Light shed on closure of longtime tomato growing operation

Houweling Nurseries Oxnard was forced to sell its greenhouse and lay off workers because the investment firm that owns the farm opted not to renew its lease, Houweling officials said.

The tomato grower owned and operated the 5.5 million-square-foot greenhouse facility near Camarillo from 1996 to 2019 when Equilibrium Capital purchased the facility and leased it back to the company, said David Bell, chief marketing officer of Houweling’s Group, last week.

He said Equilibrium instead decided to sell the greenhouse facility to Glass House Brands, one of the largest cannabis growers in the state, rather than renew its lease with Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc., a subsidiary of Houweling US Holdings Inc.

The tomato grower, which up until last week employed 486 at its operation near Camarillo, began laying off its workforce as part of a commitment to vacate the property by the end of September, according to a letter submitted to the County of Ventura as required by the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Bell said Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc. is working with Glass House Brands to help its workforce get rehired by the cannabis grower, which has already committed to hiring most, if not all, of the employees.

The closure of Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc. comes at a time when the tomato farm had been underperforming, according to a news release from Longvine Growing Co., which is a rebrand of Houweling US Holdings Inc. after the exit of the Houweling family from the company.

“The site has a rich 25-year history, filled with wild stories and numerous examples of our team pulling together, to get the impossible done,” said Kevin Doran, Longvine Growing Co., in a statement.