BLOG: grower report Gebr. Grootscholten
I’m face to face with a happy grower. We have a pleasant conversation about his wonderful nursery, the eventful past year, and the future. The happy grower is John Grootscholten. He starts by telling me some Westland history.
“The plot of land on which these modern greenhouses were built has been in our family for centuries. When my grandfather was young, our region mainly grew vegetables and fruit. Westland grapes were well-known, and my grandfather also grew them in special grape greenhouses. When the price came under increasing pressure, he realised he could grow marigolds under the tendrils of the grape vines. He would sail to the vegetable auction on his barge, where he would also simply put his marigolds in the auction. It turned out to be very successful, and that’s how he became one of the first growers of bedding plants in Westland.”
“Our nursery is a seasonal plant nursery. We have visually attractive products available all year round. The big peak is in the spring, when we have an attractive range of bedding plants in 10.5-cm and 13-cm pots. As you can see, the facilities are modern, so it’s a very nice place to work. We strive to be a reliable partner for the upmarket specialist trade. We avoid mass promotions with supermarkets. Each year, we grow about 6 million plants.”
How was 2020?
“In March, trade suddenly came to a standstill, at the very time when we were expecting the starting pistol to sound for our most important weeks. We kept our greenhouses cool to delay propagation and, in consultation with our cutting suppliers, we cancelled orders for cutting material wherever possible. We rented a container to dispose of unsold stock.
After 3 weeks, however, trade restarted. All our existing cultivation schemes were of no use, but thanks to a lot of extra work, we managed to get back on track. Fortunately, we never filled up the container completely. The countries where garden centres could stay open achieved record sales. The bottom line showed that we were able to sell almost the desired numbers this year. But the way we had to do it… hopefully never again!”
Apart from last year, what’s it like to be a grower?
“I really enjoy it. We make a beautiful, living product that brings joy to people. Of course, a grower faces many challenges and risks, but fortunately I don’t run the company alone. My brother Mark is responsible for the staff, and partner Remy for the cultivation. I focus on general business and sales. I have no trouble delegating and letting go of things. We also have long-serving staff; some of them have been with us for 25 years.
Having fun is just as important to me as the bottom line. We’re very happy with our company, so we don’t mind working seven days a week in the busy spring. My wife also comes from a family of growers, so she’s used to it.
Your range is very wide. How can you master all those different crops so well?
“We have a long tradition of growing seasonal products. It makes sense for us to vary our crops, and of course there are certain common characteristics to these crops. Our facilities are also set up for this purpose. For example, we have several separate water basins, each with a certain mix of water and nutrients. We can easily set which sections get which mix.
What’s your vision for the future?
This summer, we got a visit from our neighbour, who wanted to know if we were interested in buying his greenhouses… That wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly, of course, but it did fit well with our vision for the future. I regularly have to say no to customers, or buy additional goods from other nurseries. We want to be able to expand, one example being trio mixes (see box) that are very popular. In addition, my son Rick will also be joining our company.
The sale has been agreed. The existing greenhouses will first be demolished, and then we will build a completely new greenhouse complex. Cultivation will start in 2022, and we will be able to start delivering plants from 2023.
Published on: 16 February 2021