Increased demand fueling growth in greenhouse cucumbers

Increased demand fueling growth in greenhouse cucumbers

Bushel Boy Farms, headquartered in Owatonna, MN, with a second facility in Mason City, IA, is an experienced greenhouse tomato operation. However, the maturation of the tomato market has recently led the company to look for ways to diversify its crop mix. Starting this past year, Bushel Boy has expanded into greenhouse cucumbers at its Owatonna facility.

We recently reached out to Chuck Tryon, President of Bushel Boy Farms, to learn more about the changes the company had to make to accommodate cucumbers, the external forces shaping the cucumber market, and where he sees the market headed in the future.

Greenhouse Grower (GG): What made you decide to get into cucumber production, and how much are you producing right now?

Chuck Tryon: For 29 of our 32 years as a company, we only grew a couple varieties of tomatoes. However, over the last two to three years, we started looking at the potential for expansion. We started with increasing our tomato variety offering, then we took a turn and began growing strawberries. Then we started looking at other crops, with a focus on how we could grow within our existing system of high-tech glass greenhouses without making major infrastructure changes. Also, what could we pack for retailers that wouldn’t require a lot of additional changes?

Cucumbers fit the bill: like tomatoes, they are a high-wire crop, and they are relatively straightforward to pick and pack, so we wouldn’t have to make any operations changes. From a commercial perspective, the cucumber market is not as big as the tomato market, but we see it growing at a faster rate. A lot of that growth is coming from long English cucumbers, as well as smaller, mini cucumbers for snacking. Each of these fit very well for greenhouse production, and honestly anything in the snacking category has seen accelerated growth in the past couple years. In September, we started small by planting 1 acre, and by October we were selling the product. Since then, we’ve expanded into a little over 3 acres.

GG: Despite the parallels between tomatoes and cucumbers, I would imagine there was still a learning process. What did that involve?

Tryon: We started by working with seed companies to get their knowledge on the best growing practices to put in place. We also had the good fortune of having a grower on our team who, in a previous life, had experience growing cucumbers in a high-tech greenhouse environment. That gave us the confidence to move quickly because we knew we could minimize the unknowns, or react quickly to them.

Continue reading.

Photo: Bushel Boy Farms is now growing cucumbers on a little more than 3 acres at its Owatonna, MN, facility. Photo Courtesy of Bushel Boy Farms



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