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JemD Farms celebrates groundbreaking at Virginia greenhouse

Consistent growth, the desire to offer its customers an organic line of greenhouse vegetables and the locally grown trend are among the reasons why JemD Farms sought out the perfect place in the United States to construct it's new hydroponic greenhouse facility.

"Construction of the new high-tech Sun Farms' facility was announced March 15 during a press conference by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell," said DiMenna. "We broke ground on July 1, and we expect to be producing in Dublin in summer or fall 2014.

Virginia-SiteJemD Farms broke ground for its Dublin, VA, facility on July 1, and it is expected to start producing in 2014."This project is particularly exciting for JemD Farms and Red Sun Farms," he continued. "Not only is it our first U.S.-based greenhouse operation, but it will also be the location of our first organic crop. We are very pleased with the response from our retail and foodservice partners about our organic line, and with the fact that we will be able to supply the highest-quality locally grown produce to many states in the U.S."

In his speech at the press conference, Gov. McDonnell said that JemD Farms and Red Sun Farms use extremely high-tech equipment to provide a continuous supply of the best greenhouse-grown vegetables.

"After much research, it was determined that Pulaski County is the ideal spot for Red Sun Farms' first U.S. production center," Gov. McDonnell said at the event. "Virginia offers optimal climactic conditions for greenhouse operations, a central location provides convenient access to East Coast markets and a top-notch workforce is ready for this new opportunity. As the first tenant of the New River Valley Commerce Park, Red Sun Farms' significant investment and creation of 205 new jobs is a tremendous win for the Commonwealth and Pulaski County, and represents strategic growth for the New River Valley region."

Carlos Visconti, chief operating officer of JemD Farms, also addressed the group attending the press conference, which included numerous representatives of state agencies, elected officials, economic development groups, universities, private sector service providers and others.

"Thanks to the passion and vision of our ownership group and the support of the state of Virginia, today we are proud to announce the launch of one of the most important projects in our company's history: the construction of our U.S. greenhouse operations," Visconti said.

He also stated that with over 12 years of experience, Red Sun/JemD Farms is one of a few companies in the greenhouse industry with full ownership and vertical integration throughout the entire supply chain.

"In 2012, with over 400 acres in production, JemD Farms supplied more than 180 million pounds of greenhouse vegetables to households and restaurants across North America," Visconti added.

He also noted that for four consecutive years, Red Sun has received the Socially Responsible Company Award presented by the Mexican government to those organizations that exceed the standards of social responsibilities in all interactions with employees and their community.

"Our most recent achievement, announced in early March, was when JemD Farms was named one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada," Visconti added.

All of JemD Farms' operations employ an approach to greenhouse farming that utilizes the latest techniques and cutting-edge technology. Farms like the Virginia project are designed to provide safe, premium-quality vegetables to consumers with virtually no impact to the environment.

"At our farms, we recycle our water and fertilizers, we don't erode soil, our growing mediums and packaging materials are bio-degradable," Visconti explained. "Our Virginia farm is strategically located to minimize food miles by bringing our farms closer to our customer base."

JemD Farms has experienced exponential growth, especially since forming a partnership with a leading Mexican greenhouse grower in 2008.

About three years ago, it launched a new Artisan Series line of specialty and snacking produce. The program met with instant success when it was launched, but then received an extra strong boost when the company jumped to the forefront with its new proprietary basket clamshells.

"The success of the Artisan Series demonstrates the growing consumer demand for enhanced flavor profiles, unique colors, sizes and shapes," said DiMenna. "These are the main drivers of the rapid growth of this line. The level of response has been unprecedented. The new basket clamshell was an added driver for this line."

Besides increasing production in all of its growing regions, and now constructing its first U.S. greenhouse, JemD Farms also had to increase its key staff.

Jim Cathey joined JemD Farms in early July. He served as sales manager at Del Campo Supreme Inc. in Nogales, AZ, since 2001 and in recent years he held the title of general manager. His position at JemD Farms is sourcing manager for Arizona and Texas.

"Jim is a produce veteran," said DiMenna. "He comes to us with a wealth of experience and expertise on the Eastern Seaboard market."

Cathey began his produce career in 1969 as an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, then spent three years as a buyer in Nogales for Topco. From 1975 to 1977, he was sales manager in Coachella for Cy Mouradick & Sons. From 1977 to 1992, he was vice president and managing partner of Robling & Cathey, and in 1992 he founded Produce Kountry, serving as its president until 2001. He also served for a time as president of Veggies R Us in Nogales.

"Our rapid growth, new key staff members and our first U.S. greenhouse facility under construction that will provide our customers with an organic vegetable line, a locally grown outlet and a sustainable abundance of the highest possible quality greenhouse grown vegetables all culminate to make this a tremendously exciting time for JemD and Red Sun Farms," said DiMenna. "We look forward to the future with great anticipation."