A one on one with our growers – Leo van Holstein

A one on one with our growers  – Leo van Holstein

How are things now with our own growers?

Our flower growers: they’ve been working so hard for years to harvest to most beautiful seasonal flowers especially for us. Without them we wouldn’t have flowers! For many of them, these times are rough. Needless to say, we want to know how they’re doing. So that’s why for the coming weeks we’ll put a spotlight on our growers. This week we chat with Leo van Holstein.

A brief introduction
Holstein Flowers is a family business that’s been in the ornamental flower business for three generations. The company was founded in 1946 and with its eleven acres and about 140 different types of gerbera (or African daisies) – of which the majority is homebred by them in their breedingspaces – has grown to one of the biggest gerbera growers in the world. In their peak months April and May they normally process about 1.5 million flowers a week. So, how’s the growery doing now?

How are you?

“From a business perspective this virus has ruined a lot of things. We were fully up and running, so we had to take a lot of steps to slow down the growth of our flowers. A difficult process because with warmer temperatures they’ll grow anyway. Unfortunately, when the virus was at its peak, we had to throw large amounts flowers in skips. This really brought tears to my eyes.
At the moment we’re doing better. Luckily all throughout Europe, more shops are opening up making the demand for flowers increase slightly. Let’s hope this continues moving forward. In terms of health, it’s all going well too. We are relieved and happy that no-one in our company has had the coronavirus. We’d like to keep it this way and have taken the proper precautions to adhere to the 1,5 metres distance. The health of all our employees comes first.”

What did you do to soften the blow?

“We are fortunate to be able to stretch things out for a bit but the impact on the company and our employees is massive. We try to reduce costs by working shorter days. We’ve kept all our manpower, we don’t want to sack people now because when we’re back to full speed in production and delivery, we need all the extra hands. Together we are strong.”

Why are flowers extra important in these times?

“It brings people joy and cheer, especially in these difficult corona centred times. I used to send the company where my daughter works flowers every week, to place in their office and meeting room. She always got such positive responses. Flowers really give a positive vibe to any space.”

Are you harvesting again?

“We’ve been sending less flowers to auction. Not only are these busy times with harvesting, we’ve also been creating new gerbera species. This process takes up about three to four years. But we’ve been doing this passionately for years.”

So it’s safe to say that the gerbera is your favourite flower?

“Yes, we made a very conscious decision to grow these flowers. It’s because they’re associated with cheerfulness and happiness. When you ask a child to draw a picture of a flower, it’ll look like a gerbera. It’s a classic flower, but with so much potential. Not only do we have the “regular” gerbera, we also have a lot of special kinds. What about the gerberas with a double layer of flower petals, a dahlia-like flower and even one with spikey leaves. This is the one you sometimes come across in the bloomon bouquets. I really think that with your field bouquets, you’ve created your own identity. In your bouquets every flower gets to show their true colours”.