CK greenhouse grower overwhelmed by support after social media plea goes viral

Tim Verbeek at Platinum Produce's roadside stand on Communication Road. (Photo via Platinum Produce on Facebook)

A Chatham-Kent greenhouse that was struggling to sell tomatoes has been blown away by the outpouring of support from the community.

Platinum Produce on Communication Road between Blenheim and Chatham has a surplus of tomatoes, but nowhere to send them, so they decided to sell the tomatoes at their roadside stand for $5 a flat.

“The greenhouse is owned by my father-in-law and my husband, and my father-in-law reached out to my husband and said, ‘You know Tim, we have to spread all these tomatoes in the field or take them to the dump.'” said Bonnie Verbeek. “My husband called me and he said, ‘Bonnie, I can’t fathom doing that.'”

Verbeek posted about the tomatoes for sale on social media on Monday and it quickly went viral. As of noon on Tuesday, it had been shared on Facebook over 21,000 times.

“There are so many people who are hungry, that want good quality food, how can we just throw these away?” said Bonnie Verbeek. “So I made the post to see, okay, maybe we can move a skid, which has 80 flats on it. Maybe we can move one skid of tomatoes, and I would have even been happy about that.”

We love positivity especially right now BUT the reality is as a Greenhouse business in Southern Ontario, we are sad… and…

Posted by Platinum Produce on Monday, April 26, 2021

As of Tuesday morning, Verbeek said they had sold 480 flats, but they have another 1,200 available and more are being picked in their greenhouse every day.

She said people from across Southwestern Ontario have been driving to their stand to buy the tomatoes.

“We had a gentlemen come from outside London who picked up 22 flats,” said Verbeek. “I have a friend from outside Burlington who has a caravan of three cars coming to pick up, I think, 93 flats [Wednesday]. We had someone come yesterday who said she found out about it from a family member who shared it in Alberta.”

Verbeek said part of the reason why they have so many tomatoes is that they are unable to get their produce into local stores.

“There’s a huge influx of imported product coming in from other countries, so I think that that’s the biggest frustration,” said Verbeek. “We’re actually even hearing from people who are coming to the stand right now, is that they want to be able to go into our local grocery stores and buy local produce, especially when it’s in season.”

Verbeek said they have also been negatively affected by restaurants being closed for dine-in service because those businesses don’t need as many fresh tomatoes right now.

Overall, Verbeek said it’s heartbreaking.

“We’re a family-owned and operated business, we employ over 150 local people. We support our community, we give back to our community. Even at $5 a flat, we’re still losing money, but at least we are getting them into the hands of people who really want them.”

The Platinum Produce roadside stand is located at 21037 Communication Road, just south of the Highway 401 between Chatham and Blenheim.

There are simply no words to describe what took place today… The incredible outpouring of support we have received from…

Posted by Platinum Produce on Monday, April 26, 2021