At greenhouse business, power outage spurs family into action

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | 4:58 p.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Heavy snow on a greenhouse roof cracked a roof truss Tuesday at Strawberry Hills Farm.

COLUMBIA — Quick action saved hundreds of plants at Strawberry Hill Farms, a plant retailer in south Columbia, when the greenhouse lost power early Tuesday following the second snowstorm to sweep through the area in less than a week.

Aaron Sapp, the 3-year-old son of greenhouse owner Steven Sapp, was the first in the family to realize what happened.

“It was at about 6 this morning,” Sapp said. “I always leave a few lights on in the greenhouses at night, and Aaron saw that they weren’t on.”

Within a half hour, Sapp was working with his dad and brother-in-law to heat the bright red greenhouses and plow snow away from their entrances, where drifts exceeded two feet.

“The temperature of the greenhouses was still at 60 degrees, which was good,” he said.

Because greenhouses have little insulation, it would take just a few hours for one to go from its target temperature of 60 to 70 degrees to freezing after losing power in the winter.

Sapp said four generators are currently being used to power the greenhouse’s furnaces.

“Things seem to be all right for now,” Sapp said. “We might have to move things around tonight, but hopefully the power will be back by then.”

This isn’t the first time this winter that Strawberry Hill Farms has been affected by winter weather. Thursday's storm caused 16 rafters to break, and Sapp and his employees worked to repair the damages this past weekend.

“We typically have around 12 people here working on getting the greenhouses ready for the spring selling season, but the weather hasn’t allowed for that,” Sapp said. “This is going to put us back quite a bit.”

Nineteen of the 24 greenhouses that make up Strawberry Hill Farms are currently full of seedlings and plants, and a freezing temperatures inside the greenhouses would have been detrimental to the success of the family-run business.

“Everything that is sold here is grown here,” Sapp said. “We could have lost months of work.”

Sapp said that though occurrences like this are rare, they make him appreciate the importance of electricity.

“I’m just thankful that this didn’t happen in the middle of the night," he said. 

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