Farm Horizons, April 2015

For local greenhouses, planting season is 365 days of the year

By Kristen Miller

“This is not a business for the faint of heart,” said wholesale greenhouse owner and operator Jane Holasek.

Jane’s husband, Fred, started Fred Holasek and Son Greenhouse in Long Lake more than 35 years ago, and started his operation to Lester Prairie in 1978. Currently, the couple operates 78,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

Like livestock, flowers and plants are living beings.

They need to be cared for 365 days a year, Jane commented.

“In that way, it’s very similar to a dairy farmer,” she said.

That means no vacation for the Holaseks, at least not from January through June – their busy season.

The Holaseks specialize in grow-bedding plants for wholesale; basically, any plant one could plant in a garden, Jane explained.

Growers like them “are few and far between,” she said, noting there are only a few wholesalers in the area, such as Carlson Greenhouse in Montrose.

Holasek’s grow for roughly 100 retailers, including professional gardeners and landscapers, all within a one-hour radius of Howard Lake.

The customers order in August for the following year. “Many of our plants sell out by October,” Jane noted.

“We grow on order,” Jane said. “We don’t grow anything on speculation,” she commented, added that some wholesalers do, however.

Their biggest customer is their own Holasek Flower Power Garden Center, located on site.

The Holaseks have 25 greenhouses of differing sizes, many of which use solar energy for heating.

How do they manage all those crops?

The Holaseks use a custom-written program that helps them schedule their crops for the year.

It calculates the crop time – the time the crop needs to grow – and when the customers want their plants.

Depending on the plant, it takes roughly 15 weeks to grow from seed. With most people wanting to plant their gardens in May – week 19, 20, or 21 – Holaseks will then plant in week 4.

For example, most gardeners want Petunias in late March, therefore, they begin seeding them over Thanksgiving, Jane explained.

Though they grow everything they can on-site, however, there are many things that are royal-protected, or patented, Jane explained.

The plants that are patented must be grown by the licensed propagators. “You can buy the plant, but you can’t buy the seed,” she noted.

Oftentimes, she hears customers ask why the plants cost so much. “Because I’m paying royalties,” she explained.

Consumers have responded to the genetically engineered plants, which has made for better, improved varieties. The royalties then go back to those who had put a lot of genetic research into them, Jane explained.

To prepare for the following growing season, the Holaseks purchase all the materials – soil, pots, seed, labels, and chemicals – in August and September.

Holaseks have 30 seasonal employees, with six staying on year-round.

They use two large boilers with natural gas to heat, along with a fuel back-up.

“You don’t want our heating bill,” she commented.

For plug production, the house has a Lexan covering (a hard polycarbonate) and under-bench heat.

Using a list generated by the same software, the Holaseks know when the plugs need to be transplanted.

Costs continue to rise

As most farmers can relate, the Holaseks have also found their output costs continue to rise.

From feed to fuel, “Everything to make this plant has gone up,” Jane said.

As wholesalers and retailers, Jane said the challenge for them is running a viable business while maintaining a reasonably priced plant for their customers.

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