Gerard Schouwenaar, Orchard Park Growers

CAN: “It’s a ‘plantdemic’, everybody is searching for plants and hungry for more”

“While the high demand of the ‘plantdemic’ is still going strong, last year’s labor issues have luckily been resolved”, says Gerard Schouwenaar, owner of Orchard Park Growers, a Canadian propagator and finished plants grower in Ontario. In this article, he discusses how to maintain the current demand, and the newfound importance of planning and their expansion plans.

Gerard Schouwenaar of Orchard Park Growers 

“We are in a plantdemic”
Schouwenaar reports that since last Spring the demand has continued to increase. “It’s not a pandemic, it’s a plantdemic: everybody is searching for plants and hungry for more it seems. Of course it is a good problem to have. Especially now in the Spring, people are craving the happiness that plants give them. It’s the one thing people can still do here in Canada, where things are still quite shut down. We can’t go on a holiday, but we can buy some plants and add a bit of color and excitement to people’s lives. Currently, garden centers are open at 25% capacity, and restrictions will be loosened within the next few weeks.” Luckily, Orchard Park Growers has been able to sell good volumes even with the restrictions and the future looks bright too. “It’s a different feel from last Spring, because last year people didn’t know how we were going to get through it. This Spring, the orders are already coming in for next year as people want to make sure they are not missing out.”

Jake Schouwenaar showing their Hibiscus for Spring 2021 

Labor issues
Last year, Orchard Park Growers was dealing with a lack of labor, as they were down 20% regarding the number of Mexican workers. Luckily, this year the issue has been mostly resolved. Schouwenaar explains: “Fortunately, we have been able to get all of the foreign workers here. Yet they do still need to go through a two-week quarantine before they can start working, so that has been a challenge. There have also been different guidelines that need to be implemented to ensure health and safety, which has created more work for us. But what is most important is that we have been able to get our complete workforce in place.” While his company’s labor issues have mostly been resolved, the remaining labor issues in the Southern US are leading to a higher demand for Orchard Park Growers. “In places like Florida they are still dealing with a lack of labor and as a result, their production levels have not been the same. Yet we are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can service the top half of the US through wholesalers very quickly.”

The importance of planning
One of the things they have learned from the pandemic, is the importance of planning. Schouwenaar says: “It is very difficult to get your plant material if you are behind on planning, because of the issues with transportation. Therefore, it has been necessary to plan ahead much further than we are used to, which has been another hurdle we had to overcome. For the majority of 2022, all of our young plant materials are booked already. Therefore, we have to be planning ahead and we have already purchased our pots and soil.”

A hopeful future
As things are going well for Orchard Park Growers, expansions are in the works. “At the moment we are expanding our home facility by half a hectare, which will be finished in August. Our second facility will be expanded by another hectare, which will be done in December, and we have more plans to expand in two years.” Schouwenaar also shares his hopeful view of the future of his company. “This is the strongest we have ever seen the industry from a grower and sales point of view. All of this newfound planning and working with our customer base has to continue in the next years to keep everything this successful. We are not just in it for one happy sales year, we are in this for the long term, so we have to continue producing interesting plants to maintain the demand going forward.”

For more information:
Orchard Park Growers
Gerard Schouwenaar  




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