Using solar greenhouse technology, a geologist from China is helping Albertan farmers extend their growing season.
#ImmigrationMatters in Olds, Alberta - Introducing new farming techniques to Western Canada
Introducing new farming techniques to Western Canada
April 21, 2022
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Transcript: “Immigration Matters in Olds, Alberta”
Video length: 2 minutes, 38 seconds
Inspiring piano music plays throughout.
Aerial view of bales of straw on a large field.
Text displays: “Immigration Matters in Olds, Alberta”
Jianyi Dong opens the door of his pick-up truck and gets in.
Jianyi: I came to Canada in December 2014.
Jianyi is at the wheel of his car, driving past fields.
Text displays: “Jianyi Dong, Geologist and passive solar greenhouse expert”
Jianyi: In China, I was a geologist in the oil industry.
Jianyi pulls into a grocery store parking lot. He enters the store and picks out vegetables.
Jianyi: During my first 2 years in Canada, I was researching what I could do, and I found vegetables have a big market.
The sun shines through autumn trees.
Jianyi: And finally, I made my mind to become a vegetable farmer.
Jianyi walks through the trees.
Rows of tomato vines are shown in a greenhouse.
Underneath a greenhouse roof that is still under construction, Jianyi walks and gazes at his future project.
Jianyi: In Northern China, it can also get really cold, but people have been using this passive solar greenhouse to grow commercial vegetables, so I thought this could be a good opportunity to use this technology to grow vegetables in Alberta.
Jianyi walks with Derek Leahy outside a greenhouse. They enter together.
Derek looks at the vines, smiling.
Text displays: “Derek Leahy, Director at Rural Routes to Climate Solutions”
Derek: With a conventional greenhouse, you need something to keep it warm during the cold months, so usually you’re using natural gas, but with a passive solar greenhouse, you don’t need that at all because what you’re using is the warmth of the sun, a bit of insulation, and something called thermal mass.
The passive solar greenhouse is shown from the front and then from above. The view from above shows that layers of clear plastic material cover the entire roof.
Jianyi gestures to one wall of the greenhouse, which is made of a dark material with vertical pipes running over it.
Derek: The remarkable thing is that he’s been able to extend the growing season. The fact that he’s able to grow tomatoes in November, in a place like Alberta, that’s just…it’s unheard of out here.
Jianyi talks to Derek as they walk together past tomato vines taller than they are inside the passive solar greenhouse. Derek picks a ripe tomato. Jianyi examines a plant.
Outdoors, Jianyi walks toward a greenhouse. Back in the greenhouse, Jianyi and Derek look at some shorter plants and some taller plants.
Jianyi smiles at the camera as he gestures to multiple greenhouses that stand behind him.
Derek: He’s technically an oil and gas guy, and he came out here to do that job and he pivoted. I think it’s really fortunate that we’ve been able to be on this ride with Jianyi just to see his successes and the fact that so many people are interested and recognizing the great work that he’s doing.
Sarah Singer examines a tomato branch. She puts on gardening gloves and starts pruning tomato vines.
Text displays: “Sarah Singer, Geologist and volunteer”
Sarah: I think in the future, we’re going to see more of this locally because more people are looking for local produce.
Sarah continues to tend to the vines, with guidance from Jianyi.
Sarah: The impact for me personally is it’s almost like a form of therapy, especially in the winter, to come out to the greenhouse and to get your hands dirty and participate in something you believe in.
Jianyi and Sarah walk together on his farm, talking. They arrive at a passive solar greenhouse under construction.
Sarah: Jianyi is really open about how to farm, and he’s also really busy, but he still really made time for when I came out to sit down and tell me about what he’s implementing, what he’s going to do different next year.
Jianyi and Sarah go back inside the passive solar greenhouse and look at plants together.
Sarah: And then he takes the time to also teach me practically some skills of how to take care of the plants.
A clip of a YouTube video shows the greenhouse with smaller plants. The title is displayed under the YouTube video: “The greenhouse performance in the extreme cold”. The YouTube video shows the outside of the greenhouse surrounded by snow.
Back on Jianyi’s farm in the fall, a person carries a flat and pulls a wagon full of vegetables. Another person stacks flats of ripe tomatoes.
Sarah: And that’s part of why he does YouTube is he also wants to get out to a wider audience and teach other people so that if they can’t come out and volunteer locally that they can still learn those skills, and I think be inspired that this is possible, we can do this in Canada.
Jianyi smiles with his toddler daughter in his arms. Jianyi stands inside his greenhouse, smiling.
Aerial view of the farmlands of Olds, Alberta.
The scene fades to black.
Text displays: “Immigrants enrich our communities.”
Text displays: “Share your story #ImmigrationMatters; Facebook: @CitCanada; Twitter: @CitImmCanada; Instagram: @CitImmCanada”
Text displays: “Canada.ca/immigration-matters”
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada corporate signature is shown followed by the Canada wordmark.
Immigration profile: Olds, Alberta
- Immigrants in Olds represent close to 10% of the population.
- Immigrants have played a significant role in shaping Canada’s agricultural industry. In 2016, immigrants made up 8.7% of Canadian farm operators, accounting for 23,440 people.
- There are more than 600,000 self-employed immigrants throughout the country, and over 260,000 of them have paid employees.
Did you know?
- The countries of birth of Canadian immigrant farm operators have evolved over time, gradually moving away from a European origin. Between 2011 and 2016, the United States and China were the two most frequently reported countries of birth for Canadian immigrant farm operators.
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