JemD Farms: Appraising and Supplying Precious Nutrients Year-round

JemD Farms (JemD) is a North American supplier of fresh, quality produce that has carved out a distinctive niche in the growers market. The business – which is headquartered in Leamington, Ontario – is able to provide fresh vegetables to consumers all over the continent year-round by hydroponically growing peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes in its greenhouses. In 2008 JemD combined forces with Agricola El Rosal, an innovative Mexican greenhouse company. This merger has established one of the largest produce distribution businesses in North America, further promoting the utmost in state-of-the-art facilities, service excellence and true greenhouse marketing expertise.

Jim DiMenna founded JemD in 1990 after working in the industry for most of his life. “I started selling radishes and green onions as a 10 year old in the mid-1960s,” says DiMenna, president of JemD. “I went door to door after school and on Saturdays, carting vegetables around in my little red wagon.” As he grew older, he worked his way up the ladder from delivering fertilizer by truck to sales at a cooperative to management, until he was ready to branch out on his own.

DiMenna currently operates two distribution warehouses in Canada and three distribution centers in the U.S., and is partnered with one facility in Mexico. The company uses cutting-edge soilless mediums, computerized controls and advanced environmental control systems to assure the perfect climate and sustenance; this seamless organization generates highly successful harvests of greenhouse cluster tomatoes, cucumbers, and thick-walled red, yellow and orange sweet bell peppers.

JemD employs almost 200 people in Canada alone between its growing, packing and shipping operations, which deliver 15 million cases to market a year. The company’s vertical integration assures environmentally sound growing practices, food safety and traceability and product innovation, keeping the needs of the grower, retailer and consumer in mind.

Supply and Demand

JemD’s 12-month supply of hand-picked, hand-stickered and hand-inspected produce is unparalleled thanks to acreage that is unmatched in the industry. “We have 230 acres of greenhouses in Mexico and 190 acres in southern Ontario,” says DiMenna. The company’s distribution centers bring that fresh produce to retailers all over the continent for sale. The company has been recognized for its quality vegetables numerous times, and has received awards including the highly coveted “Best Overall Tomato in Canada” at the 2012 Greenhouse Competition in Ontario.

JemD produce is sold under the brands Golden Sun Greenhouse Vegetables, representing Canadian-grown produce, and Red Sun Greenhouse Vegetables, representing the company’s Mexican-grown produce. Consumers can choose from a variety of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that make a great addition to salads, chili, sandwiches and more. JemD also offers two adorable varieties of mini eggplants with mild flavors and colorful exteriors. The business has also recently introduced the JemD Artisan Series, a selection of specialty produce items such as heritage, specialty and cherry tomatoes, and DiMenna says his team plans to expand the line soon.

The company is continually growing, and DiMenna says there are multiple new products and expansion projects in development in 2012. Produce and packaging development is done in-house, but reliable local contractors perform construction on the greenhouses. “When it comes to builders, we work with contractors in the area that bid on the project,” explains DiMenna. “We have a couple of ongoing projects that are still confidential. Our new products and operations should be public at the end of 2012.”

Community Involvement

Along with promoting the newest techniques and best practices within his own company, DiMenna works outside of JemD with several organizations geared toward advancing his industry and helping people in his community. He has served on the board for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) since 1995 and in 2011 was named Canadian Produce Person of the Year in 2011. More recently DiMenna was inducted as chairperson at the organization’s annual convention and trade show in spring 2012.

The company president is involved with several other industry organizations, including the Quebec and Ontario Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association. DiMenna also currently serves on the Produce Traceability Initiative Leadership Council. The initiative is sponsored by the CPMA and is designed to help growers and distributors offer transparency to customers and keep more effective and efficient records.

While his primary focus is nourishing consumers through ethically, innovatively produced vegetables, as well as nurturing the economy, DiMenna recognizes the importance of encouraging healthy practices beyond food. Leading by example, DiMenna has established a nonprofit geared toward giving back: The James DiMenna Foundation, which offers financial support to children’s hospitals. In addition, the company’s Mexican partners have been recognized several times for philanthropic work and corporate responsibility. Agricola El Rosal has several policies in place to ensure fairness in hiring and wages, with a minimum percent requirement of employees in a range of disadvantaged demographics.

DiMenna is constantly thinking about the most efficiently, proactive operations for the business. “There’s always something going on,” he laughs. “We’re always concerned about staying competitive. That’s how we make sure we can continue to build our business.” The team at JemD is working hard to maintain the company’s sustainable growth. “We’ve stayed at about 15 to 20 percent every year, and that will continue,” says DiMenna. “We feel strongly that we are the best out there.”

The company is on track for growth in several directions, while never forgoing its commitment to customer satisfaction. JemD Farms is continually looking to implement more efficient technology to address the challenging dynamics of supply and demand and expand into new markets, reinforcing its position as an elite supplier in North America.