By Gurmukh Singh
TORONTO: This is the story how Singh became Canada’s cucumber king. When young farmer Paramjit Singh Minhas from Kouhja village near Adampur in Punjab landed in Toronto in 1981, he never thought he would take up farming again.
“But there were hardly any jobs at that time. The only work I could find was that of a labourer on a cucumber greenhouse farm. I worked there for a few years years. When its owner wanted to get out, I took the farm on rent,’’ says Singh, narrating his first steps in Canada.
There has been no looking for Minhas since then and today he is the biggest Indian cucumber farmer in Canada.
His state-of-the-art 12-acre greenhouse over his 130-acre farm property at Hamilton near Toronto produces over 700,000 packages of what is known as English cucumber which is sold at giant Canadian stores such as Walmart, Costco, Metro, Sobeys and Loblows.
“As of now, we have a turnover of over $4.5 million and we are growing fast. My two sons have joined me after their education and we are adding six more acres to our greenhouse by the end of this year,’’ says Singh as he walks inside the cozy greenhouse.
For a man who came to Canada with just 8 dollars in his pocket 35 years ago, his face brims with pride as he narrates his journey to his multi-million-dollar agro-business.
“I learnt this business as a farmhand and then I took my landlord’s greenhouse on rent. By 1996, I had got the experience and money. So I bought the land and started my own greenhouse farm on three acres. We kept buying land and increasing the size of the greenhouse. Today, we have 12 acres of greenhouse on our 130-acre property,’’ says the cucumber king.
As his over two dozen workers tend to his crop, Singh explains, “Cucumber can be grown only in greenhouse environment because it needs about 21-22 degrees of temperature and drip irrigation. It is a pretty capital-intensive operation…we produce round the year.’’
His model greenhouse farm has become so famous that anybody from Punjab Agriculture University coming to Toronto never returns without visiting him.
“So many people from PAU come here. Former PAU vice chancellor Khem Singh Gill came thrice to visit us. He was very impressed with our greenhouse operations and asked me to help Punjab in this field.’’
Minhas says he would like to do something for Punjab. “But as you know, NRI people are a little scared of investing there because of all the problems.’’
With water levels in Punjab dipping alarmingly, he says greenhouse farming can be a boon for farmers in the state.
“Because of water problems, Punjab should encourage farmer to grow other crops and vegetables. if the Punjab government subsidies greenhouses, farmer can grow tomatoes, eggplants, cucumber, lettuces and peppers on a large scale. It will create thousands and thousands of jobs for others as well. But no leader listens there,’’ says Minhas.
Are Punjab politicians listening to the cucumber king of Canada?