It looks and smells a lot like Christmas

BLACKFALDS, Alta. — The extended fall was welcome, but winter weather propels people into the Christmas mode, said Faye Naylor of the Central Alberta Greenhouses Ltd.

The sales consultant at the Blackfalds, Alta., facility called it a double-edged sword.

“We all want winter to stay away but the cold and snow gets people thinking about Christmas,” she said.

This season, the 84-year-old wholesale greenhouse business shipped 55,000 poinsettias to locations across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and British Columbia.

Owners Rosalie and Kevin Wesenberg, whose greenhouses sit on a 7.5 acre property near Blackfalds, Alta., say the business constantly evolves to market demands.

“We want our customers to see the value in working with us,” said Kevin. “We work to meet their needs and help them to be successful.”

The couple is facing challenges in their competitive industry, including price pressure from over production, increasing labour costs and the low Canadian dollar.

The rewards for their efforts have included the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association’s grower of the year and best ornamental for 2015.

Their year round staff tops 35 and climbs to 90 in the spring.

For the past two years, that has included about two dozen workers from Barbados employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

“We hire from Barbados mainly because they speak English,” said Kevin.

No language barrier significantly eases the work safety situation, he said, citing difficulties in attracting Canadian workers for seasonal jobs.

Walter Good, Rosalie’s grandfather, started the business by producing mainly tomato plants in 1931 at Rocky Mountain House.

He and his wife, Myrtle, saw an opportunity, taught themselves flower arranging, then shifted their business primarily to florals and relocated to Red Deer in 1949.

Rosalie’s father, Harold, joined the enterprise in 1955 and he and his wife, Gladys, eventually took the reins. Industry growth resulted in them opening seven flower shops around central Alberta.

Demand for bedding plants and seasonal florals swelled. The construction at the Blackfalds site began in the early 1960s and the entire business relocated there in 1977.

Kevin was hired as a grower in 1991, the same year he and Rosalie married. She came into the business in 2004 when the couple took over from her parents. Both couples continue to live on the property.

Rosalie would like her son, Tyrell, to join the business one day. At 19, he is currently studying business at Red Deer College and works summers at the greenhouse.

“ We don’t push it. It’s up to him.”

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