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Canada: Two Dutchmen start with NatureFresh
After years in the Dutch fresh produce sector at Levarht in Aalsmeer, Niels Klapwijk and Paul Schockman recently moved to Canada to start working for greenhouse vegetable giant NatureFresh Farms. “A great adventure with a fantastic company!”
“I have known NatureFresh for a few years already,” Niels starts. “I was invited to visit sometime, to see what they all do here and in the US, and it was very impressive. I come from a family of cultivators, and my heart immediately started racing. Here, we cultivate ‘Grown for Taste’ and that really appeals to me. They could use reinforcements on the sales side of things, and both NatureFresh and I thought we could mean something to each other in that field. After several discussions, I decided to take the leap.”
Niels Klapwijk and Paul Schockman
Paul first came into contact with NatureFresh when the company’s representatives were in the Netherlands. “After spending an evening talking to them, they invited me to visit the company in Canada. I enjoyed myself very much at Levarht, but after 13 years working for the same company, I felt like a change. The company and its vision really appealed to me, so I decided to accept the challenge.”
“I am responsible for all purchases and the communication with the garden. NatureFresh mostly works with its own cultivation, but finds itself in the position of buying additional produce more often. They do this from dedicated growers, and to a lesser extent from other exporters. Additionally, I also do sales to market customers and retail. Because of my contacts in the Netherlands and other countries, I think I can be of added value here,” Niels says. Paul is of the same opinion: “NatureFresh has been familiar with cultivating vegetables for years already, but they were still quite green on the sales side of things. Because of the experience we bring with us, we think we can help NatureFresh grow and professionalise further. We are going to do this by means of applying more structure and some Dutch efficiency. Of course, we also approach new suppliers and customers.”
NatureFresh cultivates and markets the complete greenhouse supply of bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. The intention is that the Dutchmen also start doing import trade. “Until recently, NatureFresh had no warehouse in the US, and it was therefore difficult to import products. Once product has been imported to Canada, it cannot be re-exported to the US. This is not the case for product from the US and Mexico. Ninety-five per cent of our sales is in the US.”
When asked about the competition of Canadian cultivators compared to Dutch horticulture, Niels answers: “Just like in the Netherlands, there are numerous cultivators here who offer their product to export companies, and there are export companies that do their own cultivating. Almost all of the product is cultivated in Ontario and British Columbia. The largest share of this is sold to the US. The list of customers here also consists of market customers, cutting plants, catering suppliers and retail. It is clear that horticulture is still growing here, more so than in the Netherlands. Besides, you don’t just sell the product here, you also sell the story behind it. Private label is not very large yet, so that it is easier to profile your own brand.”
The gentlemen do not think their jobs are temporary. “I did not move here with a deadline in mind. I think, that if that were the case, you’d always be counting down towards that deadline. I came here for personal development, a new experience, and to lift NatureFresh to a higher level. I do not yet know how this adventure will end,” Paul says.
“This isn’t an internship for us, and we were given a clear assignment. That isn’t taken care of in a few months. We will find out what the future holds for us eventually. There are pros and cons to not living and working in the Netherlands anymore. But for now it is a great adventure with a fantastic company,” Niels concludes.
For more information:
Paul Schockman / Niels Klapwijk
T: +1 519.326.1111;3225
T: +1 519.326.1111;3224
Publication date: 3/20/2017
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