Henry van der Lans was 20 when he traveled to France to glaze greenhouses for the first time. Last month he was back. At Kubo's invitation, he glazed the new 25,000m2 Olivier greenhouse. A trip that reminded him of the good old days.
Olivier's greenhouses, with the newly built one on the left.
“I remember it well. It was 1980. I went there with Willem Middelburg to glaze several greenhouses for Serres Fleuries in Orleans," Henry begins. "That was a subsidiary of the Dutch company, Voskamp & Vrijland, which is based in ’s-Gravenzande."
"Back then, they were one of the world's largest greenhouse builders. Their Director, Bloos Gooier, was constantly being addressed as Jean du Blois of Monsieur de Blois. Arnold Duijvestein was his right-hand man. He was sometimes called Micky Mouse.”
Not a word of French
Van der Lans's first job was for Vinét in Haute Goulaine. This area is not far from Nantes. The Olivier company was located there too. Henry: “It was a greenhouse of approximately 8,000 m2. In those days, that was a decent-sized greenhouse. Willem went home after only a week, leaving my two workers and me behind. None of us spoke a word of French. However, as Willem said, 'With a little imagination, you will get there'."
The deliberately-chosen hotel in le Loroux Bottereau.
“We had checked into a hotel in le Loroux Bottereau on the first day. I slept there for almost a year, with breaks if we went home for a weekend. I did not know how to book a hotel. The food was not very good. But I learned from Willem that 'a good boss finds everything good. Because if he does not, his personnel will not either'."
These greenhouses have been standing for a good number of years.
Three panes on your shoulder
As mentioned, Olivier was also based in Haute Goulaine. Henry did his second job there. “It concerned a job in a greenhouse of about one hectare. The ground was so soggy that the tractor kept getting stuck. What do you do then? There was nothing else to do but walk. We put three panes on our shoulders and leaned against the greenhouse beams. When I tell my staff that now, they look at me as if I am mad."
The latest extension.
“We did another hectare In 1982 and, I think, in 1983 too. That was, however, in collaboration with Jack Middelburg. Up to 1984, I worked in different places in France," says Henry. In 2016, he returned. "Kubo asked me to glaze a greenhouse of roughly 25,000 m2 in the Nantes area."
"Oh, I know that place, I spent a lot of time there, I said immediately. Do you know what the best thing was? We slept in the same little hotel as in 1980. Last month we were able to again work at Olivier on a nice 25,000m2 greenhouse of Kubo's. I am, of course, a little proud of this," concludes Henry.