Greenhouse project on hold until spring

By Chris Jensen, InDepthNH.org

BERLIN — The developers of a $50 million greenhouse project in Berlin have missed another deadline for purchasing land needed for the high-tech project which is expected to provide 80 jobs.

And now construction is not expected to begin until next spring with growing underway toward the end of 2018, said Kelly Wieser, a Campton-based lawyer who helped arrange financing and worked on issues such as permitting.

North Country Growers, LLC, wants to buy about 170 acres of land from Berlin for about $680,000.

The company plans to grow eight million pounds of tomatoes and 15 million heads of lettuce a year on the site, selling to grocery stores and restaurants in New England.

In September, Wieser said the goal was to close on buying the land no later than Nov. 27. She said the extra time was needed to coordinate some of the financial arrangements.

That is still a work in progress, she said Monday.

“It is par for the course, putting together a big development project these days,” she said.

Now the deadline for buying the land has been extended to March 31, Pamela Laflamme, Berlin’s community development director, said Monday.

This is the fifth time in the last six years that North Country Growers parent company — American Ag Energy — has tried to build high-tech greenhouses. None of the previous efforts went beyond the planning stage.

The company hoped to begin construction last spring, with growing starting early in 2018, said Marguerite Piret, the chief financial officer of American Ag Energy.

Piret could not be reached for comment.

The $50 million project includes a $25 million loan from Service Credit Union. As part of its rural development effort the USDA will guarantee 60 percent of that $25 million.

Private investors are putting up about $17 million and there is an additional $8.3 million loan from Service Credit Union, the USDA said earlier this year.