Planned hemp nursery gone to pot B.C. company 'unable to fulfil its obligations,' owes province $500,000

The prospects of significant investment and job creation at the Pineland Forest Nursery that was touted with much fanfare in February 2019 is now dead.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/10/2021 (288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The prospects of significant investment and job creation at the Pineland Forest Nursery that was touted with much fanfare in February 2019 is now dead.

The former provincially owned tree nursery near Hadashville, Man., was supposed to have been sold to a B.C.-based entity called Botanist Organic Growers Corp. for $1.43 million after the province issued a request for proposals when it was deemed no longer viable as a provincially operated entity.

But on Thursday, after a request for comment from Agricultural and Resource Development Minister Ralph Eichler, his office said, “While the province entered into the agreement with Botanist Organic Growers Corp. (BOGC) in good faith and, in the interests of all Manitobans, it has become clear that BOGC is unable to fulfill its obligations.”

He said the lease was terminated effective September 28 “with BOGC owing $500,000.” Manitoba owns the land and is proceeding to conclude its dealings with BOGC after which Manitoba will be exploring new options for the site.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES
Duncan Gordon (left) and Jeremy Towning.

Back in 2019, the company said its intentions were to develop a hemp production operation and cannabidiol (CBD) extraction operation on site that would employ as many as 200 after three years.

Duncan Gordon, one of the two principals of BOGC said at the time that he expected it would become “one of the world’s major players” in the CBD market.

But two and a half years later the property sits dormant and there does not seem to be any plans for the property or explanations as to how the project went so badly off the rails.

Trudy Turchyn, Reeve of the RM of Reynolds, said she heard a couple of weeks ago that the lease has been terminated.

“When you drive by it is very sad to see. For the province to take such an asset and let it deteriorate… it could have been operating for the last three years producing some sort of cash crops or food and employing people.”

“This is a small community that’s lost 25 good jobs, unionized positions, that was engaged in re-forestry, a green economy enterprise, with the promise of a new development in organic hemp and it is all lost.” – Lisa Naylor

Prior to its “sale” the nursery employed about 25 people.

Turchyn said for a community as small as Hadashville, the loss of that operation is significant.

In an email in 2018 she referred to it as a “keystone on our region”.

As recently as the fall of 2020 the chief operating officer of the RM of Reynolds was told by a senior provincial official in an email that “provincial staff are currently working with the proponent, however we are unable to comment further on the status of this lease at this time.”

In addition to the frustration about losing a valuable economic asset in the region, Turchyn said the community has also lost access to an important source of water.

“Pineland had such an abundance of wells and water capacity,” she said. “Had it still been operating, working with the municipality they would have allowed livestock producers (to access water during this summer’s drought) and possibly for the Prawda water co-op to haul water as needed.”

PINELAND FOREST NURSERY
A Vancouver-based real estate developer called SwissReal Group has bought Pineland Forest Nursery in Hadashville for the purpose of cannabis production. Pineland Forest Nursery, located in Hadashville, Manitoba, produces high quality seedlings for silvicultural plantings in central Canada and the northern United States.

Prawda, a small community east of Hadashville, has a private water co-op. It has has been under a boil water advisory for about 15 years.

Lisa Naylor, the NDP’s critic on environment issues, said, “This is a small community that’s lost 25 good jobs, unionized positions, that was engaged in re-forestry, a green economy enterprise, with the promise of a new development in organic hemp and it is all lost.

Eichler’s email to the Free Press said the company “failed to provide an acceptable plan.”

No evidence of the existence of the company can be found on the Internet other than the February 2019 announcement.

Even one of the co-founders of the company who was part of the original announcement, Jeremy Towning, said he was bought out shortly after and has had no idea what happened at the property and also has had no contact with his then co-founder Duncan Gordon.

Towning, a Vancouver real estate executive, said. “I would be curious to know what happened. Gordon bought me out and that was it.”

Manitoba has has a hemp production industry for many years but people in the industry seem not to know anything about BOGC.

Jeff Kostiuk, general manager of a company called Hemp Genetics International, which sells seeds to many hemp producers in the country, said he recalls a conversation he had with someone from BOGC a while ago but questioned the company’s rationale for growing hemp in a greenhouse and never hear back from them.

 

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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