British Columbia

International salad grower coming to North Okanagan creating 150 jobs

A Quebec-based lettuce producer with farms in Canada and the U.S. has purchased a property in Coldstream, B.C., as part of a $60 million investment.

Vegpro International Inc. purchases 700 acres of land in Coldstream, B.C., in $60M investment

Vegpro International plans to harvest and package lettuce at a new facility in Coldstream, B.C., starting in 2018. (Vegpro International)

A Quebec-based international produce company has purchased land in the North Okanagan and is expected to provide more than 150 jobs.

Vegpro International, a company that produces ready-to-eat salads with farms in Quebec and Florida, has announced a $60 million investment in Coldstream, B.C.

"It's been part of the company's vision to expand the business out west," said Jonathan Blais, the company's western region director of corporate development and administration.

He said the company is buying 700 acres of Coldstream Ranch and plans to build a 70,000-square-foot packing facility.

Lettuce greens will be grown and packaged on site for distribution across Canada.

Year-round facility, local jobs

"Over the last couple of years, the company has tried to grow organic lettuce in Eastern Canada and failed to do so, mostly because of the weather being too wet," said Blais.

"Coldstream and the Okanagan in general is ... a very dry climate which is very conducive for growing organic."

Vegpro International plans to open a 70,000-square-foot packing facility, creating more than 150 jobs. (Vegpro International)

He said while the growing season will be between April and October, the facility will be year-round with produce sourced from other farms during winter months.

The company expects there will be up to 50 farming jobs and 150 packaging jobs created in the first year.

"We're a family farm, and, at all of our properties, we try to hire local as much as possible," said Blais.

Work begins in early 2018

Keith Balcaen, the owner of Coldstream Ranch, had not listed the property as being for sale but liked the concept.

"I like the idea of growing our produce out west instead of drawing it from the east or south," said Balcean.

"Vernon is a great place and Coldstream is a great place to live and to add 150 full time jobs to the community, I think, is fabulous."

A 3D rendering of the facility proposed for Coldstream, B.C. (Vegpro International)

Balcaen said the Vegpro purchase is only a portion of his 8,000 acre property, but "it is probably some of our higher yielding, because it's south facing."

The company plans to begin construction on the property in January and be fully operational by July 2018.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.