AmericanFarm.com

Red Sun ships Virginia-grown tomatoes despite cold weather settling over state

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent

DUBLIN, Va. (Dec. 2, 2014) — Production is running briskly at the new Red Sun hydroponic tomato facility in Virginia and plans to expand on the horizon.
Jay Abbott, director of operations for Red Sun Farms, said recently the new facility is shipping approximately 200,000 pounds of the tomatoes weekly.
Though the facility began harvesting and shipping tomatoes in September, Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined other state and company officials recently to cut the ribbon opening the international company to the commonwealth. 
The 18-acre greenhouse complex is currently split between 12 acres of conventionally grown hydroponic tomatoes and six acres of certified organic tomatoes, Abbott said.
The hydroponically grown tomatoes now being harvested were planted in the greenhouses at the end of July, he said, and the organic varieties were planted in mid-August.
In the middle of November, about 75 people were employed as Phase I of the project approached completion.
When the state announced plans for the facility, it predicted it will bring 205 new jobs here within five years as more land is converted to greenhouse production.
“We’re hiring a lot of management locally,” Abbott said. “We’re starting to work more and more with Virginia Tech and Pulaski County High School.”
The Red Sun facility is about 25 miles from the Virginia Tech campus and the high school has developed a diverse agriscience and horticulture department.
It has its own greenhouses making it a good partner for horticulture businesses, Abbott said.
Activity at the facility is expected to pick up in coming weeks with the arrival from Mexico of trainers who will be teaching the local force how the company has been growing these tomatoes in their country.
These temporary workers will be housed in a residence Red Sun, a subsidiary of Agricola El Rosal, headquartered in Michoacán, Mexico, has included in the first stage of its construction project.
The local population is becoming more aware of the new industry as they discover the branded tomatoes sold on the vine in area supermarkets.
The tomatoes have stickers identifying them as Red Sun tomatoes grown in the United States.
One grocer in Dublin has gone a step further and created a display stating the tomatoes are “Grown in Dublin.”