From Retail Florist to Hydroponic Lettuce Producer
A paradigm shift is taking place in Hackettstown, New Jersey with Greenway Flowers, who has been a retail florist for over three decades. George and Nancy Cummings have seen many eras of radical change in their retail florist business. Years ago, the family operation began as a floral business, serving as both a grower and a retail establishment. Bedding plants, poinsettias and cut flowers were produced in two huge glass greenhouses that were erected in the 1970's. These plants were sold at their retail floral shop to the general public for weddings, funerals, and holidays.
However, the floral business has become increasingly competitive, and has been marked by a great deal of change. Today, “mom and pop” florists have to compete against super markets, on-line florists and imported flowers. The changing business climate forced Greenway to take a look at their current business and to seriously consider their future.
Greenway had always had some acreage in farm land where they primarily grew sweet corn and a few other vegetables. This was not a thriving part of their business, but always provided a little extra cash flow. Since growing has been in their blood, George and Nancy’s son Scott along with their son-in-law Mark began to devise a plan to examine hydroponic growing.
Coincidentally, there is a New Jersey based organization partnered with Greenway called Arthur & Friends that fosters the development of physically disabled people by providing jobs and opportunities. Wendie Blanchard, who is the driving force behind Arthur & Friends, specializes in work programs in hydroponic, food-producing greenhouses. The first greenhouse that was used for Arthur & Friends began in Northwest, New Jersey, about 30 miles from Hackettstown, and is now a self-sustaining program that sells all of the produce that it can grow.
Due to the success of the program, Wendie has always been looking to create partnerships between growers and Arthur & Friends. Through networking and word of mouth, Wendie came into contact with Greenway, and a new partnership was formed. It took about a year for everything to come together, including agreements and a new greenhouse that is now in operation.
In the current site, where two very old and outdated glass greenhouses used to stand, is a new, state-of-art Rimol Greenhouse outfitted with an American Hydroponics (Amhydro) lettuce growing system. The 30 ft. x 96 ft. Nor’ Easter greenhouse is outfitted with longer ground posts for extra height, and includes high efficiency heaters, a cooling system, environmental controls and insect screening. Inside the greenhouse, the Amhydro lettuce growing system begins with a propagation bench, and then transitions to growing tables, with different spacing for the lettuce as it grows and becomes more mature.
Currently, Arthur & Friends employ Scott & Mark to manage the greenhouse's two outstanding employees, Andy and James. And of course, George is always helping the team. Greenway is quickly approaching capacity by selling to some local restaurants and a food distributor. Plans include building a second Rimol Greenhouse with an Amhydro system in about a year, and ultimately replacing the other glass greenhouses with hydroponic greenhouses. Greenway Flowers is transitioning to a new frontier of hydroponic growing, and perhaps in the near future, their name will be changing to Greenway Farms.