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Grand Opening of largest baby leaf greenhouse in U.S.

Cultiva Farms USA holds ribbon cutting ceremony last week at new complex in Jennings. Owners Giancarlo Boscolo, center left, and Federico Boscolo, cutting ribbon. - SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Spinach growing in one of the greenhouse tunnels at Cultiva Farms in Jennings. -SVT Photo Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Approximately 180 guests attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and check presentation held last Saturday at what Hamilton County Development Authority (HCDA) Executive Director Susan Ramsey says is the largest baby leaf greenhouse complex in the U.S. Cultiva Farms USA, located in Jennings, Florida, has approximately 800 greenhouse tunnels for growing spinach and other salad greens at the 460 acre farm. Plans to add another 80 tunnels for testing organic production are also in the works. If that is successful, they intend to increase the organic production to around 600 more tunnels. The aerial shot is impressive, showing the massive layout that began only two years ago.

Cultiva is an Italian family owned company that first came to the states in 1993. Although, according to President of Cultiva USA Federico Boscolo, they first stopped in Tifton, Georgia, but wound up in California. They partnered with the leading American producer of fresh cut greens, Taylor Farms. Cultiva owners Giancarlo Boscolo along with his son, Federico Boscolo now want to test their Italian growing techniques on the east coast as well, and Hamilton County is proud to have them.

With their commitment to hire more than 30 employees fulfilled and the completion of an onsite cold storage facility, the Hamilton County Development Authority presented Cultiva Farms with a check for $150,000 at the ceremony.

Peter Antonacci, State of Florida Secretary of Commerce, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, spoke on behalf of Governor Scott to welcome this industry to Hamilton County. He said when he first took this position there was a lot of talk about rural areas being overlooked in the economic development world and that it is a fair argument and fair criticism.

“We are rapidly crashing in on 21 million people (Florida population),” Antonacci stated. “...but what Cultiva brings is a place that is compatible and fits in nicely for this area.” Antonacci thanked Cultiva for coming to Hamilton County and commented on how good the traffic was and how friendly the people are.

Ramsey emceed the event and recognized the many Hamilton County officials and HCDA people that attended the ceremony. She spoke about how easy Cultiva was to work with and how impressed she was with their commitment to this project. With the cold storage building in place and working, she said they are now able to pick the produce and ship it out the same day.

The first female county commissioner in the history of Hamilton County, Commission Chair Beth Burnam spoke along with other county officials, thanking the Boscolos for coming to Hamilton County. Burnam noticed on their billboard it said “We make salad sexy” and stated that appealed to her and from now on every time she eats a salad she will remember Cultiva.

Federico Boscolo spoke to the attendees and said they wanted to start something new on the east coast in order to rely less on production that is done traditionally on the west coast. In particular greens, lettuces, spinach etc. so they decided/agreed their italian production methods, which is producing baby green leaves under plastic, was a method that would work perfectly on the east coast since the weather is not as accommodating as the west coast.

“Here we have heavy rains and snow, tornadoes and hurricanes, unlike California and Arizona. This (tunnel greenhouse method) is one of the most feasible ways to do baby leaf on the east coast for the fresh cut process,” Boscolo said. He added they set up a few tunnels where they tested everything, the climate, the soil and learned about Florida regulations. In the beginning they set up 15 tunnels that were all lost in storms the first year. They persevered and found they had to build them with greater wind loads in order to survive the heavy Florida storms.

He stated that a foreign business coming from another country is not easy because of new regulations, a different language and a different culture. “...but at the end of the day you summarize. We dealt with people that really helped us from the authorities to the vendors. So we are here and very committed to this project. This is our first investment on the east coast (10 million dollars) and especially this area. We are looking (forward to bringing) more of our way of doing agriculture, which is a sustainable way, a novelty way. We really care about the land we work; without the land we cannot have a business.”

Representatives from Taylor Farms were at the ceremony and stated that being able to farm in a protected environment will enable them to take spinach from a four month crop in Florida to a six month crop.

“That is huge and a big step in agriculture.” They said they are all excited and looking forward to seeing what this looks like in ten years.

Subway is one of their vendors and was there a few weeks ago filming their spinach for a commercial. Ramsey said when you order a sandwich at Subway the spinach comes from Cultiva.

Giancarlo Boscolo, CEO of Cultiva Global, told the Suwannee Valley Times they intend to build a huge office building within the next few months. The office is going to have a third floor platform where they will be able to take customers and guests to see the whole farm from there.

Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and refreshments catered by Covington’s Dining & Catering under tents and other amenities provided by Suwannee Valley Event & Party Rentals.

Hamilton County Development Authority presents check to Cultiva Farms owners Giancarlo and son, Federico Boscolo. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Pictured L-R: Jasper residents from the historical society Margaret Lewis and Hazel Royals, White Springs resident Karyn Davis and HCDA Vice President Mary Lou Bullard attended the Grand Opening. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Cultiva Farms USA President Federico Boscolo speaking at grand opening last Saturday. -SVT Photo Tami Stevenson

It is estimated that over 180 guests attended the ceremony at Cultiva, including Hamilton County and state officials. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

This aerial shot shows the huge scope of the operation with 800 greenhouse tunnels and plans to add 600 more for organic purposes. -HCDA Courtesy Photo

Hamilton County Development Authority presents check to Cultiva Farms owners Giancarlo and son, Federico Boscolo. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson