Pure Flavor to share fruits of labor with school children

Even on a cloudy December day, delectable tomatoes and cucumbers ripen on thousands of vines that reach toward the top of a gargantuan glass house that glows at a distance.

Pure Flavor’s greenhouse complex, roughly the size of 20 football fields, is a sight that can’t be missed by passersby on Ga. 96.

It is no ordinary vegetable farm.

Metal pipes with hot water coursing through them help keep the environment warm during winter months. Plants are nourished through computer-controlled drippers that supply them with fertilizer and reclaimed rainwater.

There is no dirt, only coco peat, a growing medium made from recycled coconut husks. Before entry, shoes must be wiped on a wet rubber mat soaked with sanitizer.

Lights, temperature and humidity can be controlled and monitored from an iPad. Bees and ladybugs are welcome inhabitants.

“We use good bugs to take care of the bad bugs to reduce the need for pesticide,” said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Flavor. “Should there be a need for pesticides, it’s very localized to that said plant.”

A driverless machine beeps as it scoots by, toting behind it a cart of black plastic crates to be filled with an assortment of tomatoes and seedless cucumbers.

The fruit, once packaged, is shipped out across North America to stores such as Sam’s Club and food service providers such as Sysco.

The Canada-based company broke ground on its high-tech 25,000 square foot building a little more than a year ago. In November, it broke ground on a 60,000 square foot distribution facility about 10 minutes from the greenhouse.

Next year, Hunt Elementary School students will benefit from the fruits of Pure Flavor’s labor. Literally.

It will be the third school in North America to receive fresh produce at no cost regularly as a part of the company’s year-old “Adopt-A-School” program.

“We believe it all starts with healthy minds. Kids need to have a well-balanced diet,” Veillon said. The program is “part of being a good corporate citizen, being a good member of the community. We have a vested interest in making sure these kids get the best product possible so when they get older they can … include that in their diets.”

The first cucumbers were picked Dec. 5. Even so, the company is inundated with calls from people requesting tours.

“People are asking, ‘Can we come take a look?’ “ Veillon said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to provide an open house at some point in 2019.”

Almost daily, someone stops by to ask for a job application, Veillon said.

The company is looking to hire more than 100 additional employees as it expands and job applications may be submitted on Pure Flavor’s website

Laura Corley covers education news for The Telegraph, where she advocates for government transparency and writes about issues affecting today’s youth. She grew up in Middle Georgia and graduated from Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.