Nova Scotia greenhouses shattered by 'disastrous' winter storms
Avon Valley Floral in Falmouth has lost close to 70 per cent of its plant production capacity
Heavy snow and ice have crushed nearly two hectares of greenhouses at Avon Valley Floral, a Nova Scotia supplier for florists and garden centres.
The Falmouth company has lost approximately 70 per cent of its plant production capacity. The owners have been removing snow and ice from the successive winter storms, but the plastic greenhouses still buckled. About 25 buildings have been damaged.
It'll likely cost more than $1 million to replace the structures.
Cathy Oulton, the head of Greenhouse Nova Scotia, said at least 10 other growers in the province have experienced significant, uninsurable losses.
She called the damage "disastrous" and said the unrelenting sub-zero temperatures prevented businesses from clearing the snow and ice.
At Avon Valley Floral, a storm on Feb. 2 brought eight hours of ice pellets. Since then, no amount of shovelling could prevent a build-up of ice and snow from pushing out the walls and causing the collapse of more than 20 structures.
Greenhouses imploded in the 'blink of an eye'
"We have never seen a storm of the nature we had on Feb. 2 — and then to be followed up with bitter cold and storm after storm after storm," said Kevin White, the co-owner of Avon Valley Floral.
"This stuff that we've had in February is coming down like glue and sticking to everything. It's just an impossibility to keep it clear, it seems."
Avon Valley Floral supplies Maritime florist shops and also grows bedding plants. White said each greenhouse implosion happened in the "blink of an eye."
Insurance companies generally won't insure greenhouse structures but Avon has partial coverage for "interruption to business."
White said the company will begin to rebuild over the summer and fall. Avon Valley Floral will bring in bedding plants from its sister operation in Sussex, N.B., but White acknowledges there will be a "short-term dip" in both production and employment this spring.
Avon Valley employs 40 people full-time and another 40 seasonal workers.
Not the only casualty
Oulton, who owns Blooms in Hammonds Plains, said several businesses are struggling with the same bad hand dealt by the winter weather.
"This is a disaster for our industry, I think," said Oulton. "It's a very unusual circumstance. Nova Scotia doesn't often have this much snow. Often we are bare ground, by now."
Outside Kentville, Ted Hutten of Hutten Family Farms said the sub-zero temperatures are also to blame for delaying spinach and local spring greens that he would normally have available to sell to restaurants and markets by this time of year.
He's lost a greenhouse, too.
Oulton is currently doing a survey to see if growers may be able to apply for some sort of disaster relief. She predicts locally grown bedding plants may be delayed and in limited supply this spring because of the freeze up this winter.
Greenhouse growers are both an optimistic and resilient lot, she said.
"This is a joyful business," Oulton said. "We do this because we love colour, we love flowers and making things lovely."
She admits it isn't an extremely profitable business for a lot of growers.
"Hiring a crew of five people to shovel off a greenhouse is expensive, almost the equivalent of a tank of fuel oil. So it is very costly," Oulton said.