During our stay in Leamington, Ontario we visited the tomato growing operation of my husband Dave’s cousin Ken Enns and his son Steve. We took our tour with Dave’s Uncle Johnny and Tante Marion who had just served us an amazing meal at their home- cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, zwieback, fruit salad, vegetable salad, fresh corn, roasted potatoes, chocolate cake and coffee for dessert and of course a plate of freshly sliced tomatoes.
They sure don’t grow tomatoes the way they did when Dave was a young boy working on his parents’ tomato farm. Tomatoes grow in fibreglass now, not in the ground. The nutrients they are fed are a special carefully mixed combination of chemicals that provide for optimum growth. The water the plants receive is purified by ultra-violet light. In order to avoid the use of pesticides insects are introduced into the greenhouse that won’t hurt the plants but will eat insects that are harmful to the tomato plants. Bees are necessary for pollination and live in these boxes in the rows.
In the 1950s and 60s, Dave’s parents ran their vegetable farm with only their five sons for workers. The Enns farm employs some 100 workers, most of them from Jamaica. Dave stopped to chat with one of the women whose home is near Runaway Bay where we spent a month working in a tutoring centre last year. Ken is proud of the way their employees are treated. They are paid fair wages, provided with clean modern housing and have good working conditions. The Enns tomatoes are shipped to places all over the United States for sale in grocery stores. Ken shows us the computerized devices worn by employees that allow his manager to keep track of all hundred workers and monitor in which rows they have picked tomatoes in the greenhouse and how good a job they’ve done. They are paid bonuses for doing their job efficiently and effectively. Computers keep track of when the tomato vines are growing too high and automatically lower the tubing the vines are attached to so the vines never reach the glass ceiling of the greenhouse. Heating the greenhouses which operate eleven months of the year can cost as much as 2 million dollars. Carts that move along the tracks between rows carry the workers as they pick. The platforms on the carts can be raised and lowered so workers don’t need to bend down or reach up to pick the tomatoes. Since there isn’t always enough carbon dioxide in the greenhouse for all those plants to breathe; extra gas is fed into the plant rows through tubes that run just under the rows of vines. There is even a machine that folds and assembles all the boxes the tomatoes are packed in for shipping. Ken told us that scientists are always working to create better, healthier varieties of tomatoes. They don’t grow tomatoes the way they used to but seeing how they are grown today sure was fascinating. Thanks, Ken for the great tour!
Other posts about growing things…….