’re young, you take it for granted.”
Schlacht went on to earn a business degree and spent some time working at Farm Credit Canada. “I did this for some time but then was called back to agriculture,” he says. “As you mature, you realize the benefits and rewards of being in this industry.”
But he says it’s certainly not an easy way to make a living. “There are always challenges in ag,” he says. “Input costs can change overnight and you’re always trying to find enough labor, or there’s a virus that’s affecting your crop – so many things can go wrong,” he explains.
Gains in greenhouse production
Fortunately, Delta View Farms’ greenhouse set up helps control some of the variables. “Overall I’m positive at the end of the day,” says Schlacht. “Greenhouse production is what we need to feed the growing global population. Every acre of greenhouse can produce 10 to 20 times the amount of field production; our greenhouse could feed a city. Also we have better means of controlling food safety. We use good bugs to eat bad bugs with very little pesticide use. This is important now as consumers demand to know their food is produced in a safe, sustainable way.”
Schlacht sees the operation growing considerably over the next five years. “We’re hoping to double in size, moving from 18 to 36 acres,” he says. “We’re going to stick with tomato production for Windset Farms because it’s a solid partnership that’s allowed our business to grow.”
While it may be one of the lesser known names behind larger Windset Farms, Delta View Farms Ltd. continues to be a premier grower-partner, supporting sustainable agriculture and supplying high-quality tomatoes.