We recognized a long time ago that a business must be built from the ground up. The people that support that business, by coming to work each and every day, growing things from seed to table, is what makes Hotchkiss Produce work.
Chris, our burly delivery driver hails from Ontario but has spent many years in Calgary and its surrounding communities. While he's not a very smiley guy, he takes his job seriously ensuring that our customers get their produce in the same quality state as when it was harvested. When he's not making deliveries or helping others with tasks around the farm, Chris, while a huge football enthusiast, can also be found writing poetry or reading things of both fact and fiction.
Three brothers from Columbia came to us in 2015. Carlos, Miguel and Pedro bring a tremendous amount of experience to our greenhouses. While living in Columbia, they raised cattle and tilapia fish and grew an assortment of vegetables for market. Their abilities are being put to great use here at our greenhouses. When they're not toiling away growing our pea shoots, microgreens and wheatgrass, they spend time with their very tight-knit family celebrating life.
Heungjung (June) is another out-of-towner. June grew up in South Korea living on his family's farm where they grew an assortment of vegetables. June came to us wanting to learn everything there is about farming in Canada. June often is found touring Alberta with his family discovering all that our great province has to offer. His only complaint, while on his discovery tour, would be the traffic issues but with time he's getting better navigating the back roads.
Lindsay, an Alberta girl, is a person that has been with Hotchkiss Produce off and on for many years and has recently rejoined the team. Her many talents in the greenhouses and office are being put to great use. While working on the tomatoes, she is mandated with our grafting program, which allows for our customers to enjoy our unique heirloom tomatoes. When away from the greenhouses, she spends time with her paramedic husband and her recently created family. She's finding out how awesome motherhood can be.
We add spice to our lives by also having some gentlemen from Mexico work with us on a seasonal basis. Through the Mexican Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program, Victor, Antonio, Manuelito, Mario, Angel, Erasmo, Leonel, Manuel, Carmelo, Jose and Quirino work with us for 8 months each year. They leave their families to come and hand-pick lettuce, dig up and wash carrots and potatoes, prepare beds for chard and kale and let's not forget the harvesting of all of our veggies. They literally spend hours picking beans. They truly are the backbone of our company.
Tracy, originally from Ontario, is a person found to wear many hats. While most of the time she can be found buried under paperwork, she does come out to orchestrate the huge task of harvesting. She's the person that customers contact when placing orders, expressing concerns and just basically when something is needed to be known about what's fresh in the garden. When she's not behind her desk, she can often be found behind the wheel of her car, getting her daughter off to school as well as spending time with her many dogs, cats and horses.
Paul, born and raised in Calgary, is our quarterback. He is the visionary that continues to come up with the ideas that move Hotchkiss Produce forward. His passion for both growing things and the science related to this process is what keeps Hotchkiss Produce in the grocery stores and fine dinning establishments. Paul loves working with the tractors and makes a mean compost.
Eventually, along with his wife Tracy, made his way to a piece of land southeast of Calgary. It was there that, even before the house was constructed, Paul had a greenhouse built to accommodate his passion for growing things. His tomato adventures were limited initially by a previous career choice in the oil and gas industry and so grew vegetables primarily for his own pleasure. It didn't take long for Paul to realize that 4,000 square feet of greenhouse space produced a lot of veggies and thus a business was born. That business was initially a part-time job for Paul. He hired an individual to help with the sales, growing and delivering of the tomatoes. In 1998 Paul made a lifestyle change by leaving the oil and gas world to turn his hobby into a year-round business. He focused on heirloom tomatoes and over time experimented with at least 100 varieties. Eventually, through trial and error, Paul came up with a short list of his top 20 favourites, which seemed to grow well in the little ecosystem he had created.
With requests being made by his clients, Paul expanded the operation to include other produce and now can offer many items to the niche-type grocery stores and upscale restaurants that he services. With more produce to be grown, additional greenhouse space was needed and Paul's operation grew from 4,000 square feet to just over two acres. In addition, approximately 10 acres of land is dedicated each summer to growing produce outdoors.
Tracy left her city job in about 1999 to join the operation. While not having a green thumb on either of her hands, Tracy took over the administrative responsibilities and as such looks after the customers, staff, orders, helps out with picking and packing, and the endless heaps of paperwork.
a virus was introduced into the greenhouses which set back Hotchkiss' business plans. Through the tenacity of Paul and his greenhouse staff, they ventured down a challenging path trying to come up with a solution on how to deal with the tomato-affecting virus. In spite of many efforts, the problem seemed to be insurmountable but with diligence the Hotchkiss folks came up with a way graft heirloom tomato plants onto stabilized hybrid rootstock. The initial successes were seen only in tomato plants that produced red and pink tomatoes. A breeding breakthrough in 2007 reintroduced some of the colours that people are used to seeing in heirloom tomatoes. Moving forward to today, about ten varieties of tomatoes are grown showing many colours; some that would resemble Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. We say 'resemble' because these tomatoes would now be considered new discoveries in the tomato frontier. Hotchkiss Produce is, to our knowledge, the only greenhouse operation trying to combat the virus in an organic environment. When seeds are harvested from the disease-free tomatoes, they are considered Heirloom Tomatoes of the Hotchkiss Variety...not to be found anywhere else.
Providing its clients with excellent quality, organically grown vegetables to its market of fine restaurants and grocery stores.
There was the conventional way, which used pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified seeds. There were hydroponics or there was the sustainable traditional agriculture method, more commonly known as growing in an organic way. As you know, Paul chose to grow his produce organically. When asked of Paul why he chose this method, his response was 'because it's fun'. What I think he means is that in spite of, or perhaps because of, the difficulties associated with growing organically, he enjoys the challenges of being able to grow a vegetable that is not only tasty and has some eye-appeal but is grown in what can be considered at times an hostile environment.
Organic refers not to the food itself but how it is grown. The methods used are based on a farming process that maintains and replenishes the soil's fertility. Vegetables are grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Side by side tasting has shown us the flavour advantage of pioneer growing. As a consumer of Hotchkiss produce you can feel good about the healthy approach in which you feed your families as well as supporting a system of agriculture that has more potential to be sustainable than conventional farming. Hotchkiss Produce holds itself up to the highest of standards and encourages you to come for a visit to see how we go about bringing our vegetables to your grocery shelves and dining tables.