A tomato farm outside of Camarillo will begin laying off its staff of nearly 500 employees this week as a result of its pending sale.
Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc. is selling its 5.5 million-square-foot greenhouse facility to Glass House Brands, one of the largest cannabis growers in the state.
Houweling Nurseries Oxnard will vacate the property by Sept. 30 and permanently lay off its 486 employees, according to a letter submitted to the County of Ventura as required by the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Linton Clarke, director of operations for Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc., declined to comment on the sale Friday.
Graham Farrar, president and chief cannabis officer of Glass House Brands, said the greenhouse facility will be a cannabis and vegetable farm hybrid. About 40 acres of the farm will be dedicated to cannabis and the remaining 80 acres will grow tomatoes and other vegetables.
Farrar refused to discuss the price of the greenhouse facility.
It will take several years before the farm is operating at full capacity, though not many upgrades are needed to allow the greenhouse facility to grow cannabis, he said. Depending on the demand, the farm may increase the amount of cannabis grown.
Once the facility has fully transitioned to the new owners, it will be the largest cannabis greenhouse in the world, according to Noah Bethke, a Glass House Brands representative.
According to Farrar, Glass House Brands will rehire former Houweling Nurseries Oxnard employees and transition most, if not all, of the workforce into the new business.
“All the people that are working there are going to have a home again,” said Farrar.
The greenhouse facility sits just south of Camarillo in an unincorporated area of Ventura County.
Because of its location, Glass House Brands can take advantage of the recently passed Measure O. The measure amended Ventura County code to allow the cultivation and sale of cannabis in pre-existing structures in unincorporated areas.
Glass House Brands won’t be able to sell cannabis directly to the public onsite, but that won’t limit the economic impact the business will have on the county.
Farrar said only 1% of the cannabis grown in the facility will be consumed in Ventura County. The remaining 99% will be sold throughout the state. Because of the county’s 4% gross receipts tax on cannabis, money from around the state will be pumped into the local economy.
“Somebody in San Francisco is going to pay $100, and $4 of that is going to end up in Ventura County’s coffers,” said Farrar. “It’s a tax for Ventura (County), not on Ventura.”
Houweling Nurseries Oxnard is part of the larger Houweling’s Tomatoes company, but its owner, Casey Houweling, is not involved with the Camarillo farm, according to Farrar.
Once Glass House Brands begins operating the greenhouse facility in the coming months, Houweling will directly oversee the production of the tomatoes and other vegetables, Farrar said.
With 19 states, along with Washington D.C. and Guam, allowing recreational marijuana use and recent conversations about the federal decriminalization of cannabis, Farrar said his company is preparing for a jump in demand for California-grown cannabis once it can be transported over state lines.
“Cannabis comes from California,” Farrar said.