Monday November 24, 2014

Planting seeds for a new business venture

Photo by Vivian Nemish

Donn and Nicole Pool have embarked on a new and exciting business venture on their home quarter 16 kilometres northwest of Blaine Lake.

Bean’s Greens Greenhouse and Market Garden will be opening its doors for the first time this spring.

Nicole’s passion for plants and gardening was nurtured from an early age and she brought it forward into her marriage to Donn. In her spare time, she worked from a small wooden and glass greenhouse located behind their house to nurture plants for her garden and flower beds. Her yard is a testament for her green thumb.

As the years passed, Nicole realized that being a dedicated mother of twin boys, a wife to a grain producer and employed off farm was challenging. The idea to be at home for her family was enticing and the passion and desire grew with the idea of establishing a full size, commercial greenhouse. With this business venture she would be content fulfilling her family obligations while developing a family owned and operated business, after all, the demands of a flourishing greenhouse is similar to the demands of raising children. They both require daily attention.

“Donn has been such a wonderful support from the beginning,” commented Nicole growing emotional. “I could not have done this without him and the help of the boys.”

There were many aspects to consider before sowing the first seed or purchasing the materials to build the greenhouse. However with the idea planted, thorough research complete and supplies ordered, the greenhouse began to take shape in the fall of 2011.

The site for the greenhouse was strategically chosen with its location close to the main electrical and heating sources and its easy access and high visibility from Highway 12. Site preparation was vital in ensuring the success of the installation. One hundred and fifty yards of fill was delivered, packed and levelled before the galvanized metal supports and arching ribs were installed. Once the 30 by 60 foot free standing greenhouse frame was built, two layers of polyethylene was applied. The Pools have found, in their research, double layers of polyethylene reduce heating demand and costs. The two layers are kept air-inflated using a blower mounted to the inside plastic layer.

“The trick is keeping the layers inflated at all times,” commented Donn explaining how hoar frost created a glitch for them this winter.

The floor of the greenhouse is covered in a greenhouse weed mat that will help control weeds and provides a porous medium through which water can drain. The barrier also prevents potential insect, disease and weed problems as well as eliminates the presence of a muddy surface.

A large 1,250 gallon poly tank complete with a pressure pump and fertilizer injection system will be installed in the back corner of the facility. This will ensure the water is always readily available and at the correct temperature for watering. A hand irrigation system consisting of a hose and wand will be the initial method of watering the crop of plants in this greenhouse operation. A fertilizer injector is a mechanical device that introduces water soluble fertilizer into the water system for delivery to the plants.

Fans have been installed to aid in circulating the air within the greenhouse. The 60 foot sides, up to four feet from the ground, can be raised and lowered to allow heat to be vented from the interior of the greenhouse and increase air circulation.

During the winter months, Nicole attended a Saskatchewan Greenhouse Growers Association conference and attended and completed a workshop for CanadaGAP (Good Agricultural Practices) On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS). Participants in the program learn national food safety standards and a certification system for safe production, storage and packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nicole stressed the benefits of being a member of the Saskatchewan Greenhouse Growers Association. The opportunity to network with many experienced greenhouse operators and share ideas and information based on their experiences, is an invaluable asset within the industry, she said.

Both Donn and Nicole are aware the weather can be a major risk when operating a greenhouse. Power outages can disrupt the power supply placing the plants at risk especially at the tender stages, but the Pools are proactive and are prepared with a generator on standby.

Although the Pools are still in the initial phases of preparing for the opening of Bean’s Greens, Nicole agrees there is something about the feeling one experiences when stepping into the quiet warm atmosphere of the greenhouse in the middle of a busy winter day — troubles seem to melt away.

The Pools have taken into consideration the many factors involved in owning and operating a commercial greenhouse. Nicole’s well-thought-out-plan to offer both bedding and vegetables plants will contribute to her success. Many plants are at the initial two-leaf stage while some tomato plants are progressing at an even pace and some seedlings are just emerging from the soil. Currently the plants are under lights in the family’s basement while the finishing touches on the greenhouse are completed.

The Pools, having experienced grain farming, are well aware of the time commitment involved with operating their new business. They are dedicated to getting the job done and working cohesively as a family unit to ensure the success of their business. As a family, they understand that the future of operating a greenhouse holds many joys, triumphs, challenges and hardships but Nicole’s determination combined with the undying support of her husband and sons, is excited about meeting the responsibilities and creating opportunities for their business. Although the stress levels may run high at times, there continues to be an abundance of smiles and laughter to share.

The Pool farm is also a local attraction for vintage vehicle enthusiasts. While the plant enthusiasts visit the greenhouse, their significant others are welcome to browse through the 100 antique restorable trucks dating from the late 1940s to 1950s. Donn has been active in the collection and sales of these vintage gems for years and continues to develop a market to recycle them. Donn has developed a network of professionals and individuals who take pride in transforming old, run down, rusty and often neglected vehicles into shiny, road worthy collectibles.

Bean’s Greens will open for business May 1 at 9 a.m. and continue to provide retail hours throughout the summer. Nicole plans to have a line of fresh vegetables available in her market garden section of the business. She anticipates to have some vegetables ready in conjunction with her opening in spring. A telephone line will be installed in the greenhouse in the near future and the number will be 497-BEAN (2326) but for now more information can be obtained by emailing Nicole at



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