We recently chatted with Eric Doef, one of the owners of Doef's Greenhouses, to give us a bit of a glimpse into their business. Here's how it went:
RCM: Thanks, Eric, for chatting with us! We know a bit about the greenhouses' history: that your Mom and Dad started it 45 years ago, that you and your brother (Paul) and your brother-in-law (Phil) became co-owners, that you have 11 acres of greenhouses on the east side of Gull Lake, AB, and that you are currently in the process of adding 13 more acres to your operation. Tell us about some of the ways the greenhouse is on the leading edge of energy efficiency in Alberta agriculture.
Eric: Within the past 10 years we have partnered with a local gas company to utilize gas from local wells in the area which gets consumed at our own generator plant to make electricity. We use the waste heat and CO2 from the engine exhaust in the greenhouse! We are independent from the gas grid and power grid! We also catch all the precipitation throughout the year on the greenhouse roofs, collect it in a large pond and use it (filtered, of course) to water all our plants. There is virtually no water wasted as we grow our crops.
RCM: With growing lights installed in your greenhouse, you are able to grow your vegetable crops all year round. Growing vegetables in the middle of an Alberta winter must be challenging. What are some of those challenges and what are some great benefits?
Eric: Winter growing is challenging with the cold weather and not well insulated greenhouse structures. Our energy costs are very high and we have to raise our prices accordingly. That being said, it is rewarding with a more controllable climate (less venting allows for better humidity/CO2 and also less insect pressure from outside), and the reward of growing local, Alberta-grown food for our local consumers. No more need to buy peppers from out-of-province or out-of-country any more!
RCM: Of all the vegetables that you grow, what is your favourite?
Eric: Eggplant is my favourite because of the dark, rich, shiny purple colour!
RCM: Thanks for your time and thanks for your support of the Rosebud Country Market! Good luck with your new greenhouse expansion.
Eric: You're welcome.