Vegetable producer creating jobs in New River Valley
JemD Farms’ greenhouse vegetables are grown in Mexico and Canada. Soon they’ll be produced in Pulaski County.
Kingsville, Ontario-based JemD Farms plans to produce vegetables for its Red Sun Farms brand in high-tech greenhouses, which will sit on 45 acres in the New River Valley Commerce Park in Dublin. Within five years, the $30 million project is expected to create 205 jobs paying “very competitive” salaries, says Carlos Visconti, JemD Farms’ chief operating officer.
JemD Farms was attracted to the New River Valley in part by its temperate climate. “Sunny days are good,” Visconti says. “When you have sunny days, the crop grows better and reduces the cost of heating the greenhouse.”
Other compelling factors, Visconti says, were its strategic location (55 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 750-mile radius) and support from the commonwealth and Pulaski County.
The project received a $350,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and $100,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund. The company is also eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funds and services to help JemD Farms’ recruitment, training and retraining activities.
The project will be built in three phases, Visconti says, and production should start next spring. “These kinds of products [require] certain ‘know-how,’ and the first phase is to bring some expertise to help us train and develop local employees,” Visconti says.
During the first phase, the project will start with 18 acres. By the third phase, it will extend to 45 acres.
The Red Sun Farms operation will produce a mix of organic and conventional tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. Growing vegetables in a high-tech greenhouse allows JemD Farms to better control its crops. “In a high-tech greenhouse you control by computer not only the temperature of the room where you are growing the product, but you administer the right nutrients to the plant,” Visconti says.
The company will be hiring a plant manager, supervisors, an accountant, a human resources representative and laborers.
Jem D Farms and its brands employ 2,000 people in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.