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Photo report: A visit to Beekenkamp's latest greenhouse

The Beekenkamp Group is one of the largest plant nurseries in the world. Last year, they opened a new modern greenhouse and are currently already working on an expansion. Furthermore, for years there has been a woman at the top of the company together with her brother-in-law. More than enough reasons for the youngsters of the Horticulture Youth Westland (TJW) to take a look.

An Beekenkamp

You do not have to be a great mathematician to notice that only few women are active in horticulture. Even on the well-visited members' evening of the Horticulture Youth Westland, please note, with the theme ‘Women in horticulture’ there were only a handful of women present. One of the few women who have been at the top of a horticultural company for many years is An Beekenkamp. In the 1950's, her father was one of the first vegetable plants growers (Beekenkamp Plants-vegetables) in the country. Over the years, the company has expanded into cultivation and breeding of ornamental plants (Beekenkamp Plants-ornamentals), chrysanthemum (Deliflor) and packaging (Beekenkamp Verpakkingen). By now, 2 billion young plants are grown annually in 90 hectares of greenhouses at home and abroad.

An Beekenkamp told the horticulture youngsters openly about the balance between family and work and the business interest of women in horticulture. From an early age she was active in the company: from cleaning in the canteen to administrative work. Together with her sister, she took over the company in 2000. For years, she has been in charge of the group together with her brother-in-law Peter Persoon.

Erik Heijs, cultivation coordinator fruit crops

Personal choice
"Women work an average of 26 hours a week, men average 36 hours", she shows by using CBS statistics. As soon as there are children, women often decide to work less. "Which is logical," she remarks. When she became pregnant, there was talk about searching for a replacement, but she herself wanted to keep on working. That could be done, but then only for forty hours. "With heart and soul I wanted to keep working for the company, and part time was not an option. Eventually I've always worked forty hours and I’ve got four children. It's a choice that you make yourself, that you have to make consciously and which you cannot pass on to the company." The combination with home sometimes is compromising, An said. "You can plan ahead, but you cannot keep up with everything."

Business culture
Talking about women in horticulture is actually more about the importance of a good corporate culture. "I work in a man's world, but I often do not notice that. Within the company we try to place a woman in teams with too many men, and vice versa. Mixed teams give a good dynamic." That dynamic can also be achieved in other ways. "The staff is of great importance to us. With the Beekenkamp Group we go for reliability, innovation and the involved people, both at customers and at the company." In the meantime, 2400 people work at the Beekenkamp Group worldwide. An tells about the importance of clear communication with the staff, good rewards for functions and personal attention for the staff.

Frank Vriends

Frank Vriends, sales manager of vegetable plants, explains how that works in practice. "There is a lot of trust in the employees and the bond is strong, for example, by giving personal attention. Which means that you get a lot of freedom, that you can take responsibility and also that you can make a mistake. Of course, it remains a company, and you cannot do anything you like, but trust in the employees leads to involvement and that is one of the company's success factors." Whether that has to do with a woman at the top, he does not dare to say so exactly. "Maybe you'll find that more in family businesses. With an external director, it's more about the numbers; here the continuity of the company and the people are at the center.
After the presentation a tour of the new greenhouse followed and of course a drink.

For more information:
Tuinbouw Jongeren Westland

Beekenkamp Plants
Korte Kruisweg 141
2676 BS Maasdijk

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