Winter storms level local greenhouses for second time

Joan LeBlanc
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C & J Greenhouse in Upper Cape, near Port Elgin, were dealt yet another blow recently when their one remaining greenhouse was levelled by high winds, destroying much of their stock of plant seedlings that were housed in the wood-frame, plastic covered structure. Two of the three greenhouses on-site collapsed in late December under the weight of heavy snow and ice build-up. Shown here, owner Holly Reade-Futter is pictured beside the remaining greenhouses; the structure at left destroyed recently.  LEBLANC PHOTO

UPPER CAPE, NB – The owners of a local greenhouse are continuing to pick up the pieces yet again after the winter storm that ravaged their facilities a couple weeks ago.

In late December, Wilco Futter and Holly Reade-Futter, co-owners of C & J Greenhouse, located about 10 kilometres outside of Port Elgin, saw two of their three 10 year-old greenhouses collapse under the weight of heavy snow and ice which blanketed the region just before New Years. At that time, two of the three 100 x 30 feet structures were partially destroyed and filled with snow and ice which continued to fall in the following days and weeks.

Reade-Futter said at their home in Upper Cape last week that Mother Nature has continued to cause havoc for the family, as they tried again and again to continue to prepare young plants for this year’s growing season.

“During that blizzard we looked out and saw the framework of the greenhouse, which is made of six-by-six foot wood beams that are 90 feet long and 30 feet across, flying up in the air. Really, those big beams with the plastic on them were whipping around in the snow and rain and wind. There wasn’t anything we could do, it was just too dangerous,” she said, adding that this year so far it’s just been one thing after another.

“We’ve had so much damage that we can’t possibly get things going again at this late date,” she admitted.

The only bright spot was the support of the local community. She noted the family was pleased and humbled when one local resident sent them a cheque for $750 to help them get back on their feet.

“That really helped us; right then we needed to pay for seed and supplies,” she said.

Although the ongoing calamity began with the collapse of the first two greenhouses, since that time it’s just been one more setback after another, she said.

She noted that no plants were lost in the first mishap, and with seeds and plant cuttings already ordered, the Reade-Futters’, with the help of their family and friends, managed to get their planting done, all of it stored in various parts of their home. With the two collapsed greenhouses still buried in snow, a third greenhouse on the property was prepared for housing the new, budding plants.

“It needed plastic on it and we didn’t have a furnace in that greenhouse either so my brother helped us get one installed and we were able to bring all of the new seedlings that were in our house, out into the greenhouse in late February. But that same day the motor went in the furnace so I had to go get another one and get it put in. We thought then that things were finally getting back on track,” she recalled.

But it wasn’t going to be that simple.

“After it ran well for about a week we put the seedlings in it. Then there was one Sunday night and Monday night and it was so cold out. On the Monday morning I went out to check the plants before heading off to work (she also works full-time in Sackville) and the furnace was working fine but it was so cold on the floor that about half of my plants froze, including about 200 young geraniums. We have a big tube that attaches to the furnace to push warm air onto the floor but it’s frozen in ice and snow in one of the collapsed greenhouses,” she said.

So they partitioned off the greenhouse to capture more heat, but unfortunately the extreme cold killed most of the remaining seedlings during the next night; about one-quarter of her annual stock.

Despite the losses, the Reade-Futters still had a lot of seeds, cuttings and pots so they decided to plant again, and the greenhouse was almost full of new flower and vegetable seedlings when the blizzard hit and everything was lost.

With thousands of dollars lost, she said the family is undecided as to the future of their business.

“I’ve still got a lot of seed left, although we were able to cancel the bulk of our orders. We can’t possibly plant again; we don’t have any place to house them. But we’re going to rig up something in the house so we’ll have a few things for our regular customers in the area who rely on us. We’ll only have about five per cent of what we normally do and definitely not a lot of variety, but I know people are counting on us. Our commercial customers we’ve had to let them know we won’t be able to supply them this year,” she said.

But through it all, Reade-Futter said they still count themselves as being fortunate.

“When you look at the news and see the terrible things that have happened to other people, it makes our problems look minor. I mean, we weren’t hurt; our home wasn’t damaged. We have a lot invested that we have to pay back, but we just have to look at it, that it could have been a lot worse,” she said.

Organizations: C J Greenhouse

Geographic location: Port Elgin, New Years, Sackville

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