By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
The Town of Magrath will soon be home to a large state of the art greenhouse operation that will provide a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables both locally and throughout Southern Alberta.
On the evening of Aug. 11 town council unanimously voted to enter a 50-year lease agreement with Ag Spectra Ltd. that will allow Ag Spectra Ltd. to use the 35 acres of land in the Town’s industrial area east of Inline Ovals to establish their greenhouse operation.
Ag. Spectra Ltd. CEO Lonnie Mesick is in the process of working with architects to get designs and draft work completed. He is hoping to break ground in October. The project is predicted to take $900 thousand and Mesick is in the process of securing investors and grant dollars.
As part of the lease agreement, the Town has agreed to extend 1st Avenue North to the property and improve the road to allow light truck access. The Town is also in the process of extending utilities to the property including: potable water, seasonal irrigation water, power, communication lines and sewer.
The lease will take affect Sept. 1.
Coun. Brian Oliver made the motion, “I’d like to make a motion that the Town enter an agreement with Ag. Spectra Ltd. and that we sign the lease agreement as amended.” When all of town council voted in favour of the decision, Ag Spectra Ltd. representatives in attendance clapped, followed by deputy mayor Brenda Beck and Ag Spectra Ltd. CEO Lonnie Mesick signing the paper work and posing for a commemorative photo.
Mesick first made his presentation about his ideas to council on May 19 and over that time ongoing discussions were had between the two parties, both of which realized the benefits of bringing the project to Magrath.
Mesick told Westwind Weekly News that he chose Magrath to build the first Starfield Centre of greenhouses, and that it will later serve as the central hub when he expands to other southern Alberta communities, because he sees Magrath as a leader that other towns want to follow.
He also noted that the opportunity will help Magrath live up to their vision of being the Garden City.
“Starfield Centre is many centres. This will be Starfield Centre Magrath. This is the first one in the region and then other towns will follow. The Magrath greenhouses will be one of the largest in Canada.”
The total size of the greenhouses will cover about 20 acres, explained Mesick, with each greenhouse about 1.5 acres in size. There will be orchard houses, berry houses and veggie houses amongst others.
“In the beginning we will sell locally and then we are looking to expand and ship produce to other retailers as we grow.”
Ag Spectra Ltd. has agreed to allow the Town to continue its trail system through the property. They also plan to beautify the area with trees and other greenery so people will want to spend time in the area, explained Counc. Beck, who added they want to welcome and include the community.
“The lease has been determined as a 50 year term. There will be benchmarks that they have to meet in order to keep the agreement, every five years there are stringent targets and if they don’t meet them the contract is void.”
Beck went on to share five reasons that she is particularly excited about the project. 1) The greenhouse will be a safe and secure source of vegetables in our community. 2) The operation brings vast economic development opportunities and approximately 60 jobs, 30 of which will be skilled technical jobs. 3) Ag Spectra Ltd. plans to work with the town and a seven member Core Governance Board and use a portion of their revenue to match grants and set aside money for scholarships. 4) The project nicely dovetails with the CTS project the town is working on with Westwind School Division. 5) The project solves the drainage problem on the east portion of town that would’ve been expensive to otherwise mitigate.
“I think it is an interesting indicator of the kind of growth we were hoping to have in town as far as economic development goes. It shows there is a real vibrancy, they saw something in our community that they really liked,” said Beck.
Ag. Spectra Ltd. also plans to sign a lease for the old Home Hardware store in Magrath in the upcoming days. It will serve as a paper office for now and provide a downtown presence.