Millennium Pacific Greenhouses is launching its business growing tomatoes on the vine in Cummings Valley, after construction of its buildings was completed this November. 

“After four years it became a reality,” said Mehrdad Elyasi, president of Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.

Millennium is just the most recent company to open greenhouses in the Cummings Valley, taking advantage of the ideal weather conditions.

Project planning first began in 2014, with greenhouse construction beginning in early 2017.

“Planting and getting permitting was the hardest part," Elyasi said.

Millennium's 15-acre facility grows anywhere from 62,000 to 63,000 plants annually. Workers constantly tend to the health of the plants to speed up production.

The plants, ordered from propagation companies in Canada, were about 45 days old when they arrived at the facilities in early November. They are placed in Coco agricultural bags that are made up of coconut peat, fiber and husk chips. A water line infused with nutrients is placed at each plant’s base.

“For California, based on the experiences, the coco bags are the best,” Elyasi said.

He added, “We have a market for the tomato, compared to cucumbers or peppers. A lot of them can be grown right here in Tehachapi. The higher the elevation, the more sunlight.”

Workers need to constantly check air temperature, humidity and nutrients given to the plants.

“There is not one specific problem. In the development of the crop you have to watch the climate, the data day by day, and training people to see different plants or pests,” said Guillermo Cotonieto, a grower for Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.  

Employees help the plants thrive and regularly trim the bottom leaves and stems to help encourage growth at the top of the plant and attach clips to support the formation as the plant attaches itself to a string that reaches to the ceiling. Each worker takes care of seven to eight rows.

“You have to train people and at the end of the day they are the ones who are looking at the plant,” added Cotonieto. “We try to prevent damage to the crop in all labor activities.”

Hot water is sent to cooling pads and fans push warm air inside the greenhouses. At the end of the day, plastic screens close all around the plants to save heat inside the greenhouse. Bumblebees are used for pollination and sticky traps are set for harmful insects.

A computerized system called Priva helps regulate the controls, water pressure, temperature, fertilizer and how much water is going to the greenhouses.

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