Valentine's Day is around the corner and Californian orchid grower Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria is pleased with the sales. They don't have this year's statistics yet, but it again seems to be higher than last year. Actually, over the last three years, they've seen an increase in demand for their orchids. For this reason, they recently leased a 4 acre (1.5 ha) greenhouse. "It enables us to increase the production on the short term," says Toine Overgaag, owner of the company. In the long run, they have the vision to build a greenhouse on nearly 40 acres (16 ha) on a nearby plot that they recently bought.
Toine Overgaag in the greenhouse.
Together with his parents, Toine emigrated from the Netherlands to the US at the age of six (41 years ago). Then, his father established a nursery and started growing roses. Due to the increasing competition out of South America, he decided to shift to the production of pot cymbidiums and some phalaenopsis, 19 years ago. Due to the higher margins on phalaenopsis, he increased the production of this crop and decreased that of the cymbidiums. At that time, after a break of several years at Westerlay, Toine decided to join the company again. Over the years they have grown, Toine took over the company and currently, they grow 3 million orchids (3.5 inch [9cm] and 5 inch [12 cm]) on 14 acres (5.8 ha), and they recently added 4 acres (1.5 ha) by leasing a neighboring greenhouse.
Westerlay Orchids ships their orchids all over California as well to the big cities more to the east, like Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. For the last three years, the market for phalaenopsis has overall be stagnant, but according to Toine, Westerlay Orchids have had success and have seen the market respond to their products. What could be the reason for this increase? "I think there are three main reasons. First, reliability - our sophisticated production process and high grading standards lead to great quality product to our customers all year round. Second, sustainability - we continually invest in ways to reduce our environmental impact and be responsible producers. Finally, trend focus - our market research and design focus keeping our products on interior trend."
Toine in the greenhouse we are renting.
Growing on the short term
The new lease of the neighboring greenhouse enables Westerlay Orchids to grow on the short term. "We sold our 7 acres (3 ha) pot cymbidium several years ago as it wasn't a profitable crop anymore. As we saw - and still see - the demand for phalaenopsis increasing, particularly the 2 inch (7 cm) pot phalaenopsis, we decided to add a new greenhouse." Since January 1, 2020 he signed contract with their neighbor for leasing their greenhouse for a period of 5 years with the option to prolong it for another 5 years. Currently, they are busy with refurbishing the greenhouse. "With this greenhouse, we can give seasonal boosts. We will be ready before Mother's Day - our most important day, together with Valentine's Day." In this greenhouse, they will produce nearly 1 million 2-inch (7 cm) phalaenopsis and a quarter million of 3.5 inch (9cm) and 5 inch (12 cm).
Growing on the long term
Just half an hour away from their current nursery, they also bought a 40-acre (16 ha) plot, their future home. "The reason for buying this plot is our long-term vision. Our current greenhouses are 25 and 40 years old, so it's a good time to freshen up. Now we are busy with planning the construction of the greenhouses as well as deciding about the equipment and machines that we will use. To gather ideas, I visited the IPM Essen in January."