Leeds Grenville
Economic Development eNews | December 8, 2015

Top feature photo: Leela Ramachandran, centre, and Brad Wright accept the Premier's Award from Sophie Kiwala, MPP of Kingston and the Islands.

Despite it being late November, Leela weeds a greenhouse plot of rainbow Swiss Chard. 

Photos above: The couple with their 3-year-old son Hayden; a view of the greenhouses from outside last winter; and Brad stoking the wood boiler. Bluegrass Farm accessed capital expenses funding through Valley Heartland Community Futures Development Corporation.

Bluegrass Farm owners receive
Innovation Excellence award
JASPER - Bluegrass Farm owners Leela Ramachandran and Brad Wright have earned the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

Last year, the couple followed a dream and built four greenhouses on Kinch Street near Jasper in the Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley. Crops are grown using natural sunlight but the twist here is their greenhouses use radiant heat in the soil to extend the growing season throughout the winter. Fueled by an energy efficient wood-fired boiler, there is insulation around the perimeter and under the floors of the greenhouses to keep the heat in. A special insulating fabric over the crops on cold nights provides extra protection so they can grow cold-hardy greens such as spinach, arugula, lettuce and Swiss Chard. 

Their slogan is "Beat the Winter Blues with Bluegrass Farm" with the goal of extending each growing season so fresh, certified organic vegetables are available from October to March. This is their first full season of winter production in the farm's 10,000-square-feet of greenhouse space. They left jobs in Ottawa to launch Bluegrass Farm. Brad was an environmental planner and Leela a sustainability educator for municipalities. Both have graduate degrees in environmental studies.

"We feel the market is there," says Leela. Between their greenhouse production and an extensive, on-site cold storage for their field harvests, Bluegrass Farm is able to offer one of the only Winter Vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the region. Their client base has grown from having 75 CSA customers in 2014 to 120 this fall. When you buy a seasonal share of the farm's product up front, you receive 10 bi-weekly baskets.

Bluegrass Farm sells a variety of salad greens to restaurants and food stores in Perth, Ottawa and Leeds Grenville. Local customers include B&H, Branch Restaurant and Heather's Healthy Harvest, all in Kemptville, Yellow Canoe and Healthily Ever After in Merrickville and Wendy's Mobile Market in Lyndhurst, to name just a few. 

"We're looking to add more restaurant and retail customers in the spring when our greenhouse production ramps up," Leela says. Their services include weekly deliveries. 

"It's been challenging and a lot of work yet it's been very rewarding," says Brad. 

Winter CSA shares are sold out for this winter, but you can sign up for their newsletter on the website and be notified when next winter's shares go on sale. To learn more about this farm or read Brad's blog visit their Bluegrass website.
Employment Services
If you're an employer ready to hire, 
retrain your staff or you need HR support -
call the Employment and Education Centre
Area employers, ranging from large manufacturing operations to "mom and pop" businesses, can find help with their hiring, training, certification and apprenticeship needs, as well as employee subsidies and hiring incentives from the Employment and Education Centre (EEC). 

"We have new tools for employers to work with," says Executive Director Sue Watts. In the past year, the EEC, an Employment Ontario service provider, has channelled $561,650 to offset the cost of new hires. Approximately 420 positions were subsidized in the centre's coverage area this past year. 

EEC services are designed to help businesses save time and money to either increase their workforce or help upgrade worker skills. The EEC team can also help with labour adjustments or provide downsizing and company closure support.

The Centre is the service provider of the Youth Job Connect program (ages 15 to 29) for all of Leeds Grenville. This program helps younger workers overcome barriers to employment and assists employers in securing young talent. "The support to hire young people is more intensive than in traditional placement programs," says Sue. 

The centre has also had overwhelming success with the Canada Ontario Job Grant program (COJG) where employers can access sector specific training dollars. Originally the local centre had $75,000 but due to community demand EEC went back to the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities and the figure increased to $150,000. Thirteen local businesses have accessed the program since April.

Learn more about EEC services for employers and individuals seeking employment by visiting their website. 

This is the second in a series of articles featuring local employment service providers for both employers and employees in Leeds Grenville. The first article featured CSE Consulting. Visit our eNewsletter Archive.

Job Development Officers Kim Barkley and Bill Bannan at the EEC office at 105 Strowger Boulevard in Brockville.

Student Shannon Loughrey gained a summer job with 1000 Islands Cruises through the centre.

Sherri Fournier-Hudson, Executive Director of the Upper Canada Family Health Team, uses employer services.
Regional Marketing
Submit or Update your event by Dec. 11 for the Festivals & Events Ontario Guide
Festivals & Events Ontario (FEO) is once again producing its Festivals & Events in Ontario Guide in partnership with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC). It is a full-colour consumer publication with a shelf life of April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

Distribution of 225,000 copies is scheduled for early March 2016. A web edition will also be available to download next March on the Festivals and Events Ontario and Ontario Travel websites. 

To register your event, visit either of these websites and look for the guide submission buttons before this Friday! 

Workshops and Seminars
Service Canada Online Webinars

Service for Employers: Employment Insurance (EI)
Special Benefits, Job Bank and support during layoffs
December 15, 12 p.m. or December 17, 10 a.m.

Learn more or register for the sessions listed in this section on our  Workshops and Seminars webpage
Online marketing

Part of the BR+E Alliance All About Marketing
2015-2016 Seminar Series. Learn how to market your business online.
January 20, 2016, 6-8:30 p.m. FREE

Grenville Mutual, 
380 Colonnade Drive, Kemptville

Pricing strategies

Part of the BR+E Alliance All About Marketing 
2015-2016 Seminar Series. Learn how to improve your cash flow.
March 23, 2016, 6-8:30 p.m. FREE

Grenville Mutual, 
380 Colonnade Drive, Kemptville