As Thanksgiving inches closer, at least one greenhouse lettuce supplier is readying for a pick up in demand for greenhouse greens.
“We’re coming into the holiday season so I anticipate demand will pick up,” says John Bonner with Great Lakes Growers in Burton, Ohio, who grows culinary fresh herbs as well as a variety of lettuces.
“With herbs, 10-14 days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, we see a big increase because people are cooking in their kitchens. There’s a seven to 10 fold increase for certain herbs—poultry mix type herbs,” says Bonner. “With lettuces, we see a 20 percent bump between Thanksgiving and Christmas because it’s driven largely through foodservice sales. People are out getting shopping done and spending more time in restaurants, etc.”
Great Lakes' herb room.
Varieties in demand
He notes that while some lettuce varieties are more in demand than others such as iceberg and romaine, lettuce blends for pre-packaged mixes are also in demand.
In fact, with the popularity of greenhouse lettuces, Bonner says Great Lakes has been working on production changes within its greenhouse to increase productivity per square foot.
“We’re in the process of doubling the size of the greenhouse right now. We’re adding 80,000 square feet and the first crop should come off around June 1st,” says Bonner. That expansion also includes a renewed look at managing the sizes of plants and how much space are given to plants as well as revamping its lighting systems to help give better wintertime yields. “Ideally, if you looked down at a greenhouse, you’d never want to see anything but leaves but you always want to give the plant enough space to grow properly,” he says. “So it’s really about a configuration change.”
Retrofit on the way
He notes that Great Lakes has been developing this production change concept for almost a year and a half now and as part of its expansion, will implement the new concepts into the expanded space. It will also retrofit its existing facility to match the new production style.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in this business,” says Bonner. “There are a few different market segments for lettuces and fresh-cut herbs and there’s lots of opportunity to offer higher-quality product at a competitive price for the way we’re producing now.”