Netherlands: Greenhouse growers stay loyal to propagator

To stay with the same party for fifteen years, twenty years and even nearly fifty years. We are not talking about the divorce rate in horticulture but about the loyalty of the grower towards his plant propagator. Five Dutch tomato growers explain why they opt for the same propagator year after year.

Uniform growth
To have about 40 breeds on 43.000 m2 – then you must have a good relationship with your propagator. At least, that’s the way it is for Theo Duijvestijn of Little Tom, who has been ordering his plants at propagator P. van Geest for 25 years. "Of course you check if the prices and the quality are up to par, but there’s still no reason to switch for me. Everything’s right, on average, and as long as we can talk, anything can be resolved."

The 40 breeds at Duijvestijn have been divided into small trials of 20 to 15,000 plants of a certain breed. "The plant propagator delivers them as uniform as possible. We choose for more or less larger plants to weed out differences before cultivation." Duijvestijn also discusses crop protection. "For some customers we can’t work with certain plant protection products and they know what organics I want to put out. This is discussed. It’s a matter of balancing between trust and delivering what the customer wants."

"Their identity suits us"
Grower Rob van de Ven is a bit of a difficult customer for a plant propagator. More than 40 different crops are grown at his company in Veghel. "The main crop is tomatoes but for doorstep selling we also have several smaller crops," he says. Van de Ven orders his young plants at BrabantPlant. The company has been a customer of BrabantPlant since the late sixties in the previous century (1968). In the early eighties purchases were made from a fellow propagator for only 1 year. Since then Rob has had no reason to do so: "The company’s identity suits us. They think along and the small grower still counts there. If there’s a problem, we can just walk into each other’s businesses."

And while that cooperation exists, the price is less important. "We are more critical with respect to the plant than when it comes to price. They should of course be in line with market practice, but we don’t need to request quotations elsewhere. We’d rather make up for it in sales."

Tomato plants in the new greenhouse of Plantenkwekerij Gipmans, completed last year.

"Price would be an argument for change"

Another satisfied BrabantPlant customer is Roel Beyens, who grows Merlice TOV's on 12 hectares. Roel: "Usually we go take a look a couple of days before delivery, but this year there wasn’t any time. But we’re still very happy again. Although the plants for lit cultivation are always easier than those for December, when there’s less light."

Roel has been ordering his plants at BrabantPlant for 15 years. His father had already been going there for decades. "Other plant propagators pay us annual visits, but there’s not much they can do about the price, which would be an argument for change," he says. "The plants can’t always be perfect, but they're open to improvements. That's important."

A 40-year loyal customer

Grower Frans van Nieuwkerk has been ordering his plants at propagator Vreugdenhil for forty years. "They don’t want to lose us and we don’t want to lose them - but don’t tell them that," the grower laughs. "We can probably get a slightly better price elsewhere, but we're talking about the foundation of what you grow. Even if you’re only slightly less satisfied with the plant, a cheap choice can suddenly become very expensive."

"Weekly contact with plant propagator"

"At some point we ended up at Plantenkwekerij Gipmans and have actually been very pleased since then," says Grower Noud Steegh of Kwekerij Grenspaal. "They're pretty close to our company, which is already a plus. The plants are good, we like the quality and if there’s a problem it’s immediately discussed."

During propagation Steegh is in frequent contact with the plant propagator. "From the moment of sowing to delivery, there's weekly contact about how the plants are looking. They send pictures, tell you if they’re on schedule; things like that. I like that." In the meantime the plants for the lit cultivation at Steegh's greenhouse have already been delivered. "Growth is fast, especially in in September/October. We go for plants that bloom after 2 days. Otherwise we might lose on the quality of the bloom. So you need to briefly communicate, especially towards the end of the propagation."

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