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Growing peppers is a family affair for the Moermans

The dream for many farmers is to create a legacy -- a family business that can continue to prosper with the generations to follow.
Jos and Corne Moerman operate Sunnyside Produce Ltd. in Delta.

The dream for many farmers is to create a legacy -- a family business that can continue to prosper with the generations to follow. Traditionally, farms were inherited by default, but the practice of maintaining multigenerational farms is far less common today.

Delta’s microclimate of ocean breezes, reduced rainfall and increased sunshine attracted the Moerman family to relocate to the area.

“In 1996, my family immigrated (from Holland) to the Mt. Lehman area, in Abbotsford, with my cousin Bram and his family,” says Jos Moerman. “Bram and I have been farming together since the mid-1970s. A decade later, we all moved to South Surrey and then to Delta in 2012.

“We started with five acres of greenhouses and expanded every two years. Today, we are one of B.C.’s largest bell pepper growers with a total of 70 acres and producing over 10 million kilograms.”

Jos and Bram Moerman’s sons, Corne and Paul, respectively, joined the family business in 2008. While Jos and Bram remained focused on greenhouse farming, Paul and Corne began handling the business side of the operation, starting with a grading business.

“We treated this operation as a separate strategic business unit and oversaw staff, payroll etc.,” says Corne. “We learned so much, got our feet wet and realized that we were, inherently, business minded. Three separate entities existed at the time — Sunnyside Greenhouses, Sunny Bay Greenhouses and Sunnyside Grading.

“We hired a consultant who helped us work through the transition and succession planning as we spoke quite frankly about our concerns and challenges. Happy to say, we merged three years ago and now Uncle Bram, Dad, Paul and myself are all the owners of Sunnyside Produce Ltd.”

Like any family business, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When Jos Moerman began greenhouse farming, the team was smaller and operations were easier to manage. Bringing on the next generation caused deep concern for Jos and Bram as they questioned if Paul and Corne could bring Sunnyside forward.

In three to five years, Jos and Bram will continue to play the role of advisor but will no longer be involved with operations.

Article courtesy BC Greenhouse Growers' Association

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