The den Haan family has been producing fresh, greenhouse-grown produce for Atlantic Canada families ever since Dutch immigrant Jac den Haan founded den Haan’s Greenhouses in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in 1963. Three generations in and Jac’s grandson Luke now operates the family business with his wife, Jodi, his brother, Josh, and 50 hardworking employees, providing the region with fresh, local tomatoes and cucumbers.
It’s a job Luke takes seriously, and he’s proud of the part he plays in building Nova Scotia’s rural economy. “The dollars stay here; I pay provincial taxes; the workers shop in the province,” Luke says. “And the quality is better; it’s fresher. What I pick today is in the warehouse by tomorrow.”
With the help of a loan from the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board, den Haan’s Greenhouses is installing innovative LED lighting that will allow them to produce their tomatoes and cucumbers year-round. They expect the technology to increase their total yield 25 to 30 per cent, allowing them to meet market demand for fresh, local produce, even in the winter, all while reducing their overall carbon footprint.
Luke says the LED lighting is state of the art and will transform his business. “Right now I’m in the middle of building capacity and when you have capacity, all the rest falls into place,” he says. As well as providing him with year-round cash flow – something every farmer can appreciate – the investment will also raise the bar on the quality of their products.
“When people are in the grocery store, they want to see amazing tomatoes that are a nice red, large and with no marks,” he explains. “This LED lighting will give me amazing colour and taste for a beautiful shopping appearance. Cucumbers will be longer and greener. The quality of the product is going to go up 100 per cent.” Consistency is also important in the greenhouse business. “Nothing is worse than not being able to meet orders,” says Luke.
With den Haan’s Greenhouses in the process of building capacity, it’s important for them to work with organizations that understand agriculture and the unique challenges and situations farmers can experience that are often beyond their control and require flexibility. The Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board gets it.
“The Farm Loan Board understands my business and gives me what I need to meet my demand; they understand my message, what I’m trying to say and my story,” says Luke. “The Farm Loan Board believes in me and has made it possible for me to be where I am today.
“It’s a matter of staying relevant and this will keep me relevant; I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Farm Loan Board,” he adds. “I look forward to dealing with them another 25 years.”