Jeannie and Jerry Windels own and operate Skyline Greenhouse in Lavoy, Alberta.
Back in 2002, they were living in BC where Jerry was managing a greenhouse but wasn’t satisfied with the job because of the way the greenhouse was using conventional chemicals. Jerry enjoyed greenhouse work and felt fulfilled when growing good quality food, so they began looking for properties where they could start their own greenhouse business.. They settled on a place at Lavoy (halfway between Edmonton and Lloydminster) which gave them easy access to more urban markets but still allowed them to raise their family in the country.
They moved greenhouse structures onto the property and began their business from scratch in May of 2003. In autumn of their first season, their greenhouses were hit with a massive outbreak of aphids. These particularly difficult species of aphids didn’t need to mate to reproduce which made them incredibly difficult to manage. The problem was so huge, that many greenhouse experts told them pesticides were the only option to get it under control but they’d already established a reputation for being a spray-free greenhouse and didn’t want to compromise. They chose not to spray and took their losses on that crop. After a second season with bad aphid and disease problems which came from the plant propagation house, they decided to start their own plants from seed from then on.
They like to start their crops from seed, rather than bringing in seedlings, because then they know everything their plants have been exposed to. They begin a new crop with their own seedlings in January which has them harvesting cucumbers beginning in March with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other crops following later in the spring. They close in November, clean out the greenhouses thoroughly (all plants, growing media, floor poly) to minimize the disease and pest transfer to the next season. They take just as much care with their crops when they’re growing. Jerry mixes all of their own nutrients and monitors the plant feed several times a day to ensure the plants are getting balanced nutrition and water.
In their 1/2 acre greenhouse they grow 7 different varieties of tomatoes, 2 varieties of cucumbers, 5 colours of peppers and various other crops like eggplant, beans or zucchini. Rather than pushing plants simply to produce, they seek a balance between production and flavour. They want to grow a product that customers enjoy and that makes people want to eat healthy food because its delicious. For example, they leave their tomatoes on the plants until they’re fully, truly ripe which gives them great flavour and shelf life. They’re picking for quality and flavour, not transportation hardiness so what they bring to market is fresh and tasty.
Since their very first crop, Skyline has been committed to growing food without the use of harmful sprays. Instead, when they encounter a problem in their plants, they use biological pest control. Simply put, they bring in good bugs to fight bad bugs. However, not all good bugs fight all bad bugs so depending on what the pest is, they bring in specified good bugs to target the problem. For example, ladybugs and tiny wasps are often used to control aphids and good mites for spider mite outbreaks.
You can find Skyline products at South Common Farmers’ Market, Vermillion Farmers’ Market, Baseline Farmers’ Market, Lloydminster Farmers’ Market, Fort Saskatchewan Farmers’ Market, Bountiful Farmers’ Market on Fridays and Sundays and in their newly opened storefront in Vegreville.
Did you know?
Skyline Greenhouse uses bumblebee pollination.
Products at Market
- Other greenhouse grown veggies