About Grower Direct Farms
Grower Direct Farms was started by Leonard Van Wingerden in 1981. Bypassing the opportunity to buy flat fertile farmland in Somers, he acquired a 160 acre sand and gravel pit operation on its decline in the foothills of North Somers. The place looked like a moonscape with craters, rock piles, sand, stumps, some pasture fields, and wooded area. The old farmstead had burned down years ago leaving the foundation of the dairy barn and some rotted and collapsed out buildings. But there were four solid reasons for settling on this particular spot:
Excellent quality and quantity of water.
Sand and gravel is easy to excavate and level for crop protection structures.
The property, because it was rundown, was reasonably priced.
Leonard was and is an ardent proponent of farmland preservation.
In June of 1981, Buster Stebbins was hired to level out two acres of land and the first 68,000 sq. ft. of double layered poly houses were built. With the help of two local high school boys the anchor pins were set, the concrete walks poured and the framework put up, enclosed by winter the first crops for spring were produced. Superb plant material and customer service propelled the horticultural enterprise into annual expansions and incorporation of leading edge technologies.
1995 - The first environmental computer to control heating and cooling was installed.
1997 - A three acre block of open air glass greenhouses was built and five acres of ebb and flow irrigation floors with radiant heat was installed. Both features provide for energy efficiency and the recycling of irrigation water.
2000 – Automated transplanting line was integrated into the production schedule.
2002 - 5 acres of movable curtain crop structure was constructed to provide frost protection but still allow for outdoor growing of hardy annuals.
2003 - Land leveling and field preparations with drip irrigation for 12 acres of garden mums and perennial production.
2004 - Son Adam, graduate of Grove City College, joins Grower Direct Farms.
2006 - Sons-in-law, Sam Smith and Brent Monticue, take on sales manager and transportation manager positions.
2007 - 200,000 sq. ft. of ebb and flood irrigation with radiant heating installed.
2008 - Biomass wood chip energy plant for heating installed.
Today Grower Direct Farms comprises 800,000 sq. ft. of crop protection structures, 43,000 sq. ft. of support buildings and 20 acres of outdoor growing area.
Grower Direct Farms excels at the fine balance of art and science with a highly trained work force, experienced management, and modern efficient facilities with rigorous conservation and sustainability practices as an integral part of the flower and plant growing regimens. Our potting soil is made up of organic sphagnum peat moss and rice hulls, extensive use of biological disease and pest controls are a part of our IPM (integrated pest management) procedure. We have consultation agreements with the world’s most re-known experts providing on-going education for our growers and exposure to best growing practices from around the globe. Our crop protection structures incorporate energy conservation through double walled, inflated poly houses, radiant floor heat, and the use of a biomass burning boiler fueled by woodchips (New England’s most abundant alternative fuel resource). A highly sophisticated climate controlled computer system linked to a proprietary weather station controls the greenhouse environment. Our water conservation is second to none with ebb and flow watering where we flood a bay to a depth of 1.5”-2”, allowing the plants to absorb what they need and recycle the remaining water through filters and back to holding tanks. Our open fields are outfitted with drip irrigation systems bringing water to each plant individually without waste. We grow millions of seedlings and transplants annually and through the use of rolling carts for internal movement of plants, electric tuggers, equipment to fill plant containers, and computerized scheduling of production programs, much of the repetitive work has been automated.
The farm’s aim is to be the best at what we do and to be good to and for one another.
We grow plants, lots of plants, but just a small selection from the vast array of created plant life.
Spring – Over 200 species of annual, perennial and vegetable plants for garden and containers. Our operation is teeming with plants, the aroma of fresh earth and colors presented in countless shades.
Summer and Fall – Mums everywhere, inside and outside, along with cool weather annuals and fall flowering perennials, our part in the panorama of autumn. Christmas in July? Yes, we begin propagating our poinsettias at this time, a crop that requires diligent care and tests our skill in growing.
Winter – Nature’s rest and ours too. We prepare for winter by maintaining our facility, shipping our poinsettias, starting our Easter lilies and, in the cold abbreviated days of December, we begin the placement of seeds and nurturing of plants for the spring.
All in all a splendid way to make a living.
Read More about the VanWingerden Family
Did You Know?
Our biomass hot water tank holds 360,000 gallons of water, which is the equivalent to the hot water storage capacity of about 9,000 average homes