BURR — Golden Eden Produce near Burr almost lost their tomatoes this season due to the cold snap – but with some help from a Humboldt business, the plants were saved.
The greenhouse, which covers just under two-thirds of an acre, supplied 33 stores in Saskatchewan with produce in the 2020 year, and is a current supplier of the Humboldt Sobeys and Co-op.
On Jan. 25, Maureen Saretsky, Golden Eden’s co-owner, came out to the greenhouse to find it was 3.8° Celsius inside, or 39° Fahrenheit.
“That morning, when it was 39 degrees, all of our tomato plants that were not strung up were literally laying down on the floor,” Saretsky said.
“Our plants were seriously stressed and it was going to be colder the next night.”
While that might be a warm day for the average Saskatchewan winter, tomatoes require consistent night temperatures between 55°F and 75°F to set fruit.
This is why Golden Eden has a boiler and a backup propane heater to heat the facility.
Four years ago, when the greenhouse first started, it sat at about 100 feet long. Now the space reaches 250 feet.
“Between the two heaters they were still unable to keep the greenhouse warm enough and it was quite concerning.”
To save the crops, Saretsky needed more heat. This led her to seek a construction heater, but Rona, the nearest place she could think of that sells them, closed at 5 p.m.
“By the time I get back and phone up Rona it’s well after 5, it’s 5:15ish and I was told it was too late to fire up the construction heater, they were sorry,” she said.
“Apparently Leon Doepker [the store manager] overheard the conversation and phoned me right back.”
Doepker told her they would prepare it that night if she can come in right away.
“It turned out the heater they had was too big for the truck, we had to go home and get a trailer and come back. By the time they actually put it together and had it loaded up and everything it was 7:30,” Saretsky said. “They saved our crops.”
By Jan. 26, Saretsky found that most of the plants had recovered and were standing up on their own – even the ones that had not been strong to begin with.
“There were still some that were lying down, they looked better like they were trying to get up, but we would have lost our crops if they had not so generously helped us out after hours.”
For their plans ahead, Saretsky said they have hired a contractor to replumb the boiler to manage the full greenhouse.
“That right there will solve most of our issues, but on the very coldest nights like when it hits -33°, -35°, -40° we might have to bring in supplemental heat again like that, the heater like what Rona rented to us,” she said. “That’s a 350,000 BTU heater and it put us over the top – it really did.”
Other crops grown at Golden Eden Produce include cucumbers and bell peppers.