Greenhouse overwhelmed with support after taking to social media – their story highlights a growing problem

By: Greg Staley

What started as a social media post detailing the realities facing the Platinum Produce Greenhouse located in southern Ontario at 21037 Communication Road between Chatham and Blenheim turned into overwhelming support from the local community and residents from across Ontario.

Bonnie Verbeek is the wife of Tim Verbeek, the Vice-President of Platinum Produce. She told Diverge Media about the perfect storm that has taken place as a result of the fallout from the consequences of our Governments actions during the pandemic. She also pointed out other issues facing the greenhouse industry like produce being brought in from out of country.

Mrs. Verbeek told Diverge Media that “It’s become this perfect storm because as a grower in the greenhouse industry right now we’re already struggling with let’s be honest – the fallout of the pandemic. A huge amount of our market clientele are restaurants. And the example that I use is when you go to a restaurant and you’re ordering a dinner a lot of times you’ll order a side salad while you’re sitting down to eat but if you’re ordering takeout your not going to order that side salad.”

Mrs. Verbeek continued:

“The demand for certain types of things especially restaurants are afraid to buy a lot of fresh produce. Is it going to spoil? Especially the change in regulations – so we’ve seen a massive fallout from it. And then of course the issue with having produce come in from out of the country and I can tell you it’s super super frustrating because we’re the ones that support our community, we’re the ones that pay the taxes, we’re the ones that pay all these astronomical costs and we’re really proud to be a local Ontario, Canadian company because we’re held to some of the highest food standards in the entire world. So items coming from other areas they don’t have to abide by those standards so that is super frustrating.”

“The demand for certain types of things especially restaurants are afraid to buy a lot of fresh produce. Is it going to spoil? Especially the change in regulations – so we’ve seen a massive fallout from it. And then of course the issue with having produce come in from out of the country”

Bonnie Verbeek of Platinum Produce

She went on to say that she knew there was a lot of pride in buy local and if there’s any time people should be buying local it’s now. She put up a post that said they would be selling $5 flats of tomatoes to try to recoup some of the costs associated with growing them. The post said “rather than throwing it into the garbage, we would like to pass an incredible deal onto you. Only $5 per flat!!!” The social media post said that selling the flats at $5 would “cover some of the costs associated with growing them but by no means make any form of profit.”

Mrs. Verbeek told Diverge Media that when she started all of this she was “hoping to maybe sell one skid” of tomatoes – one skid is 80 flats of tomatoes. Each flat is 15 pounds. She said this thing “has taken off like crazy” and that they had originally had 15 skids of tomatoes set aside that were destined for disposal because they had nowhere to go.

On the first day after Platinum Produce had made their post public, they had sold 6 skids of tomatoes. Platinum Produce took to social media again to thank everyone for their support. They pointed out that one man had travelled a long way from London (1hr roughly) to purchase 22 flats of tomatoes.

In an update posted by Platinum Produce later in the day after our interview – the greenhouse said that they were running low on their $5 flats but they would continue offering their flats for just $10 after the $5 flats were gone.

Platinum Produce posted today that they are officially “sold out” of the initial skids of tomatoes they had available. They said they were so compelled by the droves of people who arrived to show their support that they had sold additional skids at the $5 price as well!

They posted on social media that they are “overwhelmed at the amount of support” they received not only from their local community – but communities across Southern Ontario. They noted that many people were donating the tomatoes and that the “joy in people’s voices for being a part of something so special” was something they had never experienced before in their life.

Initially sold out

Platinum Produce said that although they had sold out of the initial skids of tomatoes “sadly it looks like we may have many more that will be available in the coming days.” As the Covid restrictions continue to hamper restaurants’ ability to serve food to diners and provide uncertainty in the restaurant industry – the greenhouse industry suffers alongside the restaurants.

Most restaurants are designed to be profitable by providing indoor dining. Some were able to accommodate losses in sales through patio dining – but all of these avenues for profitable business have been taken away from restauranteurs in Ontario by Premier Ford. We must think of things in the long-term and not only the short-term as so often is the case in the Covid era. We must remember that public health includes many other factors and not just Covid.

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Published by Greg Staley

Greg Staley is a husband and a father to 4 beautiful girls. He is the owner of Diverge Media and takes pride in telling the stories that matter - even if they may be unpopular. In addition to writing, editing, and producing videos and articles for Diverge, Mr. Staley also works full-time on a farm. Mr. Staley is working hard to be able to pursue Diverge Media full-time and wholeheartedly believes that it will become a reality in the near-future with the support of the readers/viewers of Diverge Media.