Pioneer Gardens plans open house ahead of potential sale

  • The greenhouse at Pioneer Gardens at 198 Mill Village Road in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The greenhouse at Pioneer Gardens at 198 Mill Village Road in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2018 5:26:05 PM

DEERFIELD — State voters’ decision two years ago to legalize marijuana has jump started a conversation about cannabis and generated an array of questions from people curious about the medical and recreational drug.

Pioneer Gardens at 198 Mill Village Road has scheduled an open house on Saturday so anyone interested can tour and learn about the 114,000-square-foot greenhouse and the business plans to sell to Arizona cannabis company Harvest Inc. The open house will be from 10 to 11 a.m.

Arjen Vriend, who co-owns Pioneer Gardens with Jaap Molenaar, said he and his business partner were first approached by marijuana companies after state voters opted six years ago to legalize medical marijuana. He said the tour will entail an explanation of the site plan and how cannabis will be grown in the greenhouse.

“The main benefits are severalfold — economic activity, investment and good-paying jobs,” Vriend said, adding that he and Molenaar plan to build a new greenhouse elsewhere in Deerfield to expand their company’s ornamental plant nursery and open field production. Pioneer Gardens sells perennial starter plants to wholesale nurseries.

He said he expects the sale to be made as soon as Harvest’s plans are approved by the Deerfield Planning Board, so it can obtain a license from the state Cannabis Control Commission. The sale will include the greenhouse and one residential house and two warehouses around it, totaling eight or nine acres, Vriend said. He said if the sale proceeds, Pioneer Gardens will still own roughly 95 percent — or about 100 acres — of farmland at 198 Mill Village Road.

Joseph Kachuroi, Harvest’s national director of real estate and business development, said at a community outreach meeting last month that Harvest is interested in growing marijuana at Pioneer Gardens and selling it at 424 State Road, which now houses Sturbridge Yankee Peddlar in Whately. The dispensary would be operated by ToroVerde Massachusetts Corporation III, an entity of Harvest.

Vriend said Harvest plans to hire 50 full-time employees at the greenhouse. On Tuesday, Kachuroi said Harvest pays $100,000 to top-level cultivators with relevant backgrounds, and entry-level positions will offer salaries “higher than market,” perhaps starting at $13 to $15 an hour. He said Harvest and Pioneer Gardens will work “in some level of tandem,” though the exact relationship remains unclear.

At the community outreach meeting, Kachuroi said Harvest grows 42 to 60 strains of cannabis. He told The Recorder the operation will produce about 1,650 pounds of marijuana each month.


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