Selling tasty, high-quality produce since 1996, this family-run farm is anything but quaint. Headquartered in Delta, British Columbia, Windset Farms thrives on innovation.
Windset Farms’ founders John and Steven Newell are brothers who took over their parents’ chicken farm after graduation, deciding to pursue an entrepreneurial path.
They converted the business into a vegetable farm, starting out in 1996 with just four acres of glass greenhouses filled with bell peppers. Although their focus always has been, and remains to be in the Canadian market, Windset Farms has been expanding its U.S. facilities over the last five years. With a facility in North Las Vegas, Nevada, and a new, 128-acre greenhouse facility in Santa Maria, California. Windset Farms currently markets and sells product from over 800 acres of high-tech greenhouses. They employ anywhere from 1,200–1,800 people, depending on the time of the year, and have more than 100 managers scattered throughout their facilities in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
A company that customers can depend on
While many other Canadian farms prefer to cater to American clientele, Windset Farms has focused on their own backyard, selling quality produce to Canadians while dealing with every major retailer in Western Canada. After building the business for a few years, John and Steven started their own marketing company in 2003. They attribute their success to remaining true to their marketing theme. Their art music theme is a unique west coast style theme that allows Windset Farms’ customers to see that the company is well-branded and focused on projecting a consistent message.
Windset Farms also strives to offer a wide variety of choice to all consumers, and to always look for new items to bring to market, seeking innovation in all they do. While some farmers may focus on only one product, Windset Farms recognizes the importance of consumer choice, and operates under an entirely different business model.
“Our general philosophy is to grow a wide variety of products, including many different types of tomatoes—from grape tomatoes to beefsteak tomatoes, and everything in between—and, we have the same philosophy with our pepper, cucumber, and lettuce lines. We give a basket of opportunities to our customers so that they can pick and choose the types of products that they want, helping us also to be freight efficient,” says COO and co-founder John Newell.
Growing delicious produce
Newell is always on the hunt for the next best thing: the best-looking products, the ones with the longest shelf-life, and, of course, the tastiest. It should come as no surprise that latest market trend in the farming industry is for produce that is delicious.
“I’m always looking for new, innovative items from all over the world. We work with seed companies from Holland, Israel, France, and Japan—we are looking all over the world for different varieties with different characteristics: different tastes, textures, and colour,” says Newell.
After he has been convinced he has come across a great find, he does his best to “screen these products, brand them properly and go to market with them.”
What happens once he is sold on a new product? “We take it to customers that we believe are ready for that product. It’s time for them to bring something exciting to their consumers. We’ve got a lot of very innovative customers that are willing to take some risks and try something new,” Newell says.
Windset Farms is a company that understands what it takes to grow delicious produce. “We started growing before we started marketing. We were growers first,” says Newell. Windset Farms is unique in its geographical diversity, as the founders have carefully chosen North American locations with beautiful greenhouse growing climates, such as California.
Newell also states that by expanding Windset Farms’ facilities into the U.S., they were able to “build up our market to an extent where we were able to build a sizeable facility in the south, and basically go from procuring product from growing regions that are producing in the fall and winter, to providing product that is grown in our own facilities. Our general strategy has been to make a market and then build greenhouses to fulfill that market.”
A leader in sustainable farming
Windset Farms makes it a point to conserve both energy and water. They employ systems to recapture the drain water, process it, and reuse it within the greenhouse.
Energy is conserved via energy curtains inside the greenhouses, minimizing heat loss during cold nights thus curtailing the need to use as much natural gas.
Windset Farms is also currently installing a large solar panel system for electricity production at their California facility. “It’s a win-win sustainability story when it comes to solar power,” says Newell.
Moreover, Windset Farms utilizes packaging that is fully recyclable. They are also looking to develop more compostable consumables within their crops such as using jute twine and biodegradable clips which will allow the plants to be grinded together along with the string for compost.
Socially accountable farming you can trust
One of the company’s main focuses for 2015 is to ensure that their social accountability remains top-tier and ahead of the competition. Windset Farms takes pride in their worker training and treatment policies. They are working with their Mexican partner growers to all be Fair Trade certified, and with their American and Canadian growers to meet the EFI (Equitable Food Initiative) Standard. Last year, Windset Farms has had all of their products non-GMO verified by the Non-GMO Project.
How has Windset Farms continued to grow and succeed for all these years? Because they are ahead of their competitors in their commitment to quality, their focus on sustainability, and the importance they place on social accountability.
Newell makes it a priority to “produce products in an ethical and sustainable way with the highest possible taste and quality for people to enjoy in their healthy lifestyles.”