If the world is but a stage, then John and Steve Newell are the guys that graciously accept the applause and then pull back the curtain for a roaring encore. Like a good portion of the industry, John and Steve have farming in their veins: raised on a family operation that instilled soil and growth into their very core. But, there is also a particular quality to the frontmen of Windset Farms that has spawned the launch from their local roots to the international notoriety they’re known for today: a pervasive charge for constant evolution.
As I sit with the renowned brotherly duo to discuss just how Windset Farms is able to crank out hit after hit to its wide-ranging portfolio, it’s easy to see how this team ended up as forerunners in the greenhouse sector. The two have managed to harness a unique fusion of that historic farmer’s drive with ambition and the leading-edge practices of tomorrow.
But, just like every success story, it wasn’t always easy, it wasn’t always glamorous, and it’s nowhere near over.
“There’s a lot of work and trust that goes into staying at the top of our game,” John, Chief Operating Officer, tells me. “But at the base of it is a passion for our industry that we keep stoked by seeking continual innovation in every aspect of our business.”
This creative mindset is behind each new variety unleashed from the Windset Farms label. As Steve, Chief Executive Officer, assures me, this drive is also rolled out rhythmically to all other facets of the business as well. From staff and branding, to technology and investments, it’s the same crescendo building towards betterment that has become synonymous with the names John and Steve Newell–and that of Windset Farms.
“Our passion for it all really began with our parents,” Steve says. “Our path was forged by our mother and father, Sylvia and John Sr., who decided in 1980 to transition from simply hobby farming and haying their fields, to starting a commercial farming operation on their property in Abbotsford, British Columbia. This commitment and growth allowed my brother and me the privilege of growing up in a farming environment that led to Windset Farms as it is today.”
This taste for farming eventually led the brothers to form the greenhouse side of the business on the very soil their parents had sown their own groundwork. Since the brothers’ first plans, laid out over 21 years ago, the company has grown into an ensemble that has crossed province lines and country borders as Steve and John pursue their dream of feeding the world.
Part of what drives the tempo of Windset’s executive team are the possibilities that new categories present to the greenhouse challenge. Since its beginning, the company has pursued adding new notes of fresh fruits and vegetables to its production; such as Soprano® Strawberries, Delicato® Butter Lettuce, Symphony® Lettuce Ensemble, Adagio® Eggplant, and Vivo® Belgian Endives.
“We know that Windset has the values, depth, and focus to remain a formidable competitor in our agricultural sector,” John shares easily. “Differentiating amongst our competitors is always going to be a challenge, as it is in any industry, but we maintain our own signature presence by always searching out more efficient ways to grow and introduce new varieties to the market.”
“We work closely with seed companies from all over the world to find the newest varieties, vigorously testing and trialing them at our facilities to see where they will perform the best.”
Over the years, John and Steve intertwined their goals with experience gained from time spent at other greenhouses in order to identify a gap in branding styles within the current market. When Windset Farms finally took form, the brothers let this recognition lead their own brand into a vibrant new notoriety to engage eaters–symbolized through the dulcet use of art and music-themed labels.
“Using names with a notable theme, along with our branded colors, makes Windset a truly sought-after brand on the shelf,” John says. “From the beginning, we’ve always strived to have a clean, fresh look within our branding that extends from old favorites, to new categories and SKUs.”
Windset Farms now sits at four greenhouse locations in Canada and the U.S., shipping its fan favorite greenhouse-grown cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and specialty produce across the globe. Threaded deep into each winning produce item is that same want for differentiating evolution.
“We enjoy looking at all fruits and vegetables and finding ways to grow and harvest them in a sustainable greenhouse,” Steve adds. “We work closely with seed companies from all over the world to find the newest varieties, vigorously testing and trialing them at our facilities to see where they will perform the best.”
A new product is only added to the overall composition of the Windset lineup after the team can be sure it represents the ideals that Windset holds dear to its core: great taste, long shelf-life, and consistency of supply.
A near-constant process within the company, these rigorous, preparatory acts are actualized by the entire Windset troupe. Both John and Steve emphasize that the established trust between Windset’s members has enabled the company to explore new genres and areas of business, further reinforcing a company culture that Windset not only prides itself on, but marks as integral to success.
“We have to ensure that we do everything we can to employ sustainable practices into our operations, and ensure that our planet is protected for generations to come.”
With such backup behind each new endeavor, John as the marketing and sales innovator, and Steve as the originator of new business, are able to test and expand the limits of the company. So, with its brand having secured such a solid foothold in the produce spotlight, what’s next for the lively progression of Windset Farms?
There are new horizons to be conquered with technology, the duo assures me. Making another bid for modernization, John and Steve have set their sights on a specific model: using technology to find a harmony between company expression, consumer trends, and sustainability.
“As a society, we’ve become more aware of the limits to our planet. As farmers, it’s important that we have a positive impact on the environment, as well as the communities we live in,” Steve says. “We have to ensure that we do everything we can to employ sustainable practices into our operations and ensure that our planet is protected for generations to come.”
The company’s latest accomplishments have seen a host of new technological headliners added to its recipe for success, including a 1.2 megawatt photovoltaic rooftop solar system at its California facility where sunrays power up to 25 percent of the company’s needs. The proverbial rock star of the company’s sustainable efforts is a large-scale water initiative–beneficial not only for Windset’s own operations, but uplifting the performance and prosperity of its surrounding community as well.
“At our Santa Maria facility, we capture all greenhouse irrigation drain water to recirculate it for maximum efficiency. Not only does this boost our own operations, but our nitrate-free drain water also contributes to the regional watershed improvement to invigorate the land around us,” John reveals.
The company uses top-of-the-line high-tech processes in order to treat the drain water before contributing it to crops adjacent to Windset’s own facility, allowing the region’s aquifers to recharge. A collaboration with a state authority, the Regional Quality Control Board, has also found that the company is now contributing to the very scientific movements that have sustained part of its success.
“We’ve installed several stream-gauging stations on several small bodies of water that flow from the Santa Maria watershed and into the Pacific Ocean,” Steve tells me. “The data collected from this process provides the Water Board with regional water quality conditions, giving them vital regional information.”
These acts of tech-driven vitality trickle down into each new product tested, guaranteeing that each added item becomes finely-tuned to dynamic consumer demands and trends. As health-minded consumers continue to fill up the buyside arena, Windset is matching this chorus of shoppers, beat for beat, with the introduction of a brand new undertaking in the company’s catalog: organic produce lines.
“Trends are always changing, but one thing is for sure–people are focusing on clean, and we want to help them be excited about what’s on their plates,” John smiles. “This falls hand in hand with being able to market something new. We love the game of being able to come up with an idea, grow, package, and trial it, and then letting consumers enjoy it.”
“We love the game of being able to come up with an idea, grow, package, and trial it, and then letting consumers enjoy it.”
It’s this recognition of what the company’s like-minded fans and partners crave, coupled with works of produce featuring Windset’s own twist of ingenuity and wellness, that helps John and Steve retain their hold near the top of the greenhouse charts.
Trusting their talent and drive to carry them through to the next wave of smashing success, John and Steve remain focused on cultivating new innovations to distinguish the Windset brand amongst produce legends.
Orchestrating the mid-range between technology, variety, research, and creativity is all just part of the gig–they assure me–and one that pulses from the heart of the company.
So, is Windset Farms’ final bow in the works? Hardly.