Upper Cape greenhouses collapse under weight of snow and ice

Joan LeBlanc
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Holly Reade-Futter points to some of the damage and the sagging ceiling of one of her two greenhouses that collapsed recently due to the excess weight of snow and ice. Each year C & J Greenhouses supplies a number of retail outlets as well as many local residents with flower and vegetable plants.  LEBLANC PHOTOS

Heavy snow and ice which covered the region recently has resulted in the collapse of two greenhouses in the Port Elgin area.

Holly Reade-Futter and her husband Wilco Futter have owned and operated C & J Greenhouses on the Job Allen Road in Upper Cape, about 10 kilometres outside of Port Elgin, for the past 10 years. Reade-Futter said recently that two of their three greenhouses collapsed over the past couple weeks after periods of heavy snow and freezing rain.

The greenhouses are made of heavy steel frames covered with a double layer of plastic, meant to withstand ordinary weather conditions year round. The structures, two of which are about 100 x 30 feet have been in place at that location since 2004.

“We’ve had some problems a couple of times over the years, but not like this,” she said, adding that the third, smaller structure is smaller and the plastic is removed each year before winter.

Reade-Futter noted that the first greenhouse gave way under the snow build-up on December 23.

“That was right after the first big snowstorm. When Wilco got up in the morning he noticed it right away; we didn’t hear anything during the night. It would probably just go down slowly and finaly just collapse in the middle,” she explained.

The second structure collapsed just last week. There was very little stored in the greenhouses so there was little interior loss.

“The furnaces are in there but they’re off to the side. Some of the pallets we use for the tables were stacked inside and some of them may have cracked…we do have some large flower pots (stored inside) that we use to grow flowers for local businesses and such, like the ones used in the Village of Port Elgin;  hopefully we won’t have to replace any of those,” she said.

None of the losses was insured and Reade-Futter said they will have to absorb the replacement costs.

“That really hurts, and it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get it all back to rights again. But it could have been worse,” she said.

Friends and family, including their three children, have been rallying around, she added, but it’s still going to be hectic getting everything ready for another growing season.

“We have all of our seeds and the cuttings are ordered and will be shipped soon, so we’ve got to find a place to get it all planted. I’ll be clearing out my dining room and every other available place in the house to get things planted. People are great in this area; I know that our friends and family will be here to help us. We’ve already had a lot of offers of help,” she said.

However, Reade-Futter will be tending to much of the planting and getting the greenhouses back into operating condition on her own, as Wilco is currently working in Alberta.

“He’ll be home for a couple weeks soon and he’ll do what he can then, but it’ll be some time before we can get the greenhouses up and running. We do have to have things up and running again by the first week of March” she said.

C & J Greenhouses supplies flowers and vegetable plants each year to a number of retail outlets in the region, as well as to a multitude of local customers.

Despite the unfortunate situation, Reade-Futter tries and remain positive about the whole situation.

“You know, it could have been a whole lot worse; no one was hurt and it didn’t happen when they were full of plants. But there never was any doubt in our minds that we wouldn’t keep going. We have a lot of customers who rely on us each year – people in this area are very supportive -  and we’re not going to let them down. It’s going to be a lot of hard work in the next few weeks, but I know that somehow we’ll get it done,” she said.

Geographic location: Port Elgin, Job Allen Road, Alberta

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