Tucked between the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean, June Van Wingerden can look out almost any window and see rows of greenhouses spilling over with gerbera daisies.
She can’t wait to add more.
“We’re in the process of getting permits to build 6 acres of greenhouse to grow lilies in,” says the owner of Ocean Breeze Farms.“Right now, it’s just dragging.”
You can’t have too many greenhouses in Carpinteria. The area, dubbed California’s “flower basket,” is known for supplying half the state’s cut flowers. At one point, as many as 90 percent of gerbera daisies in the United States were germinated in one of the extended Van Wingerden family’s nurseries.
“Demand is great. Almost every greenhouse is growing gerberas in Carpinteria,” she says. “They’re kind of known as the California flower because they’re hard to ship, so they don’t travel as well from South America.”
Rene VanWingerden giving a tour during the annual Carpinteria Greenhouse Open House.
With around 40 acres of greenhouses, June and Rene Van Wingerden work hard to keep up their gerbera numbers while also expanding their other varieties. In addition to buying another 4-acre gerbera nursery with Rene’s brother, they’re looking forward to adding new high-end greenhouses that will help them grow oriental lilies more efficiently.
“The new greenhouses are all hydroponic so they use less water,” June says. “You have better control of insects because when it’s closed, it’s really closed. And there’s a lot less upkeep on a metal greenhouse than a wood greenhouse.”
Efficiency is a priority at Ocean Breeze. By growing all of their gerbera daisies hydroponically, they’re able to collect, sterilize and reuse their water three times. These types of efficient growing practices, combined with a healthy local groundwater supply and mild coastal weather, have helped shelter Carpinteria farmers from the effects of the drought.
“Everybody’s become more efficient at growing,” she says. “For example, with gerberas, you can grow minis instead of the regular size and you can grow a lot more of them in the same area.”
For the Van Wingerdens, growing flowers isn’t just a business. It’s a family tradition that stems from centuries growing fruits and vegetables in Holland. In the 1960s, Rene’s dad and uncles moved their families to Carpinteria where they started growing carnations, freesias and chrysanthemums. After working in his father’s business for several years, Rene started his own farm – named Ocean Breeze for the pleasant climate that makes the area ideal for flower farming.
“We’re kind of blessed here. It’s a real farming community with a small beach town to go with it,” June says. “It’s just the perfect place.”
Source: California Cut Flower Commission
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