Dirk Biemans, Intergrow Greenhouses:
"Just 24 hours after being harvested, our tomatoes are already on the shelves in the north east of the US"
In 1998, 'local-for-local' was not yet such a well-known term. It was then that Dirk Biemans started Intergrow Greenhouses in Fillmore, New York, with three other greenhouse growers from Belgium and the Netherlands. Since then, the business has grown from its first 6 hectare greenhouse, to an area of 28 hectares. Here, thanks to lighting, beefsteak-tomatoes, tomatoes-on-the-vine, cherry tomatoes and snack tomatoes are cultivated year round. "We supply the local market here, even when that sometimes means a ten-hour drive."
Dirk Biemans at the PMA
"When we started in this area, there were many tomatoes being imported from the Benelux to this region. Nowadays, there are no Dutch tomatoes on the market here. This is as a result of the expansion of the Canadian and Mexican agricultural sectors", says Dirk. "We could distinguish ourselves by growing 'locally'. We can also guarantee that the tomatoes will be in the shops 24 hours after being harvested. We mainly supply supermarkets in the north east of the US, between New York, Washington DC and Chicago."
The biggest challenge is having work for their labourers. "You simply cannot offer seasonal workers employment all year", says states Dirk. He, and co-owner, Mario van Logten, are based permanently at the business. The other two owners, Dirk van den Plas and John Vermeiren, come over to the US on a regular basis. Cultivating tomatoes at Intergrow Greenhouses is done the 'Dutch" way, with varieties that are commonplace in the Netherlands and Belgium. At the moment, the company is introducing the Mixed Medley, which are snack tomatoes, at the PMA.
Mixed Medley tomatoes
"Currently we are in the transition period from the natural light season to the supplemented light one. The natural light season was a bit of a disappointment. Since we had less light, the crops were somewhat smaller. The forecast for the supplemented light season is quite good. This is despite the fact that winter prices are lower than we have been used to over the past few years", says Dirk. Expansion to other fruit-vegetables or strawberries is not, according to Dirk, on the cards. "But things can always change."
Publication date: 10/25/2017
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