Chris Cervini, owner and CEO of Lakeside Produce, said the first $23-million, 50-job phase of the project is set to start harvesting tomatoes in the fall of 2019. The next two phases, also bringing $23 million in investment and 50 jobs each, are scheduled to be brought online in the next six to eight years.
Lakeside has sold its produce in North Carolina for years, but with this move, that produce will become local. The greenhouse facility is set to grow both organic and conventional tomatoes and other vegetables on 116 acres off Ladson Road, just outside the town limits of Mills River.
Today, Lakeside has conventional and organic greenhouses, warehouses, pack houses, and distribution centers spanning across North America including in Leamington, Ontario, Taylor, Michigan, and McAllen, Texas.
The first cycle will be conventional and organic tomatoes that will end up on local store shelves, Cervini said, with a schedule to start harvesting in the first few weeks of November 2019 through August, a schedule that will be repeated year in and year out.
Cervini also said that in Ontario, for each ag job created there are six related “spin-off” jobs, whether those are jobs in truck driving or facilities management. He estimated a similar impact in Henderson County.
Commissioners Bill Lapsley and Tommy Thompson, speaking at the announcement, expressed excitement for the new project and anxiuosness to see it up and running.Lapsley called it a good return on investment of county tax dollars to AgHC, a private-public partnership that commissioners are very pleased to see producing results that grow the agricultural segment of the county’s economy. Thompson said projects like this one make Henderson County a better place to live, what commissioners always are striving to do. Noting the jobs coming and impacts cited by Cervini, he said that in the next 10 years, hundreds of people in the area would be affected by this new industry.
Meeting Cervini and his team at lunch, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler said it’s exciting to have a company like this moving in, showing how rich the economic climate is. He said his office will be there for support, from agronomists and testing to helping with the state’s regulatory framework.
“This is something we can all be proud of,” Mark Williams, AgHC Executive Director said, describing it as “fully a team effort” between municipalities like Hendersonville and Mills River, as well as the county. It comes down to relationships, he said, remarking on the amazing connections within the industry and the incredible network that exists there.
Cervini, himself a fourth-generation farmer, said the county has a strong strategy in place to support agriculture, tourism, retirement and more.He said the company has been working on projects in other parts of the country, and even in the town he was born and raised in it can take weeks to get an email response or a call back.That wasn’t the case in Henderson County, he said, where “you make the rubber hit the road. So what you’re doing, you’re all very committed to it, and I can’t thank you enough.”