Coast to Coast

Twice as Nice: Farm to Canada Upsizes Facility to Meet Growth

This flower company had a problem to be envied.
For the past several years, Farm to Canada’s business boomed with double-digit sales growth year-over-year, and its building was bursting at the seams.

So, the 15-year-old wholesale floral importer and distributor decided to make the leap and move to a larger facility this summer. After signing a seven-year lease, the company opened its new doors on June 19 at 1070 Mid Way Blvd., Unit #9 in Mississauga, Ontario.

“We are now well positioned to continue expanding and growing our business,” Business Development Manager Darren Russell told Canadian Florist.

As a result, Farm to Canada already hired its 11th employee with room for another five or six staff members. And the company kissed its less-than-ideal temporary refrigerator units goodbye.

It all started about a year and a half ago, when the owners and managers began talks of relocating to a more spacious facility.

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Their priority? To stay within the 2-kilometer radius of the Mississauga Flower Circle near Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“In the (Greater Toronto Area) flower market, location is the most important thing,” Russell said. “We needed to be in the Flower Circle for the many customers who pick up their flowers and to also be centrally located for distribution and delivery to our customer base.”

With this focus, the team visited several potential buildings during a six-month span. The one that won out is in the same complex as its former facility, right across the parking lot, “making an easy transition for our customers,” Russell said.

Easy indeed. The sign on the old door reads, “We’ve moved. Look behind you.”

At 10,000 square feet, the new warehouse is triple the size of the old one, allowing Farm to Canada’s current business volume to operate more comfortably while providing for future expansion, Russell said.

Plus, the cooler space doubled to 2,000 square feet, so now the company can do all its processing in a controlled environment.

Before, workers processed boxes outside on the warehouse dock. But now, all the receiving, labeling, and processing happens in the new cooler space, protecting the flowers from the elements.
Also, the reception area quintupled.

As sweet as the deal was, moving always comes with a few thorns.

To make the process as smooth as possible, Farm to Canada’s leadership team started planning eight months before the move.

The company created a detailed timeline that accounted for logistics, such as designing and building new offices and transporting two coolers.

Russell advises any business considering a move to plan at least six months in advance and to consider the costs, as well as city regulations and bylaws that may require architectural drawings and building permits.

“The biggest challenge was the final push,” Russell said.

Within a three-day weekend, Farm to Canada moved its coolers, phone and computer systems and office furniture and reopened Monday with everything up and running. With all hands on deck, a tractor-trailer and some coffee for fuel, they had a relatively seamless transition. And already the rewards have been aplenty.

“Our staff love the improved work environment and extra space, while our customers are loving all the extra room,” Russell said. “It’s a much better, more positive work environment.”

The added square footage allows for improved efficiency during Farm to Canada’s weekly flower shipments from farms in Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala, as well as its frequent distributions to everything from small flower shops to large, mass-market stores.

Farm to Canada sells fresh flowers and flower food, specializing in premium hydrangea and roses. Four farms supply the company with a total of about 15 colours of hydrangea, and 13 rose farms provide about 350 rose varieties.

Farm to Canada’s leadership decided that the move was the right time to tack on a few other changes, like launching a new company logo and an updated colour scheme.
The new look “signifies a fresh start,” Russell said. “It’s positive, bright and professional.”

Have a look for yourself. Stop in during business hours, or check out the open house in September, when you can tour the new facility and attend an on-site design show. Visit the company’s Facebook page for event details.

Then, keep an eye out for Farm to Canada’s expanded offerings. Within the next year or so, the company plans to start selling hard goods.

Secrets to Success

Are you wondering how Farm to Canada’s business continues to grow? Business Development Manager Darren Russell isn’t surprised the wholesale flower importer and distributor has seen double-digit sales growth year-over-year for the past several years. Here, he shares the company’s recipe for success:

Business Model: Farm to Canada has a smart system. It waits for customers to place orders instead of stocking up from its suppliers first. That way, the flower boxes that Farm to Canada receive go directly to its customers unopened. It saves Farm to Canada the hassle of breaking open and separating boxes, transferring flowers to buckets, and then repackaging what gets sold. “It’s the fastest way,” Russell said. Local florists get their flowers five or six days after placing their order. Plus, nothing gets thrown out. Recently, Farm to Canada has added smaller pack size options to accommodate smaller florists, too.

Location: In the Greater Toronto Area flower market, it’s critical to be within the 2-kilometer radius of the Mississauga Flower Circle near Toronto Pearson International Airport. It’s central to local customers and convenient for foreign suppliers.

Quality: The 15-year-old company hasn’t become complacent. Workers continually evaluate suppliers and seek out the best. During the last few years, Farm to Canada upgraded the quality of the farms that it buys from.

Savings: Farm to Canada offers competitive prices by keeping overhead costs as low as possible. For instance, the owners waited until they absolutely needed a bigger facility to move, working within their means and resisting extravagance.

Kathryn Deen
Kathryn Deen is a freelance writer in Central Florida who works part-time at The Villages Florist Inc., teaches yoga, and runs Stories Remembered, a story-recording business for seniors. She has more than five years professional journalism experience for newspapers and magazines. The Inland Press Association recently recognized her special projects on longevity.

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