Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 21, 2003

Holaseks: 25 years and still growing

By Julie Yurek

After 25 years in the community, the Fred Holasek and Son Greenhouses and the Holasek family continue to be cornerstones in the Lester Prairie community.

Fred and Jane Holasek are very involved in a variety of community activities, all while running a business.

Fred is the committee chair for the Lester Prairie Cub Scouts, the vice chairman at St. Paul Lutheran Church, and is on the board of directors at First Community Bank in Lester Prairie

Jane is involved in the Cub Scouts too. She is a den leader for first graders.

The pair coordinate the scouts' wreath sale near Christmas time and help out at monthly meetings and other activities.

"It's important to have a strong organization for young boys," she said. Fred and Jane have two young sons.

She is also a part-time organist at church and is the Sunday school music director, both of which she has been doing for 15 years.

The Holaseks are also members of the Lester Prairie Business Association.

The greenhouse plants the planters in front of area businesses in the spring, Fred said.

"We believe in helping all businesses in the city," Jane said.

Building a strong business atmosphere is important to them, Fred said.

In return, the community has always supported the business by buying locally, he said.

"People spread the word about our quality," Jane said.

Quality of their product is the focus of the greenhouse, she said.

"We're not focused on getting bigger. We are focused on quality and more efficiently producing quality plants," she said.

Holaseks have more than 20 part-time seasonal employees on staff, as well as about two full-time year-round employees, she said.

She gives greenhouse tours three to four times a summer to various groups, including school children and gardening clubs, she said.

Gardening trends

Continuing shifts in gardening trends keep the greenhouse busy.

"We have to keep up with the newest plants that are on the market and what is in demand. TV and the Internet allow people to find out about the newest plant species available," Jane said. "We also keep up with new growing techniques."

A frequently asked question is, "What is new this year?" Jane said.

"We try to stay on the cutting edge," she said.

The business specializes in annual bedding plants, she said. Trees and shrubs are not available. "We focus on annuals so we can do it well," she said.

Presently, more than one million plants are growing in the 18 greenhouses that make up Fred Holasek and Son Greenhouses, Jane said. The greenhouse offers hundreds of different varieties of plants and vegetables.

"Retail customers only see the front six greenhouses, but there are more in back that many never see or know are there," she said. The other greenhouses are used to grow plants and flowers that need cooler environments.

The majority of the wholesale customers are from the western suburbs of the Twin Cities, Jane said. A professional gardener is one kind of wholesale customer, she said.

"Eighty percent of our crop is sold before it's even grown," she said.

Wholesale customers place their orders in August for the next year, she said. Soil, pots, labels, seeds, and plants are the majority of items ordered in the late summer month.

The fall and winter months in the greenhouses are spent planting seeds, watering, growing, and transplanting before the plants are ready in April and May.

Jane orders the majority of plants and flowers as seeds and then plants them herself. Once the seedlings are big enough, they are transplanted into a flat. A flat is a plastic container with individual square units so each plant has its own root ball.

There are generally between 12 to 48 plants in a flat, and are shipped to the wholesale customer in flats, Jane said.

In June and July, poinsettias arrive for Christmas, and pumpkins and gourds are planted for October.

With so many greenhouses full of hundreds of thousands of plants all on their own schedule, how does a person know what needs to be done when?

Holaseks have a custom written computer program that prints out a schedule what has to be done that week.

"We put in the kind of seed and when it was planted and it calculates when to transplant, etc.," Jane said. The program also is an inventory tracker, she said.

Spring is the time for homeowners looking to liven up their flower beds with color and gardeners wanting a garden full of produce.

And if a one doesn't know the first thing about landscaping or gardening?

The staff is very helpful, she replied.

"We ask all kinds of questions to determine what kind of plants are best for your yard," Jane said.

"We give you a range of plants to choose from that will work for your sunny, shady, or partly sunny/shady area of your lawn," she said.

"We want to get you the best plant so you are successful in gardening," she said. "So many times a person buys a plant and it ends up dying. They think they are a horrible gardener, but it was just the wrong plant for that area of the yard."

For those of us born without green thumbs, a trip to Fred Holasek and Son Greenhouses is a learning experience.

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