Morning light filters in through the windows of Windset Farms® greenhouses, settling over the plants and filling the room with an inescapable glow. It smells of the earth as we walk down the rows, a fresh scent that lingers long after we’ve departed.
The care Windset imparts onto its vegetables is obvious; you can sense it all the way down to the roots. Founded in 1996 by the Newell family, it began as a four-acre bell pepper greenhouse in Abbotsford, British Columbia—or as John Newell, Owner and Chief Operating Officer, says, with a single bell pepper. Since then, it has grown into an 800-plus-acre operation spanning multiple facilities across North America. With greenhouses in Delta and Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Santa Maria, California, Windset now has the produce power to deliver its customers delicious, nutrient-rich produce year-round.
“Windset’s mission has always been the same: feeding people the freshest and most flavorful products possible,” John tells me as we dive into the short but storied history of the company.
One theme immediately stands out to me, though, and I press John for more details. As the years have progressed, many companies within our industry have taken on the health of our planet as a personal mission. Windset Farms counts itself among these champions of the Earth, and it’s apparent how close this mission is to John’s heart.
“Sustainability is of utmost importance, making sure we are doing everything possible to operate sustainably for our planet and future generations. Over time, Windset has become a leader in setting some of the highest standards regarding seed selection, pest control management, post-harvest handling, traceability, packaging, and transportation. We never stop looking for ways to improve for our customers and our planet,” John says.
Included in these industry-setting standards are Windset’s water conservation, energy conservation, and renewable energy initiatives. Its Ultra-Clima Greenhouse® transforms the growing environment from a passive climate to an active one, where growing parameters such as heat, humidity, pressure, and air movement can be controlled. The use of thermal screens increases heat retention at night, meaning less energy is used throughout the day. Its irrigation drain water is collected, filtered, treated, and recirculated back to the plants themselves. To top it off, all of Windset’s facilities have green waste composting programs to ensure that it returns biological material back into the soil, helping lower its overall carbon footprint.
“In any industry, differentiating from our competitors can be a challenge,” John states. “Using state-of-the-art technologies and responsible growing practices while continuously searching for new product varieties and efficient ways to grow has allowed us to excel.”
“Sustainability is of utmost importance, making sure we are doing everything possible to operate sustainably for our planet and future generations.”
-John Newell, Owner & COO, Windset Farms
Standing apart from the pack is no easy feat, but Windset knows how to combine its sustainability initiatives with products that consumers clamor for.
“Snacking varieties have been a growing trend amongst consumers,” he remarks. “These smaller-sized tomatoes are easy to eat and incorporate into meals, and they’re popular with all ages. We use resealable Top Seal packaging, which is designed to merchandise tomato items more efficiently on the shelf and lets consumers snack on the go!”
Not only does Windset have its snacking tomatoes, it recently added Fresco® Baby Cucumbers to its line of products. Packed with the same nutrients, taste, texture, and freshness of a Windset cucumber, these baby cukes are also seedless, making them the ultimate snacking cucumber.
“This is a completely new product offering to consumers who are not used to seeing such small cucumbers on the shelves,” John shares with me. “Unlike mini and long English cucumbers, all you have to do with these are wash and toss into your favorite salad, or pop them right into your mouth!”
This product, fitting in once again with Windset’s impressive sustainability approach, is also packaged in resealable Top Seal packaging which keeps the product fresher longer for consumers. Resealable film makes it an easy grab-and-go item for people to snack on throughout the day.
“Windset believes that packaging innovation is a must to reduce plastics and other materials within our supply chain,” John explains. “We’re able to do this by using recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials.”
Not only is the packaging—like all of Windset’s products—sustainable and Earth-conscious, it’s fun, too. Each Windset item is packaged in a unique bold color with an art- or music-themed name. This eye-catching packaging stands out on the shelves in stores and helps consumers easily recognize the Windset produce they know and love—a win-win for both the buy-side and the supply-side.
As we continue to chat about this newest addition to the Windset family, John remarks on how the Fresco Baby Cucumbers fit into the company’s overall values.
“Fresco Baby Cucumbers are grown to the highest standards regarding quality, taste, sustainability, and shelf life! They are a welcome addition to the family and align perfectly with our line of snackable products, including our cherrry and medley tomatoes, mini peppers, and mini cucumbers!” he proclaims.
John leaves me with a teaser of things to come, purposefully leaving me on tenterhooks. I try to convince him to share, but he remains steadfast. One thing I know for sure is that this innovative greenhouse grower will never be satisfied. There will always be new products to trial, new greenhouses to build, and a planet to save.
While we wait, I’ll be incorporating the lessons I’ve learned from Windset into my own life. Sometimes, all you need is to stop and smell the Earth.