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US: Massive greenhouse operation still expanding in Madison County

Canadian company Mastronardi Produce that sells its fruits & vegetables under the SUNSET brand, is a prominent greenhouse vegetable company on the continent, and the Oneida facility, Green Empire Farms, will be the second biggest in the company’s portfolio.

The local facility is about halfway complete, but is already growing fresh strawberries in one of two massive, 32-acre greenhouses. The second greenhouse is scheduled for completion in March.

Last Tuesday, NewsChannel 9 got one of the first tours inside the facility of any media outlet, and found row after row of strawberry plants, several thousand growing at once. It’s thanks to the climate control system in the greenhouse where it is 65-degrees during the day and then brought down to about 45 to 50-degrees at night, ideal growing conditions for strawberries.

Nic Helderman is the general manager of Green Empire Farms in Oneida, and knows a little something about indoor farming, having grown up in the world capital of greenhouse growing, Holland: “For local New York people that have not seen greenhouses like this, it’s going to be just a very interesting experience to see fresh fruits and vegetables, strawberries in this case, year round just growing in New York.”

Carrie Barry is the senior manager for human resources at Green Empire Farms. She said: “It’s just fun to tell people about the bright, cheerful colors and the fresh fruit that we grow every day, and the quiet zen of a greenhouse is just a really fun experience to work in.”

They’ll be growing strawberries from October through May on about a four week cycle from planting to harvesting in greenhouse one. Over the summer, they’ll grow cucumbers there. About 150 people work in that greenhouse. The second one, when it’s finally finished, will grow tomatoes year round, and it needs nearly 200  workers. Openings are mostly for crop care workers, who will be in the greenhouses taking care of plants and harvesting.

All the produce will be non-GMO, irrigated mostly with captured, filtered rainwater, and grown year round.


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