Tuinier Brothers’ Greenhouse is a family owned company with roots dating back to the 1900’s progressing to currently involving the fourth generation. Initially growing celery in the muck fields, and gradually moving to growing bedding plants. By 1950, bedding plants were the primary crop.
Over the next 50 years, technology was implemented into the business, with machines that sow the seeds and transplanted the seedlings to the finished flat. The last 20 years, technology increased to use computerized watering systems and climate control within the greenhouse for ideal growing and rooting conditions. Even with all the updates, it takes human ingenuity and skill to produce healthy and beautiful summer and fall plants to be enjoyed by the customers. We employ approximately 30-40 at peak season
As times have changed, so has the greenhouse itself and the product line. We currently farm about 6 acres of greenhouse. Production focus is annual spring flowers, potted specialty plants originating from around the globe, and fall mums in a variety of flats, pots, and hanging baskets for retailers and business landscapers.
The greenhouse is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo is home to a diverse base of industrial manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, plastics, medical equipment, paper products, fabricated metals, industrial robots, chemical and aircraft controls. Agriculture has always played an important role in Kalamazoo’s economy. From Why We Are Cool, #24: Kalamazoo was the Celery Capital of the World in early 1900’s. Celery touted as “fresh to you from Kalamazoo” was shipped throughout the country. #35: Kalamazoo County is the leading producer of bedding plants in the United States as was named the “Bedding Plant Capital of the World.”
Throughout Kalamazoo’s history, transporting products to market played a necessary part of success. By the late 1800’s, Kalamazoo was a stop on the original Territorial Railroad. The Michigan Central Rail line expanded from Detroit to Kalamazoo in 1846 and Chicago in 1852.
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By 1905, six railroads connected Kalamazoo with the rest of the nation. The short-lived interurban rail system attracted short distance passengers and freight shippers, including celery farmers.
Paper mills and celery were two of the city’s earliest industries. By 1872, several Dutch farmers were turning Kalamazoo’s muck lands into celery fields. A historical marker is set at Park Street and Crosstown Parkway detailing celery’s importance to Kalamazoo and Michigan.
There was already a sizeable Dutch community in western Michigan. Holland, Michigan had established farms, strong Dutch population, and people eager for opportunity. Dutch emigrants came to Kalamazoo to cultivate celery causing little resentment because they bought up the swampy land unsuitable for general farming. Egbert Tuinier moved his family from the Netherlands to America in 1914. He purchased property east of Kalamazoo near the railroad line. Egbert and his three sons (John, Edo, and Ben) established the Tuinier Brothers’ Farm. They were able to make a modest living growing and marketing celery in the rich ground known as muck. In the winter months, they supplemented their income by working in paper mills or other odd jobs.
Celery farming declined as did paper productions and other manufacturers became a larger part of the local economy. After WWII, land devoted to celery steadily gave way to the cultivation of bedding plants. Once the Celery Capital of the country, Kalamazoo became the home of the largest bedding plant cooperative in the United States, supplying home gardeners and landscapers nationwide. The Celery Flats Interpretive Center in nearby Portage preserves the history and heritage of celery farming in the region.
In the early 1950’s, Edo Tuinier took over the family farm, renaming it Tuinier and Sons. Because of the declining celery sales and California being able to ship celery year-round, the farm transitioned into growing other products such as bedding plants and vegetables. Small glass greenhouses were gradually built to grow flowers and vegetables from seed.
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Mature plants were sold and marked to the local home owner for supplying personal enjoyment in gardening.
Edo Tuinier was one of the founding members of the Kalamazoo Valley Plant Growers Cooperative (KVPG) in 1967 in coordination with Michigan State University Extension Service. Along with 17 other greenhouse owner-operators, they established a cooperative with more buying and selling power. KVPG concentrated on production of quality plant material, marketing, sales, transportation and accounting.
By 1977, Edo’s sons Robert, Roger and Ken went into partnership to continue the family business, changing the name back to Tuinier Brothers’ Greenhouse. Unfortunately, the tornadoes of 1977 and 1980 destroyed many of the greenhouses on the property. As it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the brothers were able to rebuild using updated building materials.
Inspired by technology, by 1982, Tuinier Brother’s Greenhouse were some the first growers in Kalamazoo county to purchase machines to sow seeds individually rather than by broadcasting, and transplanting the seedlings from single cells to the finish flat, rather than hand transplanting. This improvement saved money over time, improved crop times, and production turnover.
In 1995, Tuinier Brothers’ Greenhouse stated a growing method known as cutting production. Cuttings, from stock geranium plants grown in Costa Rica, were rooted through moisture, light and heat. Other greenhouses were then able to purchase large quantities of cultured geraniums at a lower cost.
The Ball Seed Company, Chicago, IL, enlisted Tuinier Brothers’ Greenhouse in 1999 to root New Guinea Impatiens and Double Impatiens. Currently, more than 100 varieties are rooted under close supervision and care at Tuinier Brothers’ Greenhouse, then shipped to finish at other greenhouses all over the nation. A fall crop of chrysanthemums was initiated in 2000 and continues today.